Below are the official 20020 Hockomock League Boys Soccer All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.
Kelley-Rex Division MVP
Leo Coelho, Milford
Kelley-Rex Division All Stars
Joey Soucy, Attleboro
Jackson Singer, Attleboro
Ethan Cain, Franklin
Terry O’Neill, Franklin
Evan McEvoy, King Philip
Aidan Lindmark, King Philip
Ajae Olsen, King Philip
Evan Eames, Mansfield
Tommy Lanzillo, Mansfield
Michael Jeans, Mansfield
Leo Coelho, Milford
Lucas Da Silva, Milford
Chris Tocci, Milford
Davenport Division MVP
Colin Milliken, Oliver Ames
Davenport Division All Stars
Giovanni Ruggeri, Canton
Jacob Crugnale, Canton
Abdul Barrie, Canton
Erik Valdovinos, Canton
Max Beigel, Foxboro
Justin Silva, North Attleboro
Kevin Louhis, Oliver Ames
Colin Milliken, Oliver Ames
Brady deVos, Oliver Ames
Mathias Taylor, Oliver Ame
Matt Nikiciuk, Oliver Ames
Anthony DaCosta, Oliver Ames
Bryce Nathan, Sharon
Alex Vecchioli, Attleboro
Jorge Sanchez, Canton
Matthew Angelini, Foxboro
Ben Moccia, Franklin
Cole Breen, King Philip
Eric Sullivan, Mansfield
Leo Oliveira, Milford
Matthew Conley, North Attleboro
Drew Nickla, Oliver Ames
Matthew Baur, Sharon
Nolan Gerome, Stoughton
Riley Rebello, Taunton
Oliveira had to exit the game with an injury early in the fourth quarter and in stepped Gomes, who came up with a colossal save on an indirect kick from inside the area as Milford claimed the cup with a 2-1 win on the road to finish the season undefeated.
“We know they are a powerhouse, always a top team, always a state championship contender…so this game to me is like a district final,” said first-year Milford head coach Antonio Pinto. “For me, these were the two best teams in Eastern Mass. and they put on a show. It was a back-and-forth game, chances both ways, full of excitement, and I couldn’t be more proud of Milford, and couldn’t be more proud of OA for the battle they put up.”
The Hawks scored twice in the opening 10 minutes of the second half but the Tigers pulled one back before the end of the third quarter to set up the frantic finish.
A low cross from Oliver Ames’ Brady deVos in the 78th minute was first touched by a Milford defender before Gomes handled it, giving the Tigers an indirect kick inside the box near the end line on the right side, about 10 yards from goal. Colin Milliken touched the ball in play and Matthew Nikiciuk blasted a rocket from close range but Gomes stood tall and pushed the ball over the bar to keep the Hawks ahead.
Milford boys soccer Oliver Ames boys soccer
“Me and Leo love each other, we practice together every day,” Gomes said. “Right when I saw he was hurt, I knew I had to do it for him. Because last year against Nauset, he did the same for me. He won it for us. He was upset from the injury but I wanted him to leave happy so I told him I got this, I was going to do it for him. I just had to be confident, calm down, and play my game.
“It was a close play but the angle they were in, there was only one way they could try and get it in and it was all power. So I had my teammates marking, lining up in front where they could and I just had to be confident and be strong when I approached it. It was the best feeling after saving that.”
The ensuing corner bounced around the box twice but was finally cleared away. OA had another attacking free kick a minute later but the service sailed wide. Chris Tocci came up with key clearances in the final seconds as OA continued to press.
Milford boys soccer Oliver Ames boys soccer
“It was a great game, a lot of fun,” said OA head coach John Barata. “Just one or two things separate the teams in a game like this. We hit the crossbar, they cleared a ball off the goal line and the game changes completely if those go in. Two nice goals [from Milford] but not goals we’ve given up all year. The challenge for us is the way it happened. The loss isn’t bad because it was a fantastic game, definitely a state final atmosphere, and we’ve been in them before so we know, and that team is excellent.
“The boys are a little more disappointed because of the errors. It wasn’t that they were dominated…sometimes it’s better to lose a game being dominated and not one that at times, you were on the front foot and better. But they have special players…their two best players put the two daggers in.”
After a scoreless opening 40 minutes, the Hawks took the lead less than five minutes into the second half. Senior Leo Coelho helped the Hawks transition into offense by splitting a pair of defenders and feeding a pass to Lucas Da Silva, who took a touch and was fouled five yards outside the box.
