LYNN, Mass. -– There are few 10-minute stretches in a soccer match that are as full of incident and action as the opening 10 minutes of the second half in Thursday night’s Division 2 boys’ state title game at Manning Field.
Four goals, a red card, and an injury to a captain set up an exciting finish, but Masconomet (23-1-1) took advantage of a quick start after halftime to break open a 1-1 tie and, despite being reduced to 10 men, held on for a 4-2 victory over Walpole (13-8-2) It was the program’s second state title and first since 1996.
The first half set the tone for the match with end-to-end action. Just six minutes after the opening whistle, Masco took the lead when senior Edison Forbes hit a perfect through ball to forward Stephen Pease, who slid it past Walpole’s Peter Hoegler for the first goal.
The Rebels, who came into the game with an eight-game win streak that stretched back into the regular season, did not back down and equalized in the 14th minute. A long throw was nodded on by Matthew Brownsword and fell to senior Nabil Chamoun. The striker hit a looping shot over Masco keeper Willie Stewart to tie the game at 1-1.
Walpole defended well and played its physical brand of soccer through the rest of the first half, but Masco continued to cause problems particularly on the flanks with Pease and Paul Criscione. The Chieftains had the best chance at taking the lead in the first half on a ball that slipped under Hoegler, but Thomas Helm dove in to block a shot at the far post and somehow prevent a goal.
Just two minutes after the restart, Masco was dealt a huge blow when towering central midfielder Jeffrey Panella went down in the Walpole box with an apparent head injury. Instead of fading, the Cheiftains responded almost a minute later with a goal. Forbes picking out a perfect pass to slide in Adam Grammer to make it 2-1.
The injury and the goal sparked a remarkable string of action.
Three minutes after Masco took the lead, it added a third. Pease made a long run down the right sideline and sent a ball across the edge of the 18. Criscione settled and picked his spot to make it 3-1. Less than a minute later, Forbes intercepted a pass in midfield and drove at the net. He rounded Hoegler and passed it into the open net to make it 4-1.
Masconomet head coach David Mitchell credited his captain Grammer for rallying the team after Panella’s injury and turning the tide in the game.
“When Jeffrey went down with the injury, I’m sure Adam had the guys together and everyone just had to step up a little bit more and the guys did that,” explained Mitchell. “When you have a player of Jeffrey’s caliber on the sideline then having Edison out of the game, guys came in and played those spot 10-15 minute roles and did a great job.”
Walpole responded to the setback just a minute later. Chris Gallivan flicked a header into the box and senior striker AJ Chauvin took it off the volley and placed it inside the near post to bring the Rebels back within two goals.
There was to be another twist in the 31st minute when Forbes, who had been a constant menace to the Walpole defense, was shown a straight red card for what was described as a punch. With Masco down to 10 men, it seemed Walpole had been given a lifeline, but instead it was the Chieftains that continued to control the match.
Mitchell noted, “We ran that one frontrunner to keep pressure on their four backs and just kept rotating that guy to keep him fresh; I thought we did a good job with that. I thought with a man down with did a good job with possession too.”
In fact, it was Masco that created the best chances of the final 31 minutes. Hoegler did well to slide out and block a chance by Grammer on the counter and then Pease shot wide after Grammer’s pass sent him in behind the defense.
“We’ve talked all season long about how sometimes our best defensive work is just keeping the tempo of the game,” Mitchell remarked. “I thought we did a better job of that in the second then the first, but you know in a state title game that you’re going to have it all thrown at you.”
Walpole head coach Lee Delaney, who was able to celebrate the team’s first sectional title earlier this week, was proud of his team’s effort and gave the credit to his opponents for a very strong game.
“We battled as best we could. Masconomet was terrific tonight,” said Delaney.
He elaborated, “They deserved it tonight. We had a lot of trouble with their speed. We just couldn’t stop them at the start of the second half. We have a couple of young defenders that have done well but these guys just overwhelmed us at the start of the second half.”
Mitchell reflected on the season that his team had just gone through and the redemption that a number of his players felt after losing the 2011 state title game to Ludlow.
“A lot of things have to go right for you for the whole season and certainly during the tournament. We were very fortunate that it went that way.”