Bunnell's Quinton Budnick, seen here in action during his team's first game with Stratford back on Oct. 19, scored the Bulldogs lone goal in a 1-0 win on Saturday, Oct. 26, as well. (File photo by Dawn Fanara/fanaraphoto.com)

BOYS SOCCER: Budnick goal gives Bunnell a 1-0 win over rival Stratford

STRATFORD — In some ways, Saturday was a frustrating afternoon​ for the Bunnell boys soccer team.​​

The Bulldogs had one goal waved off because it came seconds​ after the first half expired and another negated due to an​ offside call eight minutes into the second half.​

​Quinton Budnick finally broke through for a goal that counted with ​22:41 remaining and that was enough to carry Bunnell to a 1-0​ victory over town rival Stratford at Mastroni Field.​

​The Bulldogs improved to 7-4-1 with their fourth win in five​ games heading into the final week of the regular season.​

​Bunnell coach Joe Baccielo thought his players may have been​ distracted by some activities earlier in the day, including​ band practice for a state competition.​

“I don’t think our focus was quite there today which was​ disappointing because we tried to talk about it to make sure​ we were ready for this,” Baccielo said.​ “I don’t think it was our best day in terms of the way we ​ played but we’ll take the win, of course.”​

​Heading into Saturday, the Bulldogs knew they had already​ clinched a spot in the South-West Conference playoffs. Bunnell​ (6-4-3, 20 points in the SWC) began the day tied for sixth ​with Bethel, one point ahead of Brookfield and four points ​better than Newtown and New Fairfield, who are tied for eighth. ​

​With only one league game remaining, Newton and New Fairfield​ cannot catch Bunnell, so the Bulldogs are assured of a spot​ in the top eight.​​

Saturday’s contest had no bearing on the league standings as​ it was the second meeting between Bunnell and Stratford. The​ Bulldogs defeated the Red Devils 2-1 last Saturday in the game​ that counted in the standings.​​

In the rematch Saturday, which was postponed from Oct. 16, ​ Bunnell was whistled for nine offsides, although Baccielo ​ didn’t necessarily agree with all of the calls.​

​The Bulldogs also were repeatedly thwarted by Stratford ​ goalkeeper Justin Forizs, who was spectacular in goal with 10​ saves—and that was after playing in the junior varsity game​ earlier in the day.​​

“He’s only a sophomore and even last year, some of the coaches​ in the SWC recognized his understanding of the game, his​ aggressiveness, and his technical skill,” Stratford coach Ryan​ Jockers said. “We expect Justin in the coming years to be ​among the best goalies in the league, if not the state.”​

​Budnick dominated in the second half with seven shots as his​ teammates made sure to get the ball to him as much as possible.​

Overall, the Bulldogs finished with 16 shots.​

​On his goal, Budnick fought through two defenders following​ a deft first touch, got the ball to his feet and snapped a ​quick shot on goal from close range.​ 

​Forizs almost made the save as he got his hands on the ball,​ but it got behind him and trickled across the goal line. ​ Adam Sowinski was credited with the assist. 

​”Quinton Budnick is certainly one of our better players in the​ attacking aspect,” Baccielo said. “We wanted to make sure that​ as the game went on he was able to make his mark on the game. ​ I’m sure he feels like he should have had a couple more, but ​fortunately enough he got the winner for us.” ​

For the second time in a week, Stratford (1-14-0) played its ​rival tough, only to suffer a one-goal defeat.​​

The Red Devils created some chances throughout the game, ​ forcing Bunnell goalkeeper Owen Jaekle to make six saves.​​

“Bunnell had more real chances but I was really pleased with​ how the team played defensively,” Jockers said. “Just fair ​play to Bunnell. They’ve really improved and as a result ​ they’re going off to the SWC playoffs.​​

“To play them 2-1 and 1-nill with the season they’ve had and​ the season we’ve had, I’m happy with the team and how they ​played,” the coach added.

​Bunnell, which was 1-15-0 last season, concludes SWC play at ​Brookfield (7-7-1) on Monday, then closes out the regular ​season at home on Wednesday against Harding.​

​A win over the Bobcats could secure the Bulldogs a home game​ in the quarterfinals of the SWC playoffs and Baccielo believes​ victories over Brookfield and Harding could get Bunnell a ​home game in the first round of the state tournament at 9-4-3.​​

Stratford concludes its season on Tuesday at Pomperaug.

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