At an inopportune time, the same problem that plagued last season's Ridgefield High boys soccer team came back to haunt this year's model.
Unable to finish its chances, top-seed Ridgefield lost to eighth-seed Danbury, 1-0, in overtime in an FCIAC quarterfinal game Thursday night at Tiger Hollow.
Ridgefield (12-4-1) will now await the Class LL state tournament, which starts next week. Danbury (8-4-5), meanwhile, advances to the FCIAC semifinals Tuesday night at Fairfield Ludlowe.
With the return of senior striker JT Siano, Ridgefield has mostly overcome the goal-scoring struggles that hampered the 2016 Tigers. But in its first playoff game following a strong regular season, Ridgefield was held scoreless for just the third time this fall.
The game's lone goal came with 4:56 left in the first of two 10-minute overtimes. Danbury rocketed a high shot on target that Ridgefield goalie Ray Dearth punched up and away for yet another impressive save. Off the ensuing corner kick, Danbury's Felipe Alves sent the ball past Dearth and into the Ridgefield net.
Playing with a sense of urgency, Ridgefield nearly got the equalizer multiple times. With one minute remaining in the first overtime period, Will Coffin forced a save with a shot on goal after winning the ball in a scrum following a corner kick.
In the second 10-minute overtime period, the Tigers' offense relied on long passes as Danbury pulled back players to defend the lead. A Ridgefield corner kick with five minutes remaining was denied by Danbury defender Andrew Penaranda, who took the ball off his chest to prevent the score. With four minutes remaining, Siano had the ball with a lone defender in front of him. An aggressive challenge by the Danbury player left Siano on the ground, and the referees made no call as time continued to dwindle.
The Tigers were stymied the rest of the way, as Danbury got the upset to advance to a semifinal meeting with fifth-seed Trumbull next Monday.
From the opening whistle, the game was dominated by the backlines. Both teams failed to establish any consistent offensive tempo, but the first half was clearly dominated by strong midfield play from Danbury.
The Hatters, though, were consistently frustrated by the sensational play of Dearth (11 saves), who made his first incredible stop seven minutes into the second half after a Danbury player slipped behind the defense for a one-on-one chance.
Ridgefield, which has played better offensively in the second half all season, increased its offensive pace following the break. After largely failing to get the ball to Siano in the first half, the Tigers began providing better service, and Siano registered his first serious chance with 17 minutes remaining, placing a shot on goal that was narrowly saved by Danbury keeper David Mollenthiel (12 saves). Four minutes later, Siano sent a free kick inches over the crossbar.
With five minutes remaining in regulation, central defender Nick David denied a Danbury corner by heading the ball out of the box to Christian DeVivo. DeVivo dribbled the ball deep into Danbury territory before crossing to winger Jack Liguori, whose shot went wide right.
“The game was close all the way until the end," said Ridgefield senior fullback Shane Bowler. "We need goals to win games and we just couldn’t put the final pieces together.
“Our eyes have always been on states since the start of the season," added Bowler. "We are looking at this result as an opportunity for more time to prepare... We need to put balls in the back of the net, and we are going to put balls in the back of the net.”