Xavier boys soccer tops Fairfield Prep for SCC title behind Mario Milardo's heroics in overtime

Photo of Joe Morelli

WEST HAVEN — Mario Millardo was at the SCC boys soccer tournament final last November, witnessing Xavier score with 16.3 seconds left in double overtime to defeat Cheshire.

The wild celebration left an impact on Milardo.

“Everyone stormed the field after (the game winner),” Milardo said.

Fast forward to Thursday night: Xavier trying to repeat, Fairfield Prep is standing in the way and there is yet another overtime session to decide the SCC champion. This time, Milardo was smack in the middle of it.

He scored off an assist from Jaden Behm 4 minutes into the first extra session to lift top seed Xavier to the 2-1 win over No. 6 Fairfield Prep at Ken Strong Stadium.

“Tonight we knew they were going to be a great battle but we pushed through as hard as we can, scoring the last goal. It’s the best feeling you can have. I can’t ask for a better team to do it with and I love them.”

It was the fifth league title either outright or shared for the Falcons (15-2-2).

“The message (going into OT) was, ‘You’ve worked so hard this fall season. Don’t  let it go to waste.’ Credit to Fairfield Prep, they gave us everything we could handle. Tonight at times we we were sitting back, waiting to see how we were going to break their pressure.”

Last year, it was Finn Russell from Ryan Gerry on a similar play to defeat Cheshire. This year, Milardo scored off Behm’s assist.

“We’ve been working on that all season. We spring it down to the wing get it to the end line and cross it over and pray someone is there. Thank God I was there,” Millardo said.

Then he ripped off his short and ran toward the Xavier student section to celebrate.

“I was trying to get it off. It was stuck and I couldn’t see anything,” Milardo said.

Milardo played with Oakwood last season. He couldn’t play with a high school team. But Milardo said he left Oakwood to go play at Xavier.

“I took my chance to come here and play with my friends and it ended up being the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Having Milardo in the middle has helped Xavier remain one of the state’s elite.

“He is our go-to guy in the middle. He’s the engine, what drives us, everything goes through him. He has phenomenal vision and a phenomenal work ethic"

Fairfield Prep (10-4-5) lost to Xavier 5-1 at home on Oct. 24 in the regular-season finale. But the Jesuits were able to pull seeded upsets in the first two rounds of the SCC tournament against Shelton and Cheshire, respectively.

Then Justin Tayman scored the equalizer with 15 minutes left in regulation. It was 1-1, the same score it would be at the end of regulation.
Cue the Milardo heroics.

Now Xavier gets ready for the Class L state tournament beginning Monday. The Falcons have not forgotten last season’s loss in the Class LL semifinals to Cheshire on penalty kicks.

“I still haven’t gotten over that.” Fitzgerald said.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Mario Millardo, Xavier; Scored both goals, including the game-winner 4 minutes into overtime.

QUOTABLE

“They've just been looking out for each other instead of doing their own thing.”
Xavier coach Brian Fitzgerald

joseph.morelli@hearstmediact.com; @nhrJoeMorelli

XAVIER 2, FAIRFIELD PREP 1 (OT)

(at West Haven)

Prep 0 1 0 - 1

Xavier 1 0 1 - 2

Scoring: X-Mario Millardo (Finn Russell), 3:02; FP: Justin Tayman, 65:00; X: Milardo (from Jaden Behm). Saves: FP-Nicolas Vittoria 4; X: Spencer Misenti 2.

Records: X 15-2-2; FP 10-4-5.