The Plainville High School boys soccer team’s improbable run through the state tournament culminated Sunday with a 1-0 victory over Ellington in the CIAC Class M title game.
A modest No. 23 seed, the Blue Devils battled their way to the finals by besting Montville (4-1), Northwestern (3-1), Granby (2-1, PK 5-4) and Stonington (2-1).
Granby was the No. 2 seed. Stonington was No. 3.
Ellington was the tournament’s top seed and entered the championship tilt undefeated.
The gritty Blue Devils were unintimidated, however.
Plainville forced the action in the finals, and James Raucci netted the game-winner with 11:50 to play in the second half on an assist from Dane Stephens.
Blue Devil keeper Sergio Zaldivar earned the shutout in the finals, which was played in the Devils’ backyard, Veterans Stadium in New Britain.
This is state title No. 1 for the PHS boys soccer team, which capped its magical season with a mark of 13-7-1.
Plainville coach Tim Brown is not surprised that his troops walked away with a state crown this fall.
“The chemistry was there,” the coach said. “Because they played so much together – indoor sessions, summer soccer – they all know eachother so well. They see eachother nearly every single day on a futbol field. That creates a bond, a chemistry. There’s a real comaraderie.”
The PHS boys soccer program has come a long way over the past decade.
Brown took the reins of the struggling program back in 2007, and at that time, the locals had not qualified for the state tournament in 10 years. Often they didn’t even come close. The Blue Devils earned one win in 2006, two wins in 2005 and went winless in 2004.
Plainville ended its long state tournament drought in 2008 and have been formidable since.
Now the Blue Devils are state champs.
“It’s difficult to enjoy a win in the tournament because you’re always prepping,” Brown said Monday. “Now, I can look back at the big picture; all the work, the effort, the things the kids had to overcome. The grind of it all. Keeping everybody motivated. There’s a ton of work that goes into it, by so many people besides myself. It’s just a big undertaking, and I have extreme gratitude for all of them.”
Brown was quick to mention the efforts of his current coaching staff, and those of his former assistant Mike Bowling, who was with Brown early on.
“I certainly didn’t come in with a 10-year plan. But we came in and set a standard,” Brown said. “First and foremost, we needed a team that was at least fit and could be athletic and run with everyone. We didn’t necessarily have the talent, but we certainly could create the horse-power. That was our method. Then we started to build a culture. Everyone knew what was expected.”
While Plainville will lose some key players to graduation, Brown has high hopes for the Blue Devils in 2019, and beyond.
“I think the talent level in Plainville is consistently rising,” the veteran coach said. “There are an awful lot of committed people behind the scenes that aid and help and make sure that’s the case. We’re trying to get these kids started at a very young age.”
Said Brown: “We’ve gone from a team that was in disarray, to a pretty good team, to a very good team, to an outstanding team, to now a team that expects to win championships.”