Coelho took the free kick, bending a left-footed shot towards the far post and just under the bar and out of the reach of OA keeper Drew Nickla.
Just six minutes later, the visitors tacked on another goal. A big clearance from Julio Dasilva was tracked down by Lucas Da Silva, and he was able to beat a defender along the right sideline before launching a high arching ball that eluded the keeper and fell just under the bar into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Milford boys soccer Oliver Ames boys soccer
“Two phenomenal goals from two phenomenal players,” Pinto said. “They can flip a switch and turn the game around in a second. If Leo gets half a chance, he can make it a goal. And Lucas scored from no angle, he didn’t have any options inside so just chipped it.”
Nickla came up with a big stop on a Coelho free kick in the 54th minute and the Tigers came back down and found the back of the net on the other end. After being dispossessed, OA senior Kevin Louhis tracked back to steal the ball back. He took one touch forward before unleashing a rocket that found the top left corner from 35 yards out to make it 2-1 in the 58th minute.
Although neither team scored in the first half, there were still chances from both sides. Milliken unleashed a blast in the 7th minute that was swallowed up by Oliveira. And minutes later, Milliken put another shot on goal that was denied and Dillon Cupples had a bid on goal but Avi Seri was there for the Hawks to clear it off the line.
Just seconds later, Nikiciuk rifled a free kick from 40 yards out that hit off the crossbar and stayed out.
“We knew they’d be a top team…we said if we could give them a game we’d be happy and I think we did more than give them a game but we’re not happy [with the result],” Barata said. “It’s sad for the seniors but ultimately, if you have to end this year…when we look back, we went 12-1, won the division, and played the team who was probably picked to win it all this year. And we had a chance to play, what a blessing.”
Milford boys soccer finishes the season without a loss at 10-0-3, with two of the draws coming on cancellations. Oliver Ames finishes the season at 12-1.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – For all intents and purposes, the Milford boys soccer team clinched its third straight division title on Tuesday evening.
But this is 2020, and nothing is quite as straight forward as years past.
The Scarlet Hawks scored once in each half to earn a 2-1 win over Mansfield, leapfrogging the Hornets in the standings. The win puts the Hawks at 6-0-1 and a total of 13 points while Mansfield sits at 5-2-2 and 12 points. The teams play again Thursday, and as it stands now, the Hornets could jump back ahead, but the Hawks have two games in limbo against Taunton.
As of Tuesday night, Milford’s matchups with Taunton were not officially canceled, but all indications point to no makeup games, meaning a pair of 0-0 draws and two points for the Hawks, which would secure the division title at 15 points.
“We don’t care who we play, we’ll play anyone anywhere because we love competition,” said first-year head coach Antonio Pinto. “Obviously the situation with Taunton made it a little harder with points because we don’t know exactly how it will play out…but the kids are treating every game like it’s their last because we don’t know when it could end. Every game, we’ve had the mentality that each game is like a state final because for these seniors it could be the last time they play with each other, with their friends.”
Milford boys soccer Mansfield boys soccer
Upon review, the host Hornets would certainly like a second chance to start each half. While Mansfield came out of the front foot, it let a pair of good scoring chances slip away inside the opening two minutes. And to start the second half, the Hawks needed less than two minutes to double their lead by converting a penalty kick.
“The whole first half wasn’t very good for us,” admitted Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan. “We let them do what they want to do and they got in our heads. Finally, in the fourth quarter, we got a little into their heads. We changed some things up at halftime to try and get going…I didn’t see anything on the penalty kick, hopefully, the video shows me something about it. It didn’t look like one from where we were.”
Pressure from Hornet senior Michael Jeans created a turnover in the attacking third and a chance in the are for sophomore Aidan Steele but Milford senior goalie Leo Oliveira was quick to react and intervened before a genuine bid on net.
Just a minute later, a service to the far post from senior Evan Eames found juniorMatt Hyland but once again Oliveira was there for the stop.
Chances were aplenty for both sides throughout the first half but the Hawks slowly started to assert themselves and take control of the play. It started with their first real chance on net which resulted in the first goal of the game.
A quick combination from seniors Lucas Da Silva and Leo Coelho resulted in a pass to the far post where sophomore Arthur Tome was left alone and he latched onto a shot with the inside of his right foot, tucking a shot inside the far post for a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.
Mansfield nearly equalized three minutes later, a combination from sophomore Connor Palinski and junior Dan Rowe with the latter rifling a shot on net that was denied by a one-handed save from Oliveira.
