The scenario Tuesday evening was simple for the Burlington Central boys soccer team: Win and the Big Northern East championship lands on Rocket Hill.
Central allowed a goal less than 2 minutes into the match, but answered 10 minutes later with 2 goals in a 3-minute span. The Rockets added 2 more goals in the second half to defeat Richmond-Burton, 4-1, to capture its fifth conference title and first since 2010.
"It's only the fifth in school history, so it feels pretty good," said Central senior Bryce Warner, who was on that last conference title winning team.
A tie would have meant Central (16-3-2, 10-1-1) sharing the conference title with Harvard (9-1-2 BNC East). A loss would have given Harvard the outright title.
It didn't look good for Central early. A misplay on a long ball by Richmond-Burton allowed R-B's Zack Cemail to run onto the loose ball and slip it past Central goalkeeper Brett Rau for a 1-0 R-B lead just 1:48 into the match.
"We came out with a little bit of nerves, a little bit slow," Central senior Ian Graffagna said. "We've played hard and practiced hard all year so we knew what we were capable of and that we should beat this team. So we went on there and did it."
Central tied it with 28:24 remaining in the first half as Warner was taken down in the penalty area. Warner "owed" one to Graffagna from earlier in the season so Graffagna stepped up to take the penalty kick. Graffagna's shot beat R-B goalkeeper Luis Perez to tie it at 1-1. Less than 3 minutes later, a deflected cross went right to senior Josh Lung. Lung's shot went off Perez's hand and into the net for a 2-1 Central lead with 25:52 left in the half.
Warner made the score 3-1 with 32:58 remaining in the match as he fought through a couple defenders on the right side and fired a near-post shot past Perez. Graffagna added a second goal with 13:50 left as his cross from the near end line floated over Perez, off the inside of the far post and into the net.
R-B was the one team in the BNC East to beat Central this season, a 1-0 victory Sept. 20 in Richmond.
"The last time we just couldn't finish," Central coach Michael Gecan said. "We had a problem finishing opportunities. Today we did a better job of that. I think we could have finished more, but I'm happy with the win. It's a good celebration on senior night."
Rau made 4 saves for Central. Perez finished with 7 saves, 6 in the second half, for R-B.