By KEVIN ROBERTS
The Southington boys soccer team played like an inexperienced and nervous bunch for the first 20 minutes of their Sept. 7 contest against Conard at Fontana Field, but that didn’t stop them from winning. Butterflies were evident in the season opener, but the Knights did enough to win.
“Our first 20 minutes of the game, as much as we try to recreate it in practice, the reality of it is we had six, seven guys out there who really hadn’t played too many varsity minutes,” coach Dave Yanosy said. “These were their first varsity minutes, and it was a little nervous to start.”
The Chieftains had a multitude of chances in the first half, but none found the goal, thanks in part to keeper John Griffin and the Blue Knight back four of Colin Burdette, Eli Rodriguez, Joseph Tellerico and Kyle Buchanan.
“Those guys didn’t come out the whole game,” said Yanosy about his defenders.
In the second half, a more aggressive Southington got its chance and Chris Chaplinsky capitalized, scoring a goal off a ball from Marek Kryzanski with 38:34 remaining. The Blue Knight defense closed in tighter on the Chieftains, and the home side came away with a 1-0 victory.
“Give credit to Chris for running through it. Their defender missed it, and if [Chris] hesitates there, maybe he doesn’t have that advantage,” Yanosy said.
It was the first varsity goal for Chaplinsky, and he put the ball in the net with a nice finish. Conard had a vast majority of the shots in the game, but Southington made one of its few chances count.
“That might be who we are this year. Our scrimmage against Granby was the same thing. We got a 1-0 lead and held on,” Yanosy said.
Southington had to adjust early on to a quick and physical Conard squad. At halftime, the Blue Knights made some changes.
“I thought our adjustments that we made at halftime produced dividends right away,” Yanosy said. “We came out with a little bit more fire in the second half, got a goal, and then played really hard-nosed, tough defense down the stretch to close it out, which is what you have to do in this league.”
Griffin made 10 saves to pick up the shutout.
“I thought John Griffin did a really good job,” Yanosy said.
Up next: Southington traveled to West Hartford on Tuesday to play Hall. The Blue Knights are back home on Friday at 5:30 p.m. against Bristol Central.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com.