Boston High School: Eli Ries

Pereira legacy comes full circle for Ludlow

November, 20, 2010

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Fred Pereira stood quietly in the back row of the visiting bleachers at Worcester State College's John Coughlin Field. The Ludlow High legend and North American Soccer League veteran always stays quiet behind the scenes these days, but admits he wasn't at ease watching his son lead the Lions to an eventual victory over New Bedford until the waning moments.

"We've been up 2-0 at the half and lost games," Pereira said quietly. "And this New Bedford team, they score so quick, so I didn't feel comfortable until the last five minutes of the game."

Forgive him, though, for the anxiety even as Ludlow dominated the pitch last night against the Whalers in the Division 1 state championship. In his legendary senior season of 1971 with the Lions, he scored 50 goals but couldn't lead them to a championship, falling 2-1 to these same Whalers in the state final.

But Fred can rest easy now. His son, Chris, took control of the match from the opening minutes, reeling off break after break through the New Bedford back line, en route to an easy-looking 4-1 victory that gave them their second state title in three years, and 16th overall.

"I always like to make my dad proud," Chris laughed. "And that's what we came out here to do tonight. But my dad wasn't the only one from way back when with a son on the team. So we're just glad that we could come out and make our community proud tonight."

New Bedford (19-2-3) came into the contest having allowed just 13 goals all season. But the connection between Pereira (two goals, assist) and fellow senior forward Alex Goncalves is one that demands marking from one's speediest defenders, and they showed why in the opening minutes. Less than five minutes into the contest, the two struck the opening goal for the Lions (16-2-5) with Pereira setting Goncalves up on the break, drawing Whalers goalkeeper Eli Ries off his line and beating him with a shot to the far post.

Pereira then made it 2-0 in the 23rd minute when he stole the ball deep in Whaler territory and beat Ries to his right from inside the 18-yard box, before closing out the scoring in the 50th minute with a one-timer from Goncalves, sliding across the goalkeeper's box and tapping it in with his heel.

"We watched them play in the (Eastern Mass) final (against Newton North), they're a talented group, and we knew if we let them play we were going to be in trouble," head coach Greg Kolodziey said. "So we tried to put some pressure on them and disrupt their flow. It seemed to work, we got the early goal, and that carried us for most of the game."

Special credit, then, can be given to junior midfielder Shaun Mello, who was tasked with marking New Bedford's physical forward Fernando Baptista, he of the double-overtime game-winner in Tuesday night's thriller over Newton North. Baptista got on the board with a 30-yard strike in the 43rd minute, but by then the Lions had already built a 3-0 lead and seized momentum.

"We knew Baptiste was going to try to control the game," he said. "We had a special kid that was up for the task to get him off his game. I think that worked a little bit, and he did a great job. He took him off his game a little bit."

As the minutes ticked off the clock, and the Lions' grip on their victory locked up, hugs and high fives were abound on the jubilant sideline. The capacity Ludlow supporting side, complete with Portugal flags and drums, roared on and even stormed the field to greet the champs. Chris was hounded by a sea of maroon.

Even old Fred couldn't help but let down his guard.

Baptista blasts Whalers into uncharted waters

November, 17, 2010

LYNN, Mass. -- Fernando Baptista wasn't looking to put the shot on goal as much as he was just trying to get the ball back into the 18-yard box again, as his New Bedford Whalers turned up the aggression over the last few minutes of their second overtime with Newton North.

Yet there it zoomed by the outstretched hands of Tigers goalkeeper Matt Dickey, from 30 yards out on the right flank, an unexpected lucky bounce that boosted the Whalers to a 2-1 victory over the Tigers, and wrapped up their first Division 1 Eastern Mass championship since 1978.

And then, after getting mobbed by his teammates on the near sideline, he went totally dead weight. For five minutes, teammates picked him up only to watch him flounder to the turf repeatedly before finding his feet again as several hundred of his fans chanted his name from the stands.

"I was tired, to be honest," he shrugged ever-so-bluntly, with a smile. "Just tired."

And his emotions?

"I'm happy," he shot back with a grin, keeling over and bursting into laughter.

Forgive the senior forward for being short on breath -- this was not only the sixth game in 10 days for the Whalers (19-1-3), but an unforgettable night in history for both programs. New Bedford will travel to Worcester State on Friday and try to capture its first state title since 1972, against the winner of tonight's Central/West final between regional powers Algonquin and Ludlow. Meanwhile, Newton North made quite the run under first-year head coach Roy Dow, entering the North sectionals as the No. 19 seed and knocking off powers Masconomet, Acton-Boxborough, Lexington and Brookline to get here (all by one goal or penalty kicks).

"They've got some kids who can play, we've got some kids who can play, and the end of the day, it was a moment of brilliance that got them the win," Dow said. "I've said to these guys all year, you've got to play the lottery. What I mean by that is take your chance. And in games like this, it takes playing the lottery and winning to win it."

And certainly, after a lethargic first half that saw the Whalers dominate possession and go up 1-0 in the 23rd minute on a close-range Gilmer Ramos feed from Baptista, the Tigers were heeding the words of their coach. Dow instructed his wide midfielders to move up, and in turn the Tigers rattled off a slew of scoring chances in the final third. With 24 minutes left, senior forward Jeremy Gurvitz took a long lead cross down the left flank from junior defender Jackson Moss-Hawkins, and from the top of the box rolled it to the far post, where it evaded the grasp of New Bedford's Eli Ries.

North had an opportunity to make it 2-1 five minutes later when Gurvitz again broke down the left side of the pitch and from 15 yards out fired a hard shot that dinged off the near post and right back to him just inside the box. His quick rebound shot curled over the crossbar.

After that flurry of scoring chances in the second half, the Whalers found their composure again and buckled down, before Baptista sent them home ecstatic.

"I don't care how pretty or ugly it goes, as long as goes through that damn line," New Bedford head coach John Macaroco said. "Dramatic or not dramatic, we'll take it. I mean, he (Baptista) has the capability to...we've been doing that all year long. Sometimes, he has the shot and pulls the trigger. I guess he held the trigger for a good game."