Tough Start Too Much for Canton to Overcome in Final

Canton boys soccer
Zach Dowling looks to clear a ball in the second half of the Div. 2 state title game against West Springfield. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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LEOMINSTER, Mass. – The playoffs have been one long road trip for Canton (14-4-4), which has logged more than 700 miles this postseason, but the No. 21 seed had managed to overcome the logistical challenges and make an improbable run to its first-ever state title game.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

After a dramatic shootout win over the top seed in the semifinal, the Bulldogs carried momentum into Saturday afternoon’s Div. 2 championship game at Leominster’s Doyle Field, but a nervous start against 2013 state champ West Springfield proved too much to overcome. West Side scored twice in the first half and, despite a much better second 40 minutes from Canton, held on for a 2-0 victory.

“Hats off to West Springfield,” said Canton coach Danny Erickson. “I thought they played a great game today. They looked like they were composed from the starting whistle. I own the fact that we were a little nervous and the moment got us a little bit. That goes on the coach 100 percent. The kids were ready, which you can tell because once the game settled down I thought it was a really even game.”

Through the sting of Saturday’s defeat, Erickson was able to reflect on the remarkable run of four wins that got the Bulldogs to the final for the first time.

“Nothing but praise for the Canton Bulldogs,” he said. “I’m so proud of everything they did this year. What a run.”

The Terriers got off to a great start in the match. Just a little over a minute in, Garrett Daley cut in from the right side of the box and had a good look at goal, but his left-footed effort was tame and easily held by Canton keeper Giovanni Ruggeri.

Four minutes later, another nice move opened up the Canton defense, as Daley played the ball into center forward Lorcan Mitchell, who laid it off for Emery Sloat. Only pressure from Carson Eagles on his shoulder and Ruggeri being quick off his line prevented West Side from grabbing the early lead.

Midway through the half, West Springfield’s pressure and Canton’s hesitancy turned into the opening goal. A long throw from the left was allowed to bounce in the box. It was only partially cleared and Owen Hall pounced on the loose ball to knock it in, immediately racing to celebrate in front of the Canton fan section.

Canton finally fashioned a couple of half-chances from set pieces. Jake Mccabe, who has provided huge goals in both the quarterfinal and semifinal, had a 30-yard free kick saved, although it appeared to be going wide of the post. A few minutes later, Zach Dowling’s long free kick picked out McCabe in the box, but his header went over the bar.

With four minutes to go before the break, the lead was doubled. Another long throw, this time from Hall was directed to Daley, who rose up unchallenged on the edge of the six and flicked his header to the back post.

Erickson said, “They got two throw-in goals, which are goals and they deserved them, but once the game settled down I thought it was a really even game. We just didn’t execute early on in that half and I don’t think we were quite ready.”

The Bulldogs almost had an immediate reply, as Charlie McKinney, who hit the winning penalty in the shootout against East Longmeadow, made good progress down the left and skipped into the box, but his shot was charged down by the West Side back line.

Canton really needed an early goal in the second half to try and get back into the match. The Bulldogs came out of the intermission looking much more confident, with Zaza Franceour, Jacob Crugnale, and Erik Valdovinos providing energy up top and Dylan Baird, Caden Mirliani, and Brian Shea starting to win balls in the midfield.

The lynchpin for the Bulldogs this postseason has been McCabe and the Terriers made sure that he was well watched all match long.

Eight minutes after the break, McCabe’s corner was put into the mixer and West Side struggled to clear. The ball popped out to McKinney, who tried an overhead kick that the Terriers managed to block on the line. McCabe would wind up with a shot from a tight angle on the right but it was held by keeper Cathal Carney.

“We moved him around a little bit, but you’ve got to have him in dangerous places and only so many places to put him,” Erickson explained. “I was really proud of the way Jake played today. I thought the way we played in the second half and came out and competed really hard. We had the ball drop in the six and had we knocked that in then I think it would have been an interesting finish.”

While the game was more competitive in the second half, chances were harder to come by for both teams. Mitchell had a header just wide for West Side and then McCabe found a rare pocket of space 25 yards from goal and forced Carney into a save. The Terriers nearly put the game away in the 68th minute when Ruggeri came out to challenge Daley on the edge of the box, but the midfielder’s shot came back off the post.

