Ridgefield blood was boiling last Wednesday in the wake of the Tigers’ season-ending, 12-9 loss to Fairfield Prep in the Class L state tournament semifinals.
The controversy centered around an apparent Ridgefield goal late in the third quarter that the referees did not recognize.
With top-seed Ridgefield ahead 7-6 and 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Micky Carbone fired a shot from the edge of the crease that seemed to pass the goal-line before bouncing back out onto the field. But with no whistle blown to confirm the goal, play continued around a shocked Ridgefield team — and momentum seemed to shift.
The Tigers came out flat in the fourth, giving up six straight goals to fourth-seed Prep, which went on to defeat Staples in the Class L championship game three days later.
“We got screwed on that freaking goal — everybody in the stadium knows it,” said Ridgefield head coach Roy Colsey, whose team ended the year with a 17-4 record. “I’m not going to beat around the bush and play Mr. Nice Guy. The refereeing crew that was out here tonight made an awful call on the goal that should have made it 8-6.
“Everybody here knew it was a goal, and on top of that they gave us a one-minute penalty when the kid said something about the fact that it went in,” added Colsey. “They gave us a one-minute non-releaseable, and then Prep goes down and scores two goals, and that was the turning point of the game. That took all the wind out of our sails. We just got up 8-6, we’re playing great lacrosse, and then all of a sudden, boom, snap your fingers. I’m upset about that.”
With the teams having faced each other in the past two Class L state championship games, and each having a win to their credit, the game was a marquee match-up that for the first three quarters lived up to the hype: Until the fourth, no team lead by more than two goals.
Will Bonaparte, who had two goals on the night, gave the Tigers the lead three and a half minutes into the first quarter. And with three minutes remaining in the quarter, Cal Dearth, who led the team with three goals, charged into the crease and shoved the ball into the net to make it 2-1 Tigers.
Fairfield Prep answered by scoring twice in the final minute of the first, with goals from Timmy Edmonds and Kevin Brown, and then scored three minutes into the second to build a 4-2 lead.
But Ridgefield answered with three straight goals of its own, as Brett Baker (scoring the first of two on the night), Tim Cozens and Dearth each found the back of the net to make it 5-4 at halftime.
The two teams paced one another with two goals each in the third, making it 7-6 when the goal controversy ignited with 50 seconds remaining in the third period.
“You gotta wait until the whistle goes off, and if it was a goal, it was a goal, but I guess it hit outside the pipe this time and we were able to capitalize on that,” said assistant coach Jack Reed of Fairfield Prep.
“Obviously I’m completely unhappy with the (officiating) crew,” said Colsey. “But that play in particular is one that should never get missed by three guys. I’m not going to bad mouth them for the entire game, but that particular play… them not getting that right… is a major disappointment.”
In the fourth, the Jesuits scored six straight goals with Kevin Brown accounting for three of them. Troy Foreit also aided the Jesuit cause by winning multiple face-offs during the 6-0 run.
“Troy’s been arguably our best player at certain points all year,” said Jesuit coach Chris Smalkais. “He’s been great. He’s really worked hard to make himself our face-off guy. He’s a Norwalk kid, and this was an exciting opportunity for him to play in this game tonight.”
Though the Prep defense allowed goals to Baker and Bonaparte in the final minutes, it ultimately stayed strong enough to prevent a Tiger comeback.
“We made a switch in midfield at halftime,” said Smalkais. “We put one of our senior defensemen on Dearth and that just changed the tempo of the way we were playing defensively.”