Published November 14. 2013 4:00AM
Guilford - For a fleeting moment, it appeared Old Lyme had survived a dangerous breakaway late in a scoreless Class S semifinal boys' soccer game.
Senior goalie Spencer Saunders alertly raced out to make a terrific sliding save on Cromwell's Derek Parker, who had the ball and the outcome of the game on his foot.
Then misfortune struck.
The rebound bounced back to Parker who lunged forward to head the ball past Saunders toward a vacant goal.
"It was a nightmare," Saunders said. "The whole world just stopped. Scariest moment of my life."
Parker's shot had just enough momentum to roll over the goal line before an Old Lyme defender could recover.
Fifth-seeded Cromwell held on for the last five minutes, 15 seconds, for a 1-0 victory on Wednesday and a spot in Saturday's state championship game against No. 2 Bolton at Middletown.
"The adrenalin just kicked right in and I just threw my body out there," Parker said of his well-placed header.
Ninth-seeded Old Lyme and Cromwell, two Shoreline Conference foes, battled through an intense hard-fought game. Both goalies, Saunders and Cromwell's Ryan Murphy, and their respective defenders were difficult to crack.
One goal would surely be enough, and the Wildcats almost struck first with about 14 minutes left.
Working a nice combination play with junior Salvatore Tinnerello, sophomore Joel Driscoll fired a hard shot from close range, but Murphy's great kick save prevented a goal.
The Wildcats had the edge in play during the second half but produced few quality scoring chances. Overtime seemed on the horizon until Parker's game-winner.
"Old Lyme had the same kind of shot and our keeper came out and made the save and kept us in the game," Cromwell coach Jon Harder said. "Their keeper did the same thing in the last five minutes and it was just a bounce, that's all it was."
The Panthers avenged a 2-1 overtime loss to Old Lyme that prevented them from winning the regular-season title. The Wildcats scored with a minute left in overtime in that game.
This time, Cromwell delivered the drama.
"Certainly a tough way to lose it in the last few minutes after Spencer makes an incredible save and it just fell to their player," Old Lyme coach Marc Vendetti said. "But, hey, coming into this match we knew it was going to be very much like it turned out - very competitive."
"... We knew it was going to come down to one goal. We both had our chances and they capitalized and we did not. ... We wish them luck."
The Wildcats reached the semifinals for the first time since 2010. Vendetti praised the leadership and contribution of seniors Joshua Krasney, Eric Behringer and Saunders.
Old Lyme finished with a 12-4-3 overall record.
"I'm extremely proud of this squad," Vendetti said. "They worked extremely hard to put themselves in this position."
Saunders made five saves in his final high school game.
"Overall, it was a great season," Saunders said. "I'm going to miss my family a lot."