Lions punch ticket to postseason
The Foran High boys soccer team faced a win or go home scenario in its regular-season finale on Monday when it hosted Coginchaug High of Durham at the DeVito Sports Complex.
Led by four goals from senior forward Julian Yuliawan, including the game-winning strike in the 93rd minute, the Lions outlasted the Blue Devils, improving to 6-9-1 and punching their ticket to the Class L state tournament.
Coginchaug, which got a hat trick from Alec Bogen, dropped to 5-10-1 and missed out on the Class S playoffs.
“It’s all you can ask for really for the game at the end of the season to mean everything,” Foran coach Rick DiStefano said. “You can’t ask for much more than that, that’s why we play.”
Needing to win their final two contests to qualify for the Class L state tournament, the Lions solved the first part of that equation by striking for three goals in the second half to pin a 3-0 defeat on host Jonathan Law on Oct. 24.
Junior midfielder Adrian Burton opened the scoring with 26:09 left, hammering a rebound past Lawmen goalkeeper Gabe Salles.
Roughly a minute later, sophomore forward Cedrick Lingane drove home a thunderous header off of Yuliawan’s free kick from the left flank.
“Once we got that second goal we settled down,” DiStefano said. “That’s when we started to possess the ball and get a grip on the game. They put it to us for the first fifteen minutes of the second half.”
Yuliawan then sealed the victory with a headed goal on his own with 12:16 left.
“The effort that my boys put forth was tremendous,” said second-year Law coach Donato Piselli said after his side finished the season with a 2-14 record. “Where this team has come from... When I took over, they hadn’t won in three-and-half years going back to 2008. They had a cumulative record of 0-56-2, something outrageous like that. What this class has given us is five wins and a draw over the last two years.”
Law had a bevy of quality chances throughout the game, nearly taking the lead through junior Craig Calderone with 18 minutes left in the first half.
Calderone made a crafty move to nick the ball away from Lions’ goalkeeper Tim Orozco, who mishandled a backpass. Splitting the defense, Calderone belted a shot off the crossbar, before heading the ensuing rebound which was knocked away by Foran defense.
“It spilled out and we did a good job of clearing it off the line,” DiStefano said.
Antonio Gjuraj also had a opportunity to break the scoreless deadlock in the first half, after one of the Lawmen’s 11 corners.
The sophomore circled around a deflection, belting a shot that was saved by Orozco.
With seniors Tyler Kasuba and Justin Kassouf manning the center of the Lions’ defense, along with Paul Mirmina and John Casey on the outside, Foran kept Law at bay.
“With Justin and Tyler in the middle at back, we were confident we would defend well,” DiStefano said.
After chances by Pritchard and Gjuraj sailed wide, Foran started its second-half deluge on Burton’s opener.
Lingane and Yuliawan finished it off for the Lions, who will open play in the Class L playoffs on Nov. 5.
“There are a lot of good teams at the top of the L bracket, a lot of real quality programs,” DiStefano said. “We’ll take our chances when we get there.”
On the other hand, Law will look to continue to build on its improvement heading into next season.
“That’s going to be the next biggest step for us, turning these close games into a game where we get a win,” Piselli said. “Tonight was a good example... I thought we took it to them territorially for a large part of the game. We put them under pressure a lot... But we didn’t score. This game came down to the first goal.”