Final game pits former Lion mentor against alma mater

When old friends get together in any sport, you can expect the level of competition to be high as well as the overall intensity and passion.

None of it was lacking when the boys soccer teams from Foran High and Coginchaug Regional of Durham got together at the Vito DeVito Sports Complex on Oct. 28.

Along with being Senior Night for the Lions’ players, it was the last game of the season for both sides.

And fellow coaches, Rick DiStefano of Foran and Coginchaug’s Chris Cap have known each other, for it seems like, forever.

DiStefano replaced Cap as the coach at Foran shortly after the close of the 2006 season. After taking a year off, Cap became the head coach at Coginchaug. DiStefano was Caps’ assistant for one season and the two grew up playing soccer together. They currently compete on the same mens’ league team.

Both sides employed a wide-open style for this game, with Foran holding on for a 4-3 win and a sweep of the 2014 series after winning, 4-1, earlier in the year in Durham. Each team closed out play with a 4-11-1 record.

“It really got crazy out there,” was the best way that DiStefano described the game. “We threw a lot at them and they threw a lot at us.”

Trying to settle in and put the emotion of the night behind them, Foran got the game’s first goal, which didn’t come until the 27th minute when senior forward James Berkovich completed a successful run through the Blue Devil defense and beat keeper Daniel Gavrilovic.

Junior midfielder Leandro Jorge’s first of two goals, which came with 2:58 to play in the half, made it a 2-0 game. Jorge took advantage of a miscue in Coginchaug’s back, located a loose ball and was in behind Gavrilovic. All he had to do was one-time it into the open net.

Being down a pair of goals didn’t seem to daunt the Blue Devils, however. They scored with 1:54 remaining in the half when Kyle Judson finished off a corner kick by Kyle Adams.

Jorge drove a bullet-like shot home past Gavrilovic, at 29:08 of the second half, before he was forced to leave the game with a leg injury, where he joined Berkovich who was unable to play at all in the final 40 minutes after reinjuring a muscle.

Coginchaug came right back, making it a 3-2 when Garrett D’Amato’s corner kick was headed in by Korben Paul. The goal came at 27:40.

Less than two minutes later, Foran pushed its margin back to two goals when Joe Kubic finished from in close.

A goal by Coginchaug’s Alec Bogen made it a 4-3 game. Bogen took a throw-in from Zach Taylor, reversed the ball on a Foran defender, and deftly placed a shot past Lions’ keeper, Prashant Patel.

There were still a little over 17 minutes left in the match when Bogen scored.

Cap began moving his entire side up with 11 minutes to play and oddly Foran ended up with three more scoring chances.

Claudio Dos Santos missed on two and Kubic came up short on the other.

Patel, playing his last scholastic game in goal, made 11 saves, several on either dives or sprawls.

“This was without a doubt our most intense game of the season,” Patel said. “Being a senior and playing my final game, I wasn’t about to not leave everything I had out there on the field.”

Patel never played organized soccer before his junior year. “I was out running on the track in the spring of my sophomore year when Joe Kubic approached me and asked if I’d like to play,’ he said. “I became a goalie and two years later I’m starting for the varsity. I’ve never had so much passion for a sport.”

“It’s always great coming back here,” said Cap, who earned All-State honors as a goalie at Foran. “It’s like coming home. I thought each team had a great effort to their play tonight. This was a very watchable game and one in which neither team really played that much defense.

“What was on the line for each of us was pride for the game. We were a little inconsistent and it showed. It’s been one of our problems all season long.”

Seniors who played their final games for Foran along with Berkovich, Dos Santos, Patel and Kubic were Joe Buzelle and Tyler Phillips.

“This is the worst day of the year for me,” DiStefano said. “It’s always bittersweet. I truly, truly love doing this. We’re a family here and each group that passes through adds another element to soccer.”

Coginchaug finished with a one-shot advantage, 17-16. Gavrilovic made nine saves for the Blue Devils.