An errant pass out of the back from Oliveira nearly resulted in the equalizer but the keeper was able to recover quickly and get down to stop a low bid from Hyland. And in the 29th minute, Oliveira once again was called into action, this time denying a bid from Grady Sullivan from a step inside the area.
“We went with a keeper change for this game, going with Cheeseburger [Leo Oliveira],” Pinto said. “He’s our big game keeper, every year he always steps up in the big games. Cheeseburger does a good job coming out and commanding the box, and that’s what we needed in this matchup. He stepped up big for us, he didn’t just do well coming off his line, he made some saves that were spectacular.”
Milford boys soccer Mansfield boys soccer
The Hawks started to gain some momentum before the half as junior David Desa intercepted a pass out of the back, leading to a counter chance that saw Coelho link up with Tome but his shot was denied by Mansfield keeper Eric Sullivan. Just minutes later, Hulanger Dias Pires won an important battle at midfield that ended up in a blast off the foot from Desa but Sullivan was equal to the task.
Milford started fast in the second half, using a nice combination down the left side to get Tome the ball. Tome used a quick touch to get around the defender before being taken down just inside the area and the refs awarded the visitors a penalty kick. Da Silva stepped up and confidently deposited a low shot into the bottom right corner for a 2-0 lead in the 42nd minute.
“At halftime, we made some changes and the players reacted well,” Pinto said. “Mansfield had only allowed one goal against going into tonight so we knew if we wanted to score, we couldn’t let them get organized. It had to be quick touches, quick passes, quick flicks…just like we did to open the second half, and then Arthur made a nice move to draw the penalty. That’s how you beat them, you can’t let them get organized you have to attack quickly and that’s how we got both goals.”
Mansfield nearly pulled one back in the 53rd minute when Tommy Lanzillo laced a direct free kick destined for the top corner but Oliveira timed his jump perfectly and tipped it over the bar. Another free kick bid from Lanzillo in the 65th minute was originally spilled by Oliveira but he quickly pounced on the loose ball in front.
The Hornets finally cashed in on a direct free kick attempt in the 67th minute as Rowe blasted a shot from atop the area into the top corner at the near post to make it 2-1. Mansfield’s best chance at the equalizer came in the 75th minute when a ball over the top was chested on by Dylan Buchanan to Sagar Koul but his low shot was easily handled. Last ditch efforts were turned away by Milford center back Chris Tocci.
“They pressured us and didn’t give us much space to play our normal game so we had to adjust and make everything a little quicker,” Pinto said. “We have a bunch of Brazilians playing in the cold so it took us a little while to get warm. But that was a fight, no matter who they play Mansfield is always going to give you a game just by their style so you have to fight the entire way.”
The teams will clash again on Thursday as Milford hosts Mansfield for a 6:00 PM kickoff.
Milford, 2 @ Attleboro, 0 – Final – After a scoreless first 40 minutes of play, Milford found the back of the net twice to earn two points on the road. The Hawks scored once in the third quarter and once more in the fourth. Junior Avi Seri put Milford ahead on an assist from classmate Chris Tocci, and then a fourth quarter goal from Felipe Guerra (from Victor Botelho) made it 2-0.
Sharon, 0 @ Canton, 2 – Final
Foxboro, 1 @ Oliver Ames, 4 – Final – Oliver Ames scored a pair of goals on both sides of halftime to earn a series sweep of visiting Foxboro. Kevin Louhis (from Dillon Cupples) opened the scoring for the Tigers, who had four players find the back of the net. Brady deVos doubled the lead before the break on a pass from Matthew Nikiciuk. Nikiciuk (from Anthony DaCosta) and Colin Milliken (penalty kick) scored in the second half for OA.
Franklin, 2 @ King Philip, 1 – Final – King Philip leveled the match just before halftime but Franklin came out and took the lead back with an early goal in the second half and held on to even the season series between the two rivals. Ben Moccia converted a feed from Tyler Powderly in the 26th minute to give the Panthers the lead but Tadhg Keller answered in the 35th minute on a long free kick to make it 1-1 at the break. Franklin’s Ethan Cain (from Charlie Amante) scored the game-winning goal in the 46th minute and the Panthers held on the rest of the way.
Taunton, 0 @ Mansfield, 1 – Final – For the second straight game, Mansfield scored the game-winning goal in the second half to earn two points against Taunton. Aiden Steele scored off a corner from Ethan Scholes for the lone goal of the game. Jack Lasbury-Casey earned his first shutout in his first career start. MHS coach Steve Sheridan said Colin True had an amazing day in the midfield and both Evan Eames and Michael Caridi played well defensively.
