Owen Hoffman had scored a lot of goals this season. He knew he was close to a 51-year-old scoring record for the Ellington boys soccer team.
But he didn’t know how close until before Wednesday’s Class M second round game against Granby, when his coach told him.
Hoffman, a senior, needed three goals to tie Chris Harned’s single season record (31) from 1971. And he got exactly that, with a hat trick in the second half of the 5-0 victory over NCCC foe Granby Wednesday afternoon.
Ellington, the top seed who was the Class M runner-up last year, will face the winner of the Suffield-Morgan game in the quarterfinal Friday at 2 p.m. at Ellington High.
“At the beginning of the game, they told me exactly what it was,” Hoffman said. “I was at 28 at the beginning of the game and my goal was to beat the record at the beginning of the season and I’m tied and we still have another game, so I’m hoping I can get one more to break the record.”
Ellington was up 1-0 when Hoffman scored with 28:30 left in the second half, then again with 16:11 left and had his last goal on a breakaway with 10:10 left. Coach Pat Gosselin took him out after that.
“We’re really proud of not only what he’s doing on the field but how he’s grown over the last four years,” Gosselin said. “He’s kind of had his eyes set on that record the whole year, quietly.
“We did take him out – it’s one of those situations where he wants to be on the field, but we want him hungry too.”
Hoffman is one of 19 seniors on the team, along with center back Ethan Mallett.
“He’s incredible,” Mallett said of Hoffman. “Phenomenal. One of my favorite players to play with. I grew up with him. Fastest on the field. Just phenomenal.”
Andrew Velasquez scored the first goal for Ellington (17-1) in the first half and Samuel Forst scored the last goal with 3:51 left in the game.
Ellington’s only loss came to NFA, the 14th seed in Class LL, 3-1 on Oct. 22. The Purple Knights beat Granby 2-0 earlier in the season.
“I’ve grown up with 14 of these kids since I was 8 or 9,” Mallett said. “We know each other, we trust each other. It feels amazing playing with these kids.”
Last year, the Knights advanced to the state championship game for the third time in four years (there were no state finals in 2020 due to COVID-19) and lost for the third time in four years, 3-1, to Stonington. They also lost in 2016 to Brookfield, 1-0, and haven’t won a title since 2014 when they beat Tolland 1-0.
“The tournament is always tough,” Gosselin said. “We’re the top seed but we still have a really tough draw. Granby is a good team. Plainville was a good team.
“Does it come with pressure? Yeah. Does it come with a target? Yeah. But the kids are ready for it. They want it. They’re continuing to show who they are and what they’re capable of.”
Lori Riley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.