NORWALK — The night started with a moment of silence for a fallen coach and was followed by an eerie quiet as no fans were allowed at tonight’s Norwalk at Brien McMahon’s boys soccer rivalry game.
It was the host Senators, though, who in the wake of a four-goal loss to the Bears last Friday delivered a loud and clear message at Casagrande Field.
A late corner kick goal delivered McMahon a 1-1 tie with Norwalk, which rolled to a 4-0 win over the Senators just three days ago.
“I asked the team to get something out of this game,” McMahon coach Rodrigo Guzman said. “Norwalk is one of the toughest teams in the state, not just the FCIAC. I’m so proud of my boys. They worked so hard.”
Konrad Zapert’s goal in the 78th minute allowed the Senators to escape with a tie.
Simon Osorio’s corner kick clipped the heel of another McMahon player and bounced to Zapert, who delivered a redirection of the ball toward the far post.
“I kind of missed it,” Zapert said. “I just grazed it and it ended up in the back of the net. I just wanted to get something on it so me or somebody else could get it in. It’s really huge for us. This is like the biggest rivalry of our lives, so it’s a big thing for us.”
Norwalk grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first half when Mateo Cano buried a 35-yard direct kick into the top left-hand corner of the net.
“That was a great finish,” Norwalk coach Chris Laughton said. “You’re not going to find many people saving that.”
While the Bears held a 1-0 lead at intermission, Laughton felt his team could have led by more as it had some solid scoring opportunities against Brien McMahon goalkeeper Jose Hernandez (seven saves).
“On Friday night we just capitalized on our chances,” Laughton said. “We had some good chances in the first half tonight and we just couldn’t put them away. When you don’t do that and let a team hang around, it can come back to bite you, which it did tonight.”
The Senators pushed the Bears late, forcing Norwalk goalkeeper Jake Godwin into making three of his six saves in the final five minutes of the first half.
“I thought the first half was pretty even,” Guzman said. “Then, in the second half, both teams just fought.”
McMahon better executed its game plan the second time around, according to Zapert.
“Last week, when we lost 4-0, we just didn’t keep the ball on the ground,” the senior said. “We were hitting it in the air, just playing volleyball. Today, we kept the ball on the ground, kept possession and got off some shots.”
The night began with a moment of silence for Norwalk graduate Matt Harbilas, who had been an assistant baseball coach for the Bears before being hired to coach at McMahon this spring. Harbilas, a teacher at Stamford High School, was found dead at his home this morning at the age of 33.
Things remained quiet throughout the 80-minute game as no fans — parents or students — were allowed into Casagrande Field to watch the game.
“It’s definitely weird,” Laughton admitted. “A game like this, you’d have a packed house. Not having that definitely changes the energy of the game. It’s different, but it’s better than nothing so we’ll have to get used to it.”
Norwalk takes a 1-0-1 record into its next home-and-home series, against Danbury. The Bears will travel to Danbury on Wednesday before hosting the Hatters next Monday.
McMahon 0-1-1 will square off with Ridgefield on Wednesday at Tiger Hollow and return home next Monday against the Tigers.