Canton had one more chance to try and halve the deficit. In the 71st minute, McCabe had a free kick from about 20 yards and he forced Carney into a diving save down to his right. The rebound sat invitingly out in front of goal for a second but West Side was able to scramble it clear under pressure.

That could have made for a frantic finish, but West Side was able to see out the win and secure a second state title in the past nine years (the 2013 title was in Div. 1).

“When I looked at the remaining seeds, once we got to the final four, in all of soccer we were the only ones anywhere in that stratosphere,” Erickson said of his team making a run as the No. 21 seed. “Really proud of these guys stepping up when it was big time.

“Best memories I’ve had coaching and I’ve had a lot of good ones.”

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Canton Upends Top Seed to Reach First State Final

Canton boys soccer
Canton senior Charlie McKinney wheels away in celebration after scoring the winning penalty to knock off top seed East Longmeadown in the state semifinal. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MARLBORO, Mass. – As Canton junior Jake McCabe, who scored the lone goal for the Bulldogs in regulation and nearly won the game in extra time when his curling effort hit the post, walked back towards his team after seeing his penalty kick saved, shirt pulled up to cover his face, head coach Danny Erickson came to meet him halfway and told him emphatically not to worry because his teammates were going to pick him up.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Just seconds later, keeper Giovanni Ruggeri got down low to his right to instantly even things back up in the penalty shootout. After Zach Dowling fired a shot into the bottom left corner, Ruggeri, who had taken a knock to his leg in the final minutes of extra time and was limping going into PKs, lunged to his left and palmed away another penalty to put Canton on the brink.

Senior Charlie McKinney took the long walk for the fifth round, knowing that his kick could end Wednesday night’s Div. 2 state semifinal at Assabet Valley High’s Aztec Field and send the Bulldogs to their first title game in program history. He stepped up, finding the back of the net low to his left, and wheeled around in celebration after sealing Canton’s 1-1 (4-2 on PKs) victory over the top seed East Longmeadow.

Erickson said, “That’s what has to happen in those things, you’ve got to take care of your teammate. Jake took a good penalty and the kid made a great save and then Gio answered right away. You can’t say enough good things about them.”

“We’ve been practicing every day,” Ruggeri said after the game. “We though this day might come and it finally did and all of us showed up. It was a complete team effort. It was a great 100 minutes and it came down to pens. We stuck together as a team and it’s just a great team win overall.”

The Bulldogs came into the playoffs as the No. 21 seed and have logged nearly 600 miles through the first four rounds of the tournament. It was a long shot to even get this far and now Canton will get its first taste of the final.

“That game could’ve gone either way,” Erickson said. “We both had inches that made the difference. We just missed, they just missed, just a heck of a great game and a great team that we just faced. We played awesome and they represented Canton very well today. They never quit.”

Canton had the game’s first good chance when McKinney’s cross from the right wing gave Erik Valdovinos a chance to put Spartans keeper Ben Girioux under pressure. Three minutes later, the Spartans missed a chance on one end and on the other Valdovinos took a pass from Jacob Crugnale in the right channel and curled a shot just past the top far corner.

After Sonny Mazza teed up Ryan Brunelle for a gilt-edge chance in the 12th minute that the junior put just wide of the open net, the game settled down for a while.

Inside the final two minutes of the half, McCabe broke the deadlock. A long ball out of the back by Dowling was allowed to bounce. McCabe read it and was able to shrug aside the challenge from the East Longmeadow defender. Racing towards the box, he took an extra touch out to his right to get a better angle and then drilled a shot inside the far post to make it 1-0. It is his third straight game with a goal.

The lead only lasted five minutes after the break. Ruggeri made an easy save on a header off a free kick but then Sonny Mazza was able to get free down the left side of the box and played a perfect low cross to Luke Mazza for a tap in at the back post.

Rather than let their heads drop, Canton came charging back again. Caden Mirliani, Dylan Baird, and Brian Shea were shielding the back line well and getting the ball forward quickly. A ball over the top allowed Crugnale to run in behind the Spartans back line, but he missed the net when one-on-one with the keeper.

McCabe came close to restoring the lead in the 65th minute. His 25-yard free kick appeared to beat the keeper in the bottom corner but not the post, ricocheting out for a goal kick. Crugnale followed that with his own shot off the post just a minute later after a quick break freed him up on the left.

