But that’s not what head coach Brian Edwards told his team.
Edwards told his team it was a must-win in order to become Davenport champions.
“We didn’t want to share,” Edwards said.
His team responded, using a goal in the final five minutes to earn a dramatic 3-2 win over the visiting Bulldogs. It marks Milford’s first ever Hockomock Davenport division title, and the program’s first league title since 1999 when it won the Mid-Wach A crown.
“I told them before the game they had to play for the win, and they are all about that,” Edwards said. “I thought this was one of the most entertaining games I’ve seen in a long time. I thought both teams just played incredibly hard, played good soccer…you saw contrasting styles but either team could have won this game.”
It was only fitting that the game had a dramatic ending after it was filled with goal scoring chances, terrific saves, solid defense, and timely goals.
The build-up started just before midfield at the beginning of the 77th minute with junior Jordan Borges electing to keep possession instead of forcing anything up field. He found sophomore Leo Coelho on the right flank, and Coelho quickly switched fields to senior Tiago Carvalho.
Carvalho slid a pass back up the middle to Borges, who used a deft touch with the outside of his right foot to get free from a defender. The junior took a touch towards goal and ripped a hard, dipping shot that found the side netting on the far post for a 3-2 lead in the final moments of the game.
“It was a great ball, my teammates put me in a great spot and I just happened to finish it,” Borges said. “Everybody has their chances on this team, we play together as a team, this was my chance. When I hit it, I knew right away when it came off my foot, it was pretty sweet.
“Our goal was to win the league title after we got into the playoffs. Coming in today, we knew Canton was a tough team so we felt like it was a must win. It was the best feeling to get the goal late and win the game.”
It was Borges’ third goal of the season, giving him seven points on the season.
“What a baller,” Edwards said of Borges. “That’s the kind of goal we expect froma Jordan. He’s the kind of player who does all of that hard work, like Tiago Carvalho and Joao Boaventura, those three guys do so much work and don’t get a ton of headlines. They don’t always show up in the scoresheet…but Jordan deserves that goal. He’s a three-year varsity player, he works tirelessly. He watches film more than I do, he’s always trying to improve. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
The final goal was the fifth of the second half alone. The teams played a scoreless 40 minutes to begin the game before the fireworks began in the second half.
Corcoran whipped in a service but the ball eluded a pair of Canton runners. However, it was enough to freeze Milford keeper Josh Orellana (eight saves) and the ball hit off the far post and in for a 1-0 lead in the 44th minute.
Canton saw its advantage evaporate just minutes later as the Hawks pulled even with an immediate response. In the 46th minute, senior Joey Madden used a long throw-in into the area and the Canton clearance was knocked down by Joao Vitor Neiva. The block went right to the feet of sophomore Lucas Da Silva all alone at the far post and he blasted his shot in for make it 1-1.
“It was important just to kind of take a little gas out of their engine,” Edwards said of replying right away. “They’re already a great team, and when they get up on you, they can be incredible because they are so confident and the style they play can be difficult to come back against so coming back so quickly was vital.”
The chances continued for both sides as Ruggeri saw his shot go just over the bar in the 48th, and Borges had a header saved in the 50th minute.
Back on the other end, Griffin Roach latched onto a long throw from Corcoran behind a defender, made a nice move by another Scarlet Hawk, and ripped a low shot that was turned aside by Orellana. The rebound fell right back to Roach and he put hit his shot into the what appeared to be an open goal but Da Silva positioned himself perfectly on the goal line and cleared it away to keep the game level.
Milford capitalized on the goal line stop three minutes later to take its first lead of the game. After a nice combination from Walisson de Oliveira and Neiva, the latter was dispossessed by a nice tackle from Avery Minkin atop the area. Before Canton could clear, de Oliveira jumped onto the ball, raced to the end line and played a low cross back into the area and Neiva slid in-between a trio of Canton defenders to tap it in at the near post.
Similar to how Milford erased Canton’s lead in moments, the Bulldogs returned the favor by tying the game just two minutes later. Again it was a long throw from Corcoran that got things started. His throw was knocked down in the area right to the foot of senior Simon Cruz and he quickly one-timed a shot just inside the post to make it 2-2.
The next scoring chance was Borges’ game-winner in the 77th minute.
“We settled down a bit at the end,” Edwards said of the final 15 minutes of the game. “We really didn’t play our style for most of that game, we kind of got caught up in the moment and I think our inexperience in this type of game showed. We have experience but not in a game like this. Beside the last game of last year against Nipmuc, this is the closest thing we’ve had to a playoff game. I thought we were a bit too direct at times but we settled it down at the end and as you saw, good things happened.”
While the first half didn’t have any scoring, it wasn’t for a lack of chances. The first half had just as many scoring opportunities as the second half, and even saw Canton find the back of the net only for a whistle to take it off the board.
In the 19th minute, Cruz latched onto a loose ball and looked to play Roach in. Cruz was taken down on the play and as Roach turned and hit a shot that found the back of the net, the ref whistled for a foul on the play against Cruz.
Canton nearly scored on the ensuing free kick as well. Roach ripped his shot over the wall but Orellana came up with a key one-handed stop to keep it out.
“First off, hats to Milford for winning the Davenport, they deserve it,” said longtime Canton head coach Danny Erickson. “They are a great team and they are a real dangerous team, I’m real impressed with them. Having said that, I thought we played really well in the first half. I thought we dominated the entire half and I was really disappointed that we scored a goal that really would have made a difference and the referee had blown the whistle early. It happens, ref’s are fallible, it happens. That goal would have a big difference for us. But Milford put us under a lot of pressure the last 15 minutes of the game and they deserve to win that game. I’m real proud of my kids. We didn’t lose the Davenport today, we lost it over the last couple of weeks when we didn’t get some of the results we needed.
“When we wake up tomorrow and can worry about the future, today will have helped us. But it stings right now.”
Milford raced down the other end and nearly opened the scoring. After beating a couple of defenders, de Oliveira’s shot was blocked by a slide from Corcoran. The ball popped into the air and de Oliveira was first there, getting a head that went over the keeper but Canton senior Mike Mazzola covered perfectly, heading the chance off the line and out.
In the 33rd minute, the Bulldogs had a pair of great chances, again starting with a free kick from road. Roach drilled a dipping shot from 30 yards out that forced a low save from Orellana. The rebound fell to the feet of Alejandro Correal and he put a good shot on goal but Orellana got up and made a spectacular sprawling effort to get in the way to keep the shot out.
“We could have been down 3-0 in that first half if not for the play of Josh Orellana,” Edwards said. “He made some outstanding saves to keep us in that game. Thankfully he did because that could have been a very different game.”
Milford’s two best chances of the first half came in the final five minutes. Coeleho linked up with de Oliveira in the area but the junior’s header glanced just wide in the 36th minute. And in the final minute of the half, de Oliveira worked his way past a pair of Canton defenders before playing Neiva in alone. Neiva was forced a touch wide by keeper Dylan Coyne and sophomore Matt Giglio recovered to block the shot.
Milford boys soccer (10-1-5 overall, 9-1-5 Hockomock) returns to action on Friday against non-league rival Hopedale, and finishes the season on Monday at Stoughton. Canton (9-4-4, 8-4-3) closes the regular season out on Saturday against Foxboro.
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