Tolland Takes Class M Title


MIDDLETOWN – In terms of dramatic or game winning goals, Tolland senior Michael Zimmerman’s resume’ was a bit thin coming into the CIAC Class M boys’ soccer state championship game Saturday morning.

Throughout his career Zimmerman has been more of a “starter” then a finisher according to his coach.

“Mike has been a very clutch player for us all year, but the funny thing is that he actually has very few game winning goals. He scores the first goal a lot.’’ said Tolland coach Jim Leahy. “He picked an awfully nice time to score the biggest game winning goal all year.’’

Indeed he did

Zimmerman’s second half goal on a shot from just outside the box helped fourth seeded Tolland to a dramatic 2-1 victory over third seeded Bacon Academy at Middletown High’s Rosek-Skubel Stadium.

The victory earned the Eagles their second state title in school history and provided a perfect setting for Leahy to announce that the championship game would be his last as coach. Leahy, whose son Tommy is a senior and key player for the Eagles, said he had thought about what it would be like to walk off the field with his son after his final game.

“It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to walk off the field with him on his last game after winning a state championship and I’m gonna do it,’ Leahy said. “Today is my last game. I’m retiring and I can’t think of a better way than walking off with Tommy.’’

Tolland, which won its only other state title in 2009 when it defeated Granby 2-1, was making its second consecutive trip to the Class M finals. The Eagles lost to rival Ellington 1-0 last season and that loss provided plenty of incentive for the team in 2015.

“This is extra sweet. It’s a complete 180 from last year,’’ said Zimmerman “It’s unbelievable, just the best way to end my high school career.’’

Tolland (18-2-1) broke into the scoring column first on a goal by Nick Tantillo with 8:41 remaining in the first half. The goal came off a perfect corner cross from Tommy Leahy. The ball stayed on the turf and Tantillo swooped in to push the ball past Bacon Academy keeper Nick Wall.

Bacon (20-2-2) tied the score just 35 seconds into the second half when Sam Pipicelli knocked in a loose bal in front of the net after a corner kick by Colby Decker. Both teams struggled to create good scoring opportunities over the next 35 minutes. But when Zimmerman’s opportunity came, he didn’t miss.

“Our goal was to come back here and win a state championship,’’ Zimmerman said. “It’s just the moment of my life, you dream about this all the time. Griffin Kopsick did a great job of laying it off. When I hit it I knew I hit it pretty well and it just slipped past the keeper.’’

The victory also marked the 400th in program history according to Leahy, who has 121 of those wins.

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