“They’re a driven group of guys,” Erickson explained. “A lot of teams would’ve come out in the second half and seen that goal go in and collapsed against the No. 1 seed. I thought the next 10 minutes after that goal, when we settled ourselves again, was the difference in the game. I think if we had conceded in that craziness, then it would’ve been a different result but we dealt with the hard times.”

There were chances on both ends of the field. East Longmeadow was finding spaces in front of the Canton back line and playing angled balls out to the wingers, who were slipping behind the wingbacks and getting runs into the box.

Brunelle missed the net with a couple of great chances. Ruggeri was forced into a great save, preventing Luke Mazza from finding the top corner. With seven minutes to go, Ryan Morneau smacked the post for the top seed.

Despite all the action in front of both goals, the game went to extra time. Four minutes in, McCabe nearly put the game to bed in spectacular fashion. He cut in from the left wing and drilled a shot from 20 yards that bent away from the keeper and seemed destined for the top corner only to hit the post for the second time. The rebound fell to Crugnale in the box but Enzo Mazza was able to block.

A beautiful cross to Colin Evans saw the East Longmeadow midfielder head just wide from close range and Valdovinos had another chance in the second extra time period when his run down the right got him into the box but he shot wide. Brunelle still had time for one more chance, slipping it past the slide of Ruggeri but Ashton Cetoute was on hand to clear it off the line.

In the end, only penalties could separate the teams and only through penalties could Canton keep its remarkable playoff run alive right to the final day.

“This was something these guys really wanted to accomplish,” Erickson said. “They’ve really been a team all year, they’ve worked together all year, they’ve gotten better all year.”

Ruggeri summed it up, “It feels fantastic, making history over here!”

Canton (14-4-4) will take on No. 6 seed West Springfield in the title game, after the Terriers, who beat Oliver Ames by a goal in the Round of 16, beat Longmeadow in penalties in the other semifinal. The game will be at Leominster High’s Doyle Field at 1:30 on Saturday.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Thursday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 09/30/21

Today’s games are listed below.

Boys Soccer
King Philip, 0 @ Attleboro, 2 – FinalAttleboro netted a pair of goals in the second half to earn two hard-fought points at home against visiting King Philip. A long throw from sophomore Luke Hagopian played senior Connor Adema down the right wing, and Adema cut in before tapping a centering pass for an easy touch in front for sophomore Billy Badger in the 58th minute. The Bombardiers doubled the lead in the 67th minute when junior Lucas Marques forced a turnover, connected with Esvin Morales, who one touched it on to Alex Vecchioli and the sophomore’s shot eluded the keeper on the bounce.

Sharon, 2 @ Canton, 3 – FinalClick here for a Photo Gallery from this game. Canton twice came back from a goal down in the first half and then Erik Valdovinos found a winner just three minutes after the break to lift Canton to the division victory. Adam Eastman scored twice in the first half for the Eagles. The first came after three minutes when he ran onto a through ball and side-footed his finish into the far corner. His second was in the 24th minute as he rounded the keeper and was able to slide his shot in from a tight angle. Dylan Baird equalized for Canton after a nice turn and a shot through a defender’s legs into the bottom corner. After falling behind again, Canton was able to get back level six minutes before halftime. A low cross from Jake McCabe was partially deflected by Jacob Crugnale into the path of Charlie McKinney and he curled it from 18 yards. Three minutes into the second half, Valdovinos hit a low cross from the left that deflected off a Sharon defender and into the corner for the go-ahead goal. Sharon’s best chance at a tying goal came on a breakaway in the final 10 minutes but Amjad Kordab’s shot was parried by Canton keeper Giovanni Ruggeri and cleared by Jay Kelleher.

Foxboro, 0 @ Oliver Ames, 2 – FinalOliver Ames scored once in each half to earn a key division win over Foxboro, pushing its win streak to five games. Senior Clide Neau put the hosts ahead in the first half, finishing off a pass from Antonio Fernandes. The Tigers doubled the lead in the second half when freshman Casey Milliken played sophomore Joey Carney for a goal. Mathias Taylor and Michael Haikal played well in the middle for OA.

Milford, 1 @ Franklin, 1 – FinalFranklin and Milford traded first half goals and the match finished level with each team taking home a point. The hosts struck first to take the lead when Jack Moran scored off of an assist from Rex Cinelli in the 14th minute. But just five minutes later, Bill Silva knotted the score on a pass from Avi Serri.

