EASTON, Mass. -- Sunday night’s Division 1 South boys' soccer tournament first-round game between Hockomock League rivals Oliver Ames and Franklin was tight, defensive, and physical. Exactly what was expected when the match-up was first announced.
The Tigers eventually prevailed, but not until the game was sent into a shootout. Dave Stapleton fired home the final penalty to give Oliver Ames a 5-3 victory after a scoreless 100 minutes that featured non-stop action, no-holds-barred tackling, and very few scoring chances.
Hockomock League MVP Dave MacKinnon, Oliver Ames’ imposing senior goalkeeper, was the hero for the Tigers after saving Tim Larowe’s penalty kick. MacKinnon also made four saves including a brilliant diving effort to rob Panthers midfielder Joe Kalil moments before halftime.
Tigers head coach John Barata noted that his team struggled with penalty kicks after the season-ending draw with Brockton -- in which the teams held a shootout, which had no bearing on the result).
“We worked on them quite a bit the last couple of days and it paid off," Barata said. "It was a great game. I hate to see someone lose, but I’m glad it wasn’t us.”
There is plenty of respect between the Hockomock’s two division winners and Franklin coach Fran Bositis spoke after the game about how his team should be proud of the way it competed against a talented opponent.
“It was a great game and that’s the way they have been for the past few years. It’s a tough way to lose, but someone had to, unfortunately it was us. I’m proud of the kids, they played great soccer.”
It was the visiting Panthers, a team known more for its defensive strength, that created the best scoring opportunities during regulation. In fact, Franklin keeper Jesse D’Entermont was not forced into making a save until the first overtime period.
The best chance for Oliver Ames in the first half was a cross from Zachary Wyman that surprised D’Entermont and curled off the crossbar. Franklin created a great chance for star defender Zach Scafati off a corner kick minutes after halftime, but his stinging volley was saved by MacKinnon.
Oliver Ames adjusted its formation in the second half to try and get more possession. Forward Chris Goncalves was pulled back into midfield and central midfielder Lucas Araujo was pushed out wide on the left.
This change allowed Stapleton, the Tigers star midfielder, to play more advanced as the focal point of the attack and see more of the ball. Stapleton, who did not start because of a thigh injury, had a free kick two minutes from full time that slipped just wide of the post.
It was not until overtime that Oliver Ames finally put a shot on net as a Goncalves header had to be tipped over the bar. Stapleton also had a shot saved at the near post.
It was inevitable that these two teams would be forced into the coin flip of a penalty shootout. The last three meetings prior to Sunday night had all ended in a draw, including a 1-1 game earlier this season.
The Tigers practice paid off as they hit all of five of their penalties, including two off of D’Entermont’s fingertips, and MacKinnon, the league MVP, made the one save needed to allow OA to advance to the sectional quarterfinals.
After hearing some of the other results from the day’s action, Barata could only shake his head in awe of the depth contained in the Division 1 South sectional.
“The Division 1 South tournament is just unreal this year. I think anyone can win on any given day. If we come in on Tuesday and don’t play our best game then we’ll be saying we were knocked out too.”
Oliver Ames will host Walpole, which stunned No. 3 seed New Bedford, on Tuesday night.
State tournament notes:
There were plenty of upsets among ranked teams on Sunday. Among the surprise results were: Walpole shocking No. 7 New Bedford, 1-0; Braintree defeating No. 13 BC High, 2-1; and Wachusett ending the season of No. 18 Marlborough by a score of 3-2. In a game that featured two ranked teams, No. 16 Nauset beat No. 19 Wellesley 2-1 to move into the quarterfinals.
One team that was able to survive despite a scare was No. 2 Needham, the top seed in Division 1 South, which scored twice in the second half to claim a 3-1 win over Brockton. The game was tight from start to finish, but the Rockets size was too much for the Boxers to handle and Nolan Brady scored the winner 11 minutes into the second half. It was a solid performance from the Boxers who made a late season surge and head coach Rick Robens felt his team was unlucky to end up against such a tough opponent, “We didn’t match up that well on set plays and that was the difference in the game. We came together a little bit late, but we ran into the Needham buzzsaw.”
On Monday, the West sectional will get underway with No. 3 Ludlow the main attraction as they take on Northampton, but also deserving mention is Division 2 Belchertown, which finished the regular season a perfect 18-0 and will take on Palmer in the first round.
Tuesday will feature several marquee matchups. No. 12 Dartmouth will play host to No. 16 Nauset, No. 4 Acton-Boxborough will travel to No. 6 St. John’s Prep, and No. 2 Needham will host Marshfield.