The Manchester High boys soccer team won the first half, while South Windsor High won the second. Neither won the overtime.
After 90 minutes of play, the end result for the two CCC North rivals was a hard-fought, 1-1 draw on a crisp afternoon at South Windsor High School on Thursday.
The head coaches from both teams sounded eerily similar in their post-match assessments.
“We didn’t play well in the first half and they did some good things,” South Windsor High head coach Dave St. Jean said. “But in the second half we really played well.”
“It was a game of two completely different halves,” Manchester High head coach John Tedesco said. “ We played our game for a half, and we let South Windsor dictate their game for a half.”
Ryan Dube opened Manchester High’s account in the 33rd minute with a gorgeous strike off a corner kick, giving the Indians (1-0-2) a 1-0 lead.
With the way goalie Miles Spencer (11 saves) and the back four of Ben Carlson, Josh Essick, Peter Godwin and Nate Daley played, the Indians looked like they would hold their slim advantage.
St. Jean said that having a crowd of several hundred spectators for the first home game may have led to some jitters.
“We didn’t have our legs under us, we didn’t pass the ball real well,” St. Jean said. “We played individualistically. We didn’t do the things we like to do to be successful. We got away from that. We talked about it at halftime, we made the adjustments and the guys executed.”
Indeed, after intermission, the Bobcats (2-0-1) looked like an entirely different team, as they played with more purpose.
A frustrating afternoon that included five shots caroming off the crossbar or post gave way to jubilation in the 58th minute when senior midfielder Bobby Chambers lofted a gorgeous chip over Spencer and into the net for his first-ever varsity goal, leveling the score at 1-1.
“Bobby is one of my favorite kids to come through South Windsor High School and I love him to death,” St. Jean said. “He is a super hard worker. I have never seen him make a shot like that in practice. That he made a shot like that in a game totally blows my mind.”
Even more impressive than the goal was the cheeky celebration - a full forward flip - that Chambers executed in front of the South Windsor bench.
“The goal was an 8, the flip was a 10,” St. Jean quipped. “He’s a diver on the swim team.”
South Windsor kept up the pressure for the remainder of regulation, with Jeffrey Allen nearly giving his side the lead with a point-blank, open net shot that somehow clanged off the crossbar.
The senior back threw up his hands at his bad fortune, riddled with angst over the lost opportunity.
“Sometimes you get those bounces and today we didn’t,” St. Jean said.
Spencer was also called upon to make a couple of sprawling saves to keep Manchester High level. His South Windsor counterpart, Eric Hintz, made five saves on the afternoon.
After two 5-minute overtime periods, the game ended in a just draw.
Tedesco said that while the draw wasn’t the result his side was looking for, he was proud of the effort.
“We can walk off with our heads high with a tie against South Windsor,” Tedesco said. “South Windsor is one of the top ranked teams in the conference this year. We tied Glastonbury, now we tied South Windsor. We are not at the level we want, but we are showing that we can be a force in this conference.”
St. Jean, for his part, also didn’t sound like a coach who was too disappointed with the result.
“Last year [when the team went 11-1-2 and lost in the first round of the state tournament], we got a little lucky during the season and unlucky at the end of the season,” St. Jean said. “This year, if we’re going to be a little unlucky at the beginning of the season, I’ll take my luck at the end of the season.”