When Berlin High boys soccer coach Dave Francalangia was a senior at BHS, his team went to uncharted territory before being eliminated by perennial state power Rocky Hill.
"I remember that game like it was yesterday," Francalangia said. "I got a cross right in front of the net and hit it over the cross bar. I should have scored and we should have won that game."
Last year, the Redcoat took one step further and advanced to the Class L semifinals before being knocked out. No Berlin boys soccer team has ever gotten past the semifinals.
The Redcoats got a favorable draw this year and after blowing out two opponents will play in the quarterfinals against Branford, the 22nd seed, in a home game Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Scalise Field.
Berlin was tied 1-1 at halftime with University/Prince Tech.
"We had some main keys to the game today," said Francalangia, in his 12th season as BHS head coach. "We wanted to communicate, maintain composure, and play two or three-touch soccer. At halftime, we had a very strong conversation about what we needed to do. I told them if we get ahead by a goal or two they would start to fold."
Berlin knocked in three goals in a 10-minute span and the hosts did fold a bit. The Redcoats played attractive soccer, despite very thick grass and a field that was not very well maintained.
"We played 10 or 11 games on turf this year so to go out and play on a field this thick was tough at first," Francalangia said. "The defense started very shaky because we were not communicating."
Sophomore star Alex Bednarek scored three goals for the winners while sophomore Steve Burns, junior Brajen Cano, senior Armand Cano and senior Alex Taddeo all scored single goals. For Taddeo, it was the first goal of his career. Senior Connor Hilbie set up four goals for the Redcoats in the 7-1 rout.
"Regardless of what happens going forward, I'm really proud of these guys," Francalangia said. "If I told anyone before the season that we'd be in the quarterfinals again and be 10-4-4, they would have laughed in my face. After losing 12 seniors and nine starters, they would have never thought this was possible.
"After last year's run, these guys came to the realization that they could compete against the best. We get another home game, which is always great. I like our chances against anyone we play right now. It's in their heads and you can see it in their eyes."
Branford, 9-7-2, beat host East Lyme Monday night on penalty kicks.
"They are not as skilled as East Lyme but they are physical and really aggressive," Francalangia said. "Like I said, I like our chances."
If the Redcoats could knock off Branford and advance to their second straight semifinal, they would play either 13-0-4 RHAM or 13-3-1 Avon.
"If you're going to be the best, you have to play the best," Francalangia said. "I think we match up really well with Branford and I think we match up favorably against Avon or RHAM. The boys are looking forward to it. They don't want the season to end."