Stoughton, 0 @ North Attleboro, 0 – Final
Attleboro, 4 @ Milford, 5 – Final – After failing to find the back of the net in the first three games of the season, Milford edged a shootout against Attleboro to pick up its first win. Dani Atherton proved difficult to contain, scoring four goals for the Hawks, while Jillian Michelson added a goal and two assists. Briley Harnois had a goal and three assists for the Bombardiers, giving her six points in two games this season. Atherton got her first of the night four minutes into the game and added a second before halftime. Michelson also got one in the first half but Bethany Alves (first career goal) and Cassondra Stuger, both assisted by Harnois, kept Attleboro within one at the break. Atherton added two more in the third quarter, while Harnois got one, as Milford led 5-3 heading to the fourth. In the final quarter, Harnois set up Jamie Davies for her first varsity goal, but the Hawks held on to take the two points. Milford coach Lou Colabello called the win “a good morale boost” heading into next week’s games with King Philip.
Canton, 3 @ Sharon, 1 – Final – Canton scored twice in the fourth quarter to pull out a win on the grass at Sharon, stay perfect on the season, and remain two points ahead of the pack in the Davenport division. Mekhala Costello, Olivia Rodman, and Gabriella Herivaux scored the goals for the Bulldogs. Sarai Costello had two assists and Emily McCabe had one helper. Sharon played well throughout, keeping Canton’s attack at bay for the bulk of the game. Wendy Wooden had the goal for the Eagles.
King Philip, 1 @ Franklin, 2 – Final – Franklin scored twice in the first quarter and held off a late charge by the Warriors to earn a hard-fought win in the rain and stay perfect on the season. The Panthers wasted no time getting on the board, as Sydney St. Marie scored after 90 seconds. Eight minutes later, St. Marie set up Anya Zub to double the lead. The lead remained two goals until the fourth quarter. Ava Tormey got KP back within one as she knocked in a rebound, which was the first goal the Panthers have allowed this season.. The goal sparked the Warriors and they put the Panthers under pressure for the final 13 minutes, but Franklin’s defense held on for the win. Julia Bertone and Rachel Welch combined to make seven saves for Franklin, while KP keeper Emma Glaser made nine saves.
Mansfield, 2 @ Taunton, 0 – Final – The Hornets earned their first win of the season behind the first career goals for Amira Walcott and Olivia Homsi. Olivia Salisbury and Kelsey Hubler combined for a second clean sheet in as many days. Mansfield had plenty of chances, forcing Taunton goalie Isabella Anslow into 20 saves.
North Attleboro, 7 @ Stoughton, 1 – Final – Steph McKenna and Emma Pratt continued their impressive weeks, each scoring a pair of goals and adding an assist, as the Rocketeers won for the second straight game and stayed unbeaten on the season. Coming off a hat trick on Wednesday, McKenna scored a pair of goals and assisted one, while Pratt scored one (her third of the week) and had an assist. Tess Collins added a goal and two assist for North, while Maggie O’Brien and Lily Adams scored their first varsity goals. Brayden Rice, Charlotte Moynihan, and Caroline Ferrin had assists.
Mansfield, 158 @ Oliver Ames, 155 – Final – Oliver Ames picked up its biggest win of the season, knocking off a previously unbeaten shorthanded Mansfield squad. Senior Logan Domenico made a 15′ putt for a birdie on the 8th hole, finishing with a match-low score of 35. Senior Kosta Spiliakos, junior Jake Kaplan, and freshman David Rogers all shot 40 for the Tigers. For Mansfield, Ryan Dow and Joseph Gormley each had a team-low round of 39n while Cian Goulet and Nate Morreale each carded a 40.
2019 Record: 6-9-3 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Peter Pereira
One more goal scored or one goal less allowed could have changed the entire outcome of the 2019 season for the Bombardiers, who suffered six one-goal losses and three draws. Now with more varsity experience under their belts, Attleboro is aiming to surprise some teams in the hunt for the Kelley-Rex division title this season.
Longtime head coach Peter Pereira is counting on that experience to translate into leadership on and off the field. Senior goalie Zackary Brown is back in net for the Bombardiers and is showing more confidence inside the area. Senior Joey Soucy is making the transition to defense and will play alongside classmates Jayden Lockhart and Andrew Fasoldt. Junior Cashel Stuger is also back in the mix defensively while seniors Henry Marini and Alejandro Jimenez could factor into the defensive unit as well.