North Attleboro, 4 @ Stoughton, 2 – FinalNorth Attleboro twice erased a one-goal deficit and then scored the final two goals in the last 20 minutes to take a win on the road over Stoughton. The Black Knights opened the scoring in the 16th minute only for North Attleboro’s Brody Rosenberg to equalize in the 35th minute, finishing off a corner from Connor Ward. Stoughton regained the lead early in the second half but Bryce Newth nodded in a cross from Griffin Rodden in the 57th minute to bring the game level again. Quinn Conley gave the visitors their first lead by finishing off a cross from Ward in the 64th minute and tacked on an insurance goal in the 71st minute off a feed from Carson Dameron.










Girls Soccer
Attleboro, 0 @ King Philip, 6 – FinalElla Pisani and Mikayla Thompson each recorded a brace and KP scored three times in each half to pick up the big win and remain atop the Kelley-Rex. Pisani opened the scoring in the 12th minute, finishing a corner kick from Morgan Norrman. Thompson doubled the lead eight minutes before the break, after a great pass by Dani Lomuscio, and then added her second two minutes later, this time off an assist from Pisani. Pisani scored in the opening minute of the second half on a free kick. Norrman had her second assist, setting up Kylie Menendez to make it 5-0 and Sarah Harper wrapped up the scoring with four minutes to play after being played behind the defense by Danielle Gresham.

Oliver Ames, 1 @ Foxboro, 2 – FinalJordan Carman found the back of the net with four minutes left in regulation to lift Foxboro to a dramatic win and into a tie for first place in the Davenport division. Camryn O’Connor broke the deadlock with 25 minutes to play, putting the Tigers in front by a goal, but Kailee McCabe equalized from the penalty spot. Foxboro coach Katie Stalcup said, “I am so proud of my team and the fight they gave today. All-around amazing effort by all!” Kyla Melton and Mary Cross both had strong games for OA.

Franklin, 4 @ Milford, 0 – FinalAnya Zub had a hat trick to lead the Panthers to the road win and keep them within two points of first place in the division. With three goals on Thursday, Zub hit double digits (12) for the season. Kelly O’Connor added the fourth for Franklin. Stella Regan, Bridget Leo, Reilly Lorenzo, and Tori Carmignani all had assists for the visitors. Kailany Ferreira had a big game for the Hawks, making 18 saves to keep the hosts in the game. Brooke Ferreira, Serena Borges, and Aislinn Bennett also played well for Milford, whose head coach Lou Colabello said he was proud of how his team competed despite not getting the result.

Stoughton, 1 @ North Attleboro, 2 – FinalEmma Pratt had a goal and an assist and North Attleboro earned its second straight win, moving back to .500 on the season. Steph McKenna opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, off a pass from Pratt. Autumn Hewitt set up Pratt for what turned out to be the game-winner, as Pratt was able to beat the keeper to the ball and finish. Sivannah Marcy got the lone goal for the Black Knights in the closing minutes. North coach Bill Wallace praised the play of midfielders Brayden Rice, Charlotte Moynihan, Brooke Sullivan, and Lily Adams. Stoughton coach Hermes Lima is hoping that his team can carry momentum from a solid performance into Friday’s game with Norwood. He highlighted Morgan Cook for her playmaking and Shayla Ford for being able to create scoring chances. Lima also credited Bianca Casna and Emma Byrne for being able to put pressure on the North defense.




Boys Cross-Country
Taunton, 24 @ Franklin, 32 – Final
Oliver Ames @ Canton, 3:45

Girls Cross-Country
Taunton, 40 @ Franklin, 21 – FinalFranklin took first and second overall, three of the top five, and used its depth to take a win over Taunton. Senior Charlene Peng clocked in at 20:20 for first overall while sophomore Alexandra Batla took second in 20:30. Taunton freshmen Colby Dunham (20:39) and Emerson Deponte (20:49) finished third and fourth, respectively, while Franklin sophomore Vivienne Loukota took fifth in 21:33.

Oliver Ames @ Canton, 3:45

Golf
Canton, 147 @ Taunton, 177 – FinalCanton’s Will Gefteas fired a two-under par round to lead the Bulldogs to a big win on the road. Gefteas came in with a two-under round of 34 for medalist honors while Mekhala Costello shot a 37, and both Conor Hunter and Mike Leonetti carded rounds of 38. Jack Gobin led the way for Taunton with a 38.

