Pictured: The boys soccer program at Middletown celebrated its eight seniors on Friday night. Front row, from left: Jakob Balemian, Aissa Bensalem, Collin Chlebowski, Jacob Chlebowski, Jason Connelly, Jayden Koski, Giorgio Radkermani and Kalen Martin.
By Paul Augeri
MIDDLETOWN – Underclassmen were behind the majority of Middletown’s goal-scoring Friday night, but without a doubt the biggest show of appreciation at Rosek-Skubel Stadium was reserved for the team’s eight senior players.
The Blue Dragons defeated Platt 5-0 in their regular season home finale, with senior Giorgio Radkermani applying the finishing touch when he headed a ball beyond the reach of Panthers keeper Refat Hossain with 2:12 left on the clock.
Radkermani’s goal was his second of the season. Every time he touched the ball, Middletown’s bench pleaded for him to get a good shot. When he got his header to go, he was mobbed by his teammates, and what seemed to be his very own cheering section pounded their feet against the metal bleachers in approval.
“We love his worth ethic, we love his attitude,” Middletown coach Sal Emanuele said. “He’s just a great person. He’s worked extremely hard to get to this point.”
“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” senior goalie Kalen Martin said.
Radkermani, Martin and fellow seniors Jayden Koski, Jakob Balemian, Jason Connelly, Jacob Chlebowski, Collin Chlebowski and Aissa Bensalem were recognized before the match, the team’s last of the regular season at home.
“The way we rallied around the seniors, from the crowd to the players, it was great to see,” Emanuele said. “And I’m proud of our seniors tonight. I was happy to get them plenty of playing time. I’m really proud of them and I’m proud of the team and what we’ve been able to accomplish this year. I think we’re moving the program forward and look to continue doing that.”
The victory was Middletown’s seventh, surpassing last year’s win total by two, against six losses and two ties. The Blue Dragons play their regular-season finale on Monday at Lewis Mills.
On Friday, the CIAC releases its tournament seedings and pairings. This is the second straight season that Middletown has qualified for the Class LL field, and Emanuele agreed that the Blue Dragons have some momentum behind them.
“I think the morale is great at this time,” he said. “We’re improving every game. I think we’re playing our best at this time of the season, which is obviously at the right time with the tournament ahead.”
Freshman Marshall Butler scored the team’s first two goals off a blast from just inside the box in the 25th minute and a header that he buried inside the left post less than six minutes later.
Junior Zach Lombardo made a run down the left side and buried the ball out of Hossain’s reach with 1:25 to go in the first half for a 3-0 Middletown advantage.
“I thought we looked our best when we moved the ball around and played quick — two, three touches in the middle — and we had some good possession play tonight,” Emanuele said. “I thought we moved the ball well at times and had some good individual play to break through. (The Panthers) were playing a high defensive line, and it was just a matter of timing our runs. Once we figured that out, we were able to finish.”
Middletown continued to pressure Platt (1-14) in the second half, with Balemian breaking through in the 60th minute when he sent a rocket from the right side that hit Hossain in the chest and caromed into the net.
Seventeen minutes later, Radkermani scored the team’s fifth goal, putting a bow on Senior Night.
“Everybody on the team respects the seniors,” he said. “They want to work hard for the seniors and that’s what we did today.”