Jackson Singer emerged as a strong option in the midfield in his first season with the Bombardiers and should be a big piece again this year. Singer will pair up with Hugo Henriquez to give Attleboro an experienced duo in the heart of the pitch. Seniors Ben Fasoldt, Emilio Amaya, and Tyler Sar will all be apart of the midfield while juniors Tom Russo and Emilio Ticas should see valuable minutes for the Bombardiers. Freshman Alex Vecchioli has shown a lot of versatility so far and could play in a variety of roles.
Up front, Attleboro will be relying on a combination of speed, tough, and work effort as they challenge opposing defenses. Depending on the pairing, Attleboro will be able to attack in a variety of ways. Seniors Justin Lurssen and Connor Paquin as well as juniors Liam Bischoff and Yianni Skordas will all see time in the attack. Sophomore Esvin Morales emerged as one of the top attacking threats a year ago and will be among the top finishers in the league.
“We have a good group of seniors and hope that this experience will pay off,” Pereira said. “We believe we will have a more competitive, more mature, and more balanced team.”
2019 Record: 4-12-2 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Danny Erickson
The Bulldogs were very young during the 2019 season with just a half dozen seniors on the squad, but that meant plenty of young players were able to gain valuable on-field experience at the varsity level. Now the Bulldogs will be looking to contend in a very competitive Davenport division in the shortened 2020 season.
The defense will be the backbone of the team this season as the Bulldogs have a lot of experience at the centerback position. Senior captain Matt Giglio is back for his third year with the squad after being a key piece in each of the previous two years. He will be joined in the middle of the defense by Will Keefe, who anchored the Dogs’ backline last year and earned All-Hockomock honors.
Junior Dylan Baird had a breakout sophomore season and will be one of the main pieces in the midfield. After a down season for Canton on the offensive end as a whole last year, Baird’s presence in the midfield will help create opportunities going forward. Up front, the Bulldogs are counting on senior Colton Marliani to be a go-to scoring threat.
Canton already suffered a big blow as senior captain TJ McCabe, who has been with the squad since he was a freshman, will miss the season due to injury. On the flip side, the Bulldogs are getting a boost with the addition of Abdul Barrie. Barrie played in the youth leagues in Canton but will make his CHS debut this fall and could make a big impact for the Dogs.
“I think the rule modifications will challenge us all equally,” said longtime Canton head coach Danny Erickson. “But after a week or so of training, to me, it’s still soccer.”
2019 Record: 7-8-3 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Dan Ambrosio
The Warriors had a sour taste in their mouth at the end of last season, losing the last game of the year to miss out on the playoffs. While Foxboro won’t have the chance to get back to the postseason this year, the Davenport division title is certainly in reach.
Foxboro graduated a couple of stalwarts (Joe Cusack, Dylan Barreira, Will Morrison) that were important pieces of the squad in each of the last couple of seasons, but there are plenty of experienced players back from last year’s seven-win squad plus a handful of new faces anxious to make their mark. Seniors Max Beigel and PJ Frost will give the Warriors plenty of leadership and experience, especially in the midfield and attacking third. Foxboro will look to play quick, using the counterattack to hit on the break.
After giving up nearly two goals a game a season ago, the Warriors are aiming to tighten up the back as they navigate through a very competitive Davenport division. First-year head coach Dan Ambrosio is also counting on new players like John Hollis and Ryan Flaherty to make an impact during the shortened season.
“We are a tight-knit group who like to have fun playing the game and look forward to representing our school and town,” Ambrosio said.
2019 Record: 9-7-4 2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Fran Bositis
With returning players in most areas of the pitch and a trio of top midfielders in the Hockomock League, the Panthers should be in the mix for the Kelley-Rex title, although it could be one of the most competitive seasons since the league split into two.
With just 10 games and all six teams in the Kelley-Rex possible contenders, there is little margin for error. The Panthers will be put to the test right away as they take on Milford, who won the Davenport two years in a row and went to the D2 State Final last season, in the opening week. But longtime head coach Fran Bositis has plenty of talent on his roster to try and make a push for the division title. It all starts in the midfield with a trio of returning starters in Ethan Cain, Tyler Powderly, and last year’s HockomockSports Underclassman of the Year Terry O’Neill.
