SOUTHBURY -- Kyle Drake was on the sidelines with an injury last season when his teammates on the Brookfield boys soccer team battled Barlow into penalty kicks in the South-West Conference championship game.
And Drake could only watch helplessly as his Bobcats lost a heartbreaker.
Drake was in action on Monday night as Brookfield battled into penalty kicks with Barlow in the SWC semifinals, after the two rivals found themselves tied at 1 after 100 intense minutes of soccer. And given the chance to boot the Bobcats into the championship game, Drake didn't miss.
After Austin DaSilva and Thomas Walker scored and Brookfield goalkeeper Tommy Burkhart stopped three of the four penalty kicks he faced, Drake beat Barlow goalkeeper Peter Cohen low to his right side to lift Brookfield to an improbable 2-1 victory over the top-seeded and previously unbeaten Falcons.
Fifth-seeded Brookfield will face second-seeded Newtown -- a 2-0 winner over Pomperaug -- in the SWC final on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Bunnell High in Stratford.
"It was surreal," said Drake, who was swarmed by the fans from the Brookfield student section, who charged onto the field after the winning goal. "I was kind of emotionless. I didn't really comprehend what was going on until just now. It's a nice feeling."
Brookfield is hoping for a better outcome this time around against Newtown. The Bobcats lost the regular-season meeting 4-0 at Newtown on Oct. 8.
"We're a good team. We're a team of destiny," Drake said. "We have a lot of camaraderie on this team and a lot of confidence in each other."
Burkhart came up huge in the penalty kicks. After surrendering a goal to Barlow's Peter Gaffney on the first penalty kick, he stopped the next three to set the stage for Drake's winner.
"We might not have been the best team there, but we wanted it the most and we worked our butts off to get it," Burkhart said. "I wouldn't want to play with any other boys than the team I'm playing with right now. We all deserve this. We played a heck of a game."
Burkhart's final save came with an extra dose of drama, as he got just enough of a piece of Calvin Schneider's shot to knock it aside, then alertly ran after the rolling ball and batted it away from the goal line with mere inches to spare.
"I watch YouTube videos of PKs and the goalie, when he gets up and celebrates, the ball rolls back in," Burkhart said. "I saw it to my right, and all I was thinking of was the ball rolling back in. I just scampered over and tried to hit it out with anything I could."
During regulation, Burkhart made seven saves and Cohen made two. Barlow got on the board first when Ryan Corr headed home a long throw-in from Gaffney in the 12th minute. Brookfield answered in the 16th minute, with Sahill Quaisar scoring off a scramble in front.
"I think we frustrated Barlow a little bit, and they're not used to that," Brookfield coach Mark Lukas said. "They're a great team, and I guess in some ways we're becoming like that. We have a big heart."
Barlow had the majority of the good scoring chances, particularly in the two 10-minute overtime periods, and barely missed scoring the go-ahead goal on several occasions.
Newtown, meanwhile, won a 2-0 decision over host Pomperaug, the third seed. The two teams were locked in a scoreless tie until fewer than 15 minutes remained on the clock. Newtown's Nathan Kalra lined up an indirect kick from about 45 yards out that somehow found a crack in the Pomperaug defense. Charlie Poarch gathered the loose ball and banged it home to put Newtown on top to stay.
"That's pretty much been the story of my season this year is being in the right place at the right time," Poarch said. "Everything just went right for me there. A little bit of luck and a little bit of anticipation really pays off."
With Pomperaug pushing up in the final minutes in an effort to generate scoring chances, Newtown added an insurance goal when Clayton Gattey scored off a pass from James Cochrane.
"I think patience for our team is critical," Newtown coach Brian Neumeyer said. "Soccer is not like other sports where there are multiple goals. We just had to wait. The opportunity came, Charlie Poarch did a good job of hanging with it, and then we got a second one after that."
Newtown goalkeeper Elijah Klorczyk made four saves and Pomperaug goalkeeper Drew Berkowitz made seven saves.
Both Pomperaug and Barlow will now regroup and get ready for their respective state tournaments. SWC teams have traditionally been tough outs in the state tournament, and both those teams are eager to put their semifinal losses behind them and challenge for the state titles.
"Like I told the guys, we have the potential to beat anyone," Pomperaug coach Joe Mancini said. "The positive thing is we worked hard, we had chances and it could've gone either way. The guys did a lot of good things. We'll just regroup and move forward.
"This tournament might be harder to win than the state tournament," Mancini added, noting that when the Panthers won the Class LL state title in 2011, they had actually lost in the SWC tournament weeks prior. "This is a tough conference."
POMPERAUG 0 0-- 0
NEWTOWN 0 2-- 2
Goals: N-Charlie Poarch, Clayton Gattey. Assists: N-Nathan Kalra, James Cochrane. Goalies: P-Drew Berkowitz (7 saves); N-Elijah Klorczyk (4 saves).
BROOKFIELD 1 0 0 0 1-- 2
BARLOW 1 0 0 0 0 --1
Goals: Bk-Sahill Quaisar; Ba-Ryan Corr. Goalies: Bk-Tommy Burkhart (7 saves); Ba-Peter Cohen (2 saves). Penalty-kick goals: Bk-Austin DaSilva, Thomas Walker, Kyle Drake; Ba-Peter Gaffney.