Mansfield, 164 @ Taunton, 177 – FinalJunior Drew Urban fired a 41 in his first varsity match, helping the Hornets pick up their 10th win of the season against Taunt. Senior Cian Goulet shot a team-low round of 39, senior Hunter Tang added a 40, Urban came in with a 41, and Jordan Tavares, Ryan Doherty and Nathan McLean all shot a 44. Jack Gobin earned medalist honors, leading Taunton with a low-round of 38.

Attleboro, 161 @ Milford, 170 – Final – Brendan Raymond earned medalist honors, coming in as the lone golfer under 40 for the day to lead the Bombardiers past Milford at Hopedale Country Club. Raymond shot a 36, Evan Houle and Leo Lombardo each carded a 41, and Jackson Sweeney finished with a 43 for Attleboro. Nate Lawrence led the Scarlet Hawks with a 40 while Ronan Fleming shot a 43.

Foxboro, 162 @ King Philip, 148 – FinalMike Matheson had the best individual round of any Hock golfer this season as King Philip took down Foxboro. Matheson had three birdies (three, four, six) and added an eagle on the fifth hole to finish with a 31. Jared Curran added a 37 while both Pat Reardon and Gavin Croke shot a 40 for the hosts. Jack Watts led Foxboro with a team-low round of 37.

Oliver Ames, 150 @ Stoughton, 196 – FinalOliver Ames senior Jo Jo Gaultier recorded four birdies and the Tigers rolled to a win at Easton Country Club. Gaultier birdied on two, six, eight, and nine to finish with a two-under medalist round of 34. Senior Jake Kaplan added a 38 in the win while sophomores Sean Kearns and David Rodgers each carded a 39. Anthony Hern led the way for the Black Knights with a 41.

North Attleboro, 169 @ Sharon, 171 – Final

Wednesday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 09/08/21

Today’s games are listed below.

Boys Soccer
Canton, 1 @ Braintree, 1 – FinalJake McCabe converted a corner kick from Charlie McKinney as Canton secured a point on the road in the season-opener.

Field Hockey
Attleboro, 0 @ Bishop Feehan, 0 – FinalAttleboro senior Ava Haggerty turned away eight shots to earn a shutout in the Bombardiers’ first game of the season.




Volleyball
Attleboro, 3 @ Foxboro, 1 – FinalAttleboro scored nine of the final 11 points in the first set, overcoming an early deficit to grab a 1-0 lead and went on to take a 3-1 win on the road (25-22, 25-21, 21-25, 26-24). Freshman Julia Leonardo paced the Bombardiers with 17 kills, Natalie Brojek added eight aces and 20 assists, and Kate Petrosso clinched the win with a big block for the final point.

Taunton vs. New Bedford, 5:30

Golf
Oliver Ames, 162 @ North Attleboro, 168 – FinalA pair of sophomores tied for a team-low score for OA while a senior and a junior rounded out the scoring as the Tigers took a win at Heather Hill. Sophomore Sean Kearns and David Rodgers each shot 39 while senior Jo Jo Gaultier and junior Daniel Paul each carded a 42. North Attleboro’s Jake Gaskin had a pair of birdies to finishes with a match medalist round of 37 (two over par).

Mansfield, 274 @ Milford, 278 – Final (6 cards)Mansfield went to extra cards for the second time in the early season and once again came out victorious. After beating North on five cards last week, it took six cards for the Hornets to sink the Hawks. Seniors Cian Goulet and Ryan Doherty led the way by each shooting a 42, senior Hunter Tang added a round of 45, sophomore Cody Nieratko fired a 47 and both freshman Brendan Vokey and sophomore Nathan McClean each shot 49. For Milford, Jacob Hipolito shared medalist honors with a round of 42 while Nate Lawrence and Anthony LaPierre each shot a 43.

Foxboro, 167 @ Canton, 141 – FinalCanton’s depth was on display as the Bulldogs had all of its scorers shoot under 40 for the day. Conor Hunter was the match medalist with a low-round of 34, Charlie Cohen added a round of 35, and Mekhala Costello, Aiden French, and Mike Leonotti each finished at 36. Jack Rounds had a strong showing for the Warriors with a round of 35.