All three bring something different to the table which will make Franklin’s midfield among the most dynamic in the league. Powderly’s speed on the wings will give defenses fits while Cain will bring plenty of creativity as the Panthers push forward. O’Neill won’t be able to dominate in the air like he did a season ago thanks to the new modifications that ban headers, but the junior is also such a calming presence with the ball at his feet and will help Franklin keep possession. Ben Moccia, who started in the midfield a season ago, is moving up top to the number 9 spot, while Charlie Amante, Ryan Witt, Jack Moran, and Kevin Proenca will also see time in the attack.
The Panthers have some new faces in the defensive unit. Will Fox is the lone returning starter and has impressed in the early stages of the season. Sam George, Robbin Tappin, and Karl Gruseck will all factor into the Panthers’ defense while Aidan Griffith, Nelson Martinez, and Connor Scagliarini will be options for Bositis to play either defense or in the midfield. Newcomers Trey Lovell and Rex Cinelli could see valuable minutes right away. Former Panther standout goalie Freddie Backmann, who is without a season at Regis College, is mentoring Luc Boudreau, this year’s starting keeper for Franklin.
“I think that we have a very good group of athletes (soccer players) who have worked real hard in preparation for this season,” Bositis said. “I know that they are all excited to be playing and that they are looking forward to competing against the other Kelley-Rex teams and putting themselves in a position to challenge for a league championship.”
2019 Record: 8-5-6 2019 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Mike O’Neill
King Philip was the surprise team of the 2019 season, overcoming a large amount of inexperience to take third in the Kelley-Rex and qualify for the state tournament. While the Warriors won’t sneak up on anyone this season, the skill and experience they return should put them in the mix for the division title.
Second-year head coach Mike O’Neill has strong players in all areas of the pitch, starting with senior captain Evan McEvoy. A four-year player with the program, McEvoy is coming off a breakout season in 2019 and will be among the top midfielders in the league. He will control the pace for the Warriors from the center of the pitch, working with fellow captain Alex Leon, who will use his speed to patrol the wings and get in behind the defense. Both Caleb Waxman and Stephen Griffin made an impact last season and should see expanded roles in the shortened 2020 season. Sophomore Matt Crago is a new face that could make a splash in his first year.
The Warriors should have one of the top defenses in the league again this season. Senior captain Aidan Lindmark is back in goal and his distribution skills will factor in heavily to how KP plays out of the back. Jeremy White had a strong 2019 season at center back and will bolster the Warriors’ backline when he returns from injury. In the meantime, four-year player Ajae Olsen, who is normally patrolling the wing or up top, will have his versatility on display as he slides into the centerback spot.
“Our players and coaches are thankful that we are at the point where we can have a season,” O’Neill said. “So much work and sacrifice have gone into getting the Hockomock League schools to this moment. I’m looking forward to some excellent and competitive soccer. I expect every game to be extremely competitive – there are no easy games in the Hock. Five wins may win the division.”
2019 Record: 6-7-5 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Steve Sheridan
With just 10 games scheduled for the season, every game – from the first to the last – is going to be important. No one understands that more than the 2020 Hornets, who came up just short of the state tournament last year. After a slow start, Mansfield became one of the toughest teams to beat down the stretch, finishing on an eight-game unbeaten streak that featured an upset of division champion Oliver Ames but came just one point shy of postseason play.
With the postseason not in the picture for this year, the focus shifts on the division title. The Hornets are hoping to carry the momentum from the end of last season into this year. Mansfield will have a mix of veterans and inexperience in its defensive unit. Senior captain Evan Eames will be the centerpiece of the group alongside classmate Michael Jeans, who missed all of last season due to injury. Sophomores Grady Sullivan and Nate Kablik round out the Hornets’ back four while senior captain Eric Sullivan will take over starting in goal.
Senior captain Tommy Lanzillo will run the show from the center of the pitch, helping the Hornets transition from defense to offense. Lanzillo is strong with the ball at his feet and will help distribute as the Hornets hit on the counter. Senior Colin True and juniors Matt Hyland and Dan Rowe will join Lanzillo in the Hornets’ midfield. Junior Dylan Buchanan is back for his third year with the squad and will play up top alongside Aiden Steele.
2019 Record: 18-1-2 2019 Finish: D2 State Finalists Coach: Antonio Pinta
Milford arrives in the Kelley-Rex division with a huge target on its back. Coming off back-to-back Davenport division titles and a trip to the D2 State Final a season ago, the Hawks enter their new division as the favorite. But game in and game out, Milford can expect to get everyone’s best.
First-year head coach Antonio Pinto might be new to the varsity position but has been with the program during this successful run as an assistant and JV coach. It will all start