By KEN MORSE
The final minutes were ticking off the clock in the boys soccer season opener last Friday at Tinty Stadium and Brennan Staubley bravely faced a Bristol Central team that was swarming around the net.
The Blue Devils young keeper stood his ground among the frantic flurry and Plainville came away with a 2-0 victory marking the beginning of what should be an exciting season on the pitch.
“He’s just a 13-year old freshman in his first varsity game,” said Plainville head coach Tim Brown. “And if you are looking for a man of the match Brennan is it.”
Plainville had to start the season without starting keeper Sergio Zaldivar as the senior was serving a two game suspension related to a red card he received in the final game of the season last year.
The Blue Devils are a senior-laden team coming in with nine upperclassman and they are looking to get back to being a challenger after two middle of the road seasons 7-6-3 last year and 6-8-2 in 2016.
Under head coach Brown, the Blue and White have been a consistent factor going deep in the state tournament reaching the Class M semifinals in 2011 and 2013. After barely breaking even the past two years, Plainville is looking to get back to being the hunted.
“This is a much different group because there is a greater bond,” said Brown. “There is a chance that we could have an extraordinary season. These are hardened players and three quarters of them played for me
when I took them to a state championship cup as 13-year olds.”
The Blue Devils are loaded with talent led by seniors Zaldivar, Dane Stephens, Michael Torres and John Siani. An equal mix of up and coming players makes Plainville a solid favorite to win their Division and
advance deep into the state tournament.
“There is a strong bond and camaraderie,” added Brown. “There are zero egos on this team. It doesn’t make any difference to them who scores the goals. It has a lot to do with their upbringing and how they were taught by their parents. It’s a privilege to be around players like that.”
The Plainville defense went out and established the flow of the game early on providing all the support in between the pipes that the young Staubley would need. Junior Brady Beausoleil and Jacob Pierce teamed up with sophomore Tucker Rau to form a hard hitting defensive unit.
It certainly helps to get a few bounces to go your way. Stephens was tripped up and Plainville was awarded a free kick from 30 yards out with 13:18 to go in the first half.
Pierce came on to direct the kick and sent a boot that cleared the front line of the Bristol Central defense.
The ball took a high bounding bounce over the keeper’s head and settled into the back of the net for a 1-0 Blue Devils lead.
“We still have a few things to work on,” cautioned Brown. “A little luck always plays into everyone’s season but this is a team I expect to win the division and play in the state finals. If we can achieve that then you really can’t ask for much more than that.”
Plainville came right out in the second half and took full advantage of what they were handed. The Blue Devils got a corner and Torres converted less than two minutes in for a 2-0 lead.
“We have driven it home that we need to take advantage of corner opportunities,” said Brown. “Every one has to result with a shot on net. We can’t afford to squander those opportunities. I have guys I can slot into those situations and it’s nice to see something you work hard on in practice be successful in game situations.”
Armed with a 2-0 advantage every time Bristol Central managed to break into Blue Devils territory there was Siani chasing down the attacker to close off the advance. Senior Brendan Sauvron and sophomore Patrick Gryczewski clamped down and controlled both sidelines turning everything to the middle of the field.
Juniors Dalton Barker and Nathan Cyr didn’t allow much room to roam at midfield. Seniors Tyler Miller and James Raucci were effective staying with the attacker and junior Logan Miller applied pressure up front as the hard hitting game came down the stretch.
Bristol Central went all out looking to get on the board with five minutes to play and was awarded a free kick inside the box. With the Rams at the doorstep, Staubley stood his ground and batted the ball out of harm’s way and moments later deflected another shot that went wide of the post.
“Brennan is a true athlete,” said Brown. “He’s not someone we stuck in goal in an emergency situation.
He played for me as a 9-year old in goal on a U-16 team so I’m well aware of what he can do.”
“He had a few moments of nervousness but even a senior would with the pressure of opening day. We are very fortunate to have a kid like that playing for us who has the confidence not to get rattled.”
Plainville will be at Bristol Eastern this week on Tuesday Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. and travel to Farmington on Friday for a 7 p.m. contest. Next week, the Blue Devils will be at home on Monday, Sept. 17 for a 6 p.m. showdown with Rocky Hill and again on Thursday at 3:45 p.m. to take on Maloney.
PHOTOS by KEN MORSE