By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
From 2008 to 2011, the Canton boys’ soccer team went on an incredible run that saw the Bulldogs take home four straight Hockomock League titles (including two Davenport crowns), reached four straight Div. 2 South semifinals, won the 2010 South title, went unbeaten for 42 straight games against league opponents and, maybe most impressive of all, went four years (from Oct. 2007 to Sept. 2012) without a single loss at World War II Veterans Memorial Field.
“Even now I stand in the locker room at Bentley and my buddies ask, you really didn’t lose a game at home in high school?” said Scott Levy, one of the stars of that Canton team.
“I’ve sat in Coach [Danny] Erickson’s office countless times and he’s got all four of those plaques of us winning the Hock and winning the Davenport and we just sat there and are like, are you kidding me?”
Two of the main cogs in that four year run were Levy and his classmate and longtime friend Chris Murray, who remains the program’s fourth all-time leading scorer with 18 goals and 34 assists. The pair started playing soccer, basketball and baseball in the Canton youth leagues (with tiny nets and reversible jerseys, according to Levy) and continued on the pitch together through club teams, soccer camps, and eventually donning the Canton green and white.
“With two older brothers, I was always around the high school program ever since I was in middle school and even younger,” said Murray, whose brother Matt is currently an assistant coach and was also in the top 11 leading scorers in program history.
“I think [Coach Erickson] really saw potential in me when I was younger and he really helped me grow as a player even before I was in high school.”
The two good friends joined a team that was already successful. The Bulldogs had already begun the home winning streak that would extend until 2012, won the league title in 2006 and reached the South final in 2007. When they took the pitch for Canton High, they never doubted that they would be successful.
“[Coach] told us all four years that we were a special group and he expected great things from us,” said Levy. “At the time, I don’t think we really thought about it, we just expected it and that’s what should happen.”
Murray added, “I think at times we may have even taken it for granted because we came into a culture that was already a winning culture and had already won a few Hock titles before us. We almost just expected it out of ourselves.”
It certainly helped having two players that were close on and off the pitch to sustain the levels that Canton had previously reached and then take the program a step further by reaching the Eastern Mass. final against Concord-Carlisle in 2010. The chemistry of Levy and Murray sparked an unprecedented run through the league by the Bulldogs.
“There were times when I would hit a ball,” explained Levy, “and I for some reason knew that Chris was going to get there or he had this massive long throw and I would either hang at the back post or go near post this time and somehow the ball would literally land on my foot.”
“It wasn’t anything that we said, the ball would just be on my foot or my head.”
Both players credited Erickson for building a program that had high expectations and one that instilled the desire to do well not only for personal success but also for teammates and the town.
“There’s definitely a culture around it that geared you to win and geared you to a good season,” said Murray. “It really felt like a soccer club.”
In fact, unlike many players in the current climate of high school soccer, the guys used the club season to prep for playing on the high school team, rather than the other way around. Levy said, “We used club as the off-season, which I think is just something that Danny instilled in us and the guys above us. Those players had the same attitude and it just kind of trickled down.”
After all the success at Canton, neither is surprised to see their good friend playing well and at the next level. Murray is a senior captain at WPI, while Levy is in his second season as the captain at Bentley. Murray currently leads the Engineers with five goals and three assists and WPI is off to a 3-1-1 start in the conference. Meanwhile, Levy has three goals and four assists for a Bentley team that has won four straight and making a late push for the postseason.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met someone that works harder than him,” said Murray of Levy. “He’s the first one on the field, he’ll get up and make sure he gets his touches before he goes to work, he just has a work ethic that you really don’t see, especially at a young age.”
When asked what made Murray such a success, Levy responded, “He probably hates losing more than he likes winning. He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met and he demands perfection out of each and every player.”
Even during a busy college season the friends still keep in touch, although Levy explained that after all this time they could not talk for three months and “just pick up where we left off.”
Recently, Levy and a few other Canton friends went to see Murray and WPI take on Wentworth. Levy laughed and said, “He’s just the same fiery, Irish Chris Murray that I know. He’s so competitive and it doesn’t surprise me that he’s popping in goals.”
Murray admitted, “It’s still kind of weird because you’re watching him play on a different team when you’re used to being out there with him.”
Neither player wants to think about the future with several more weeks of their college careers still ahead of them, but no matter what the connections that were built during a historic run at Canton will continue beyond their playing careers.
Murray said, “We both had a passion for soccer that we were always playing all year long and we were always working hard and we really pushed each other to get better.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.