Recommended Video:

For the second year in a row, the St. Joseph High boys soccer team needed a solid second-half effort to avoid an upset against Harding High from Bridgeport.

Once again, it was Matt Reis who helped deliver the victory. The Cadets came out flatter than flat and allowed the winless Presidents to take a 1-0 halftime lead behind the play of ultra-talented senior forward Arturo Rocha.

But St. Joseph came alive in the second half as Reis posted his second hat trick in two games to lead the surging Cadets to a 3-1 victory on the turf at the Dalling Sports Complex in Trumbull on Sept. 30.

Reis tied the game 1-1 in the third minute of the second half, collecting a serve into the box by Joe Lucy then beating Harding goalkeeper Christian Savion with a turn-around shot after Savion failed to control the ball during a scramble in front.

The speedy junior forward put the Cadets up 2-1 on a penalty kick with 24:35 left after Lucy was taken down in the box, and then iced the victory with his third goal with 23:17 remaining.

“Once we got that first goal the intensity picked up,” Reis said. “We just rolled after that.”

Reis also posted a hat trick during a 4-0 victory over Fairfield Warde in St. Joseph’s previous game, giving him seven goals on the season.

“He’s the guy that has to get the ball for us,” head coach Steve Waizenegger said. “We were flat in the first half and he did what a leader and a captain is supposed to do.”

St. Joseph improved to 4-3-1 overall with the victory. The Cadets have won three straight following a 1-3-1 start to the season, including shutouts against Ridgefield (1-0) and Warde.

“We were a little erratic early in the season and lately we’ve just been playing more consistently,” Waizenegger said.

“Our mantra is, stay in shape, defend well and get the ball to the guys who can do the most with it, like Matt. We stay in games, and we’ve had a couple of really good results.”

St. Joseph also took Harding lightly last season and had to dig itself out of a 1-0 halftime deficit to post a 2-1 victory. Reis scored the game-winning goal in that one as well.

Despite further warnings from their coaches, the Cadets still allowed Harding to dictate the pace of play in the first half.

The Presidents (0-7), currently riding a 16-game winless streak, outshot the Cadets 7-3 in the first half and took a 1-0 lead when Rocha beat goalkeeper Erik Lewicki (4 saves) off a pass from Moises Valencia.

After a brief halftime talk by the coaching staff, the Cadets huddled up on their own and decided to start playing hard.

“The first half the intensity wasn’t there. So at halftime we brought it together and decided as a team that it was for us, it was for our own good,” Reis said.

“Our coaches gave us a short talk. They were aggravated. They tried to scare us and said we were going to do fitness if we didn’t win the game.

“So I was like, alright, let’s go get it. And we did.”

The Cadets looked like a totally different team over the final 40 minutes, dominating possession and finishing with a 15-0 advantage in shots.

Sophomore midfielder Christian Barroso had a half-dozen chances himself but just couldn’t connect.

The Cadets also received a solid effort out of freshman Skyler Furlong on the left side of the field.

Furlong, playing in just his fourth varsity game, made some strong runs and defended the sideline well.

He nearly set up St. Joseph’s fourth goal with 8:00 left in the second half, making a great move around a defender in the left corner then serving a great crossing pass to the right post, but the shot by Jake Harper went just wide.

“He’s been playing a lot of varsity matches,” Waizenegger said. “He’s staying with us.”