Staples High School won its third straight Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference boys soccer championship Wednesday night at Norwalk High School. Not surprisingly, Brendan Lesch played a key part in the win.
Lesch, a senior midfielder headed for the University of Notre Dame, scored the game-winning goal in the 53rd minute to snap a 1-1 tie against Fairfield Warde. It was Lesch's third goal of the playoffs and his second game-winner.
"I've been watching Brendan for four years,'' Staples head coach Dan Woog said. "Every game he does something that surprises and amazes you. He plays very well in big games."
Second-seeded Staples (16-2-1) took a 1-0 lead 36 seconds into the second half on a goal by Greg Gudis. The play began when a long ball by goalkeeper James Hickok sailed downfield, and Lesch's pass found Gudis. He broke down a defender and fired a rocket from top of the box into the goal.
Fourth-seeded Warde (11-4-3), which brought an eight-game win streak into the contest, countered quickly. Taylor Rosenblum's blast from the left side curled past Hickok just 76 seconds later. Lesch's goal came on a rebound in which he gathered the ball and fired it in from close range.
Warde pressed the attack in the final few minutes. The Mustangs had several near misses, including a direct kick that sailed over the crossbar and another shot that bounced off the crossbar. Hickok and the Staples' defense withstood a furious final assault.
"They were definitely testing us,'' senior defender Frankie Bergonzi said. "We gave them some opportunities, and James came up big. For a sophomore, he plays with a lot of composure."
The victory ran Staples' unbeaten streak to 14 games. The Wreckers have not been beaten since a 1-0 loss to Bridgeport Central. It was their 27th league championship. "I love these guys,'' Woog said. "I'm very proud of them."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.