The senior center back duo anchored the best defensive unit in the Hockomock League and one of the best in the entire state.
And when their team needed them the most, they delivered in the clutch.
Bucio nodded in the game-tying goal for the Tigers in the 77th minute and Williams assisted on the game-winner just two minutes later to propel Oliver Ames to a stunning 3-2 win over Hopkinton and the Division 2 state championship.
“This team always fights through,” Williams said. “These are some of the strongest kids I know, some of the most talented kids I’ve met. They just don’t give up, and that’s what we did today.
“We knew what we had to do and we knew we were capable of doing it.”
It was fitting that Williams and Bucio, the only two seniors in Oliver Ames’ starting lineup, played such a big role in the win, albeit in a different fashion than anticipated.
Bucio is no stranger to scoring goals. He spent the majority of his career with the Tigers as an attacking player, scoring seven goals a season ago. But this season, head coach John Barata converted him to a center back and paired him with Williams to form one of the best duos in the region.
“I get some criticism about changing players, fitting my system but I’ve converted forwards to defense, defenders to forward,” Barata said. “Hector was an incredible move. He anchored this team in the back. Him and Jake Williams together made an incredible duo. We conceded less than 15 goals all year, and a few weren’t with our starters out there. They were so solid in the back. I can’t say enough about Hector. Jake was phenomenal as well. But Hector converted from a forward to a center back because we needed it and he didn’t complain once. For him to do what we did was amazing.”
Oliver Ames erased Hopkinton’s lead when sophomore Casey Milliken hit a one-timer from inside the area in the 62nd minute to make it 1-1. But it didn’t stay level long as the Hillers cashed in just six minutes later. Sean Golembiewski, who had the opening goal for Hopkinton, kept possession along the end line before sliding a low cross into the area that was smashed home by Peter DiMichele to make it 2-1.
With about five minutes to go, and OA’s chances of claiming a state title dwindling, Barata called a timeout. In order to create more chances in the attacking third, he moved Bucio back up to where he played in prior seasons.
The move paid dividends almost immediately. Sophomore Craig Churchill lofted a service to the back post and Bucio tracked it perfectly, rising up and connecting with a header that deflected off a defender and into the back of the net to make it 2-2 with just minutes left.
“With having the experience of playing up top, I know what coach wants me to do when he sends me up there,” Bucio said. “At the end of the day, it’s who wants it more. We just wanted it more.”
“Me and Jake know each other really well, we know each other’s style of play. We work well together and are able to get it done.”
Bucio’s selfless switch to center back didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.
“[The seniors] all deserve it, Hector especially,” Milliken said. “That kid, he’s super talented and really sacrificed so much to play in the back for us to benefit the team. That says a lot about our team and him as a person.”
“It’s awesome, I’m proud of him,” Williams said of Bucio’s tying goal. “He lost a lot of goal-scoring chances by switching to center back this year but he did it for the team. So it’s great to see him pull this off in the state final.”
“He wanted that really bad because he felt like he conceded their second goal by not kicking it out,” Barata said. “I’m really happy for him, he’s been amazing for us all four years, like he’s been a phenomenal player.
Before the dust could settle from the equalizer, Williams set up the state championship game-winning goal. He stepped into the attack and dropped in a perfect ball in behind the defense where Milliken was. He used a deft touch to loop one just over the reach of the keeper to make it 3-2 with just seconds to play.
“I just knew if I hit the ball the right way that [Casey] would get onto it,” Williams said. “He’s a special player, he’s one of the best I’ve ever played if not the best. He got it done.”
Williams and Bucio and the rest of the Tigers didn’t allow the Hillers a chance in the attacking third in the final seconds. The final whistle sent OA into a wild celebration.
“This is all I’ve ever dreamed of in high school soccer,” Williams said. “Ever since I joined as a freshman, this was all I ever wanted.”
Bucio and Williams certainly cemented their legacy in emphatic fashion with the state championship.
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