This one will sting for a while.
With three seconds left in the second overtime, Michael Hidalgo’s buzzer-beating goal gave 20th-seed Norwalk a 2-1 victory over fifth-seed Ridgefield in a Class LL boys soccer state tournament quarterfinal game at Ridgefield High.
Disbelief coursed through Tiger Hollow as a teary-eyed Hidalgo was mobbed by his teammates. Meanwhile, the Ridgefield players were left stunned as their impressive season ended with a 14-5-1 record.
As time dwindled in the second 10-minute overtime period, the game seemed certain to be decided by penalty kicks. But Hidalgo’s late run on the right side was rewarded when he slotted a shot past goalie Ray Dearth and into the left side of the Ridgefield goal.
“Losing a game in that manner is gut wrenching; there’s no two ways about it,” said Reid Kagan, one of 19 seniors on Ridgefield’s roster. “To give every ounce of yourself for 99 minutes and then have everything you’ve worked for over the season disappear in the blink of an eye hurts.”
In the first half, Ridgefield and Norwalk traded chances with neither able to break through. Six minutes into the game, Jack Liguori aired a long cross to Christian DeVivo, who put a shot on goal for Ridgefield’s first scoring opportunity of the afternoon.
Norwalk posed its first threat 14 minutes into the contest, with Fredy Rosales taking a free kick from 40 yards out that was easily wrapped up by Dearth.
In the 19th minute, Niels van Beek’s corner kick for Ridgefield led to a scramble, and defender Shane Bowler came up for a shot which forced a diving save from Norwalk keeper Gianluca Trofa.
Two minutes later, a cross from Lucas Debarbieri found van Beek, who rocketed a shot towards the top right of the goal that was punched out by Trofa.
With 11 minutes remaining in the opening half, a Norwalk corner kick led to a hard shot from Iovanni Robledo that went a couple of feet left of the Ridgefield net.
Ten minutes into the second half, Norwalk got the first goal. After a corner kick was headed into the crossbar, Lucas Araujo charged forward and headed the rebound into the right side of the net to put the Bears ahead, 1-0.
But a minute later, the game was tied again. Taking matters into his own feet, Ridgefield striker JT Siano beat one defender near the middle of the field and went on a dribbling run, eluding the last Norwalk defender with a body fake and depositing a shot into the left side to even the score at 1-1.
Ridgefield dominated tempo and possession for the rest of regulation but could not produce the go-ahead goal despite several serious chances.
With 12 minutes remaining, Siano played a sweet through ball to Alex Glass, who got behind Trofa but could not overcome the difficult angle, sending a shot off the outside netting of the Norwalk goal.
Three minutes later, Siano got the ball to the right of the Norwalk goal and launched a shot from a difficult angle. The rebound found Glass, whose shot was saved by Trofa.
Both teams struggled offensively in overtime, although time of possession favored the Tigers. Ridgefield’s backline, a strength all season, facilitated the effort by keeping the ball pinned in Norwalk’s third of the field.
But against the run of play, Hidalgo was able to surprise Ridgefield and beat the buzzer, sending Norwalk (12-6-2) on to the state semifinals.
“All the credit in the world to Norwalk, who showed tremendous tenacity until the end,” said Kagan. “I thought our squad showed hunger and drive all season and it’s a shame that a goal like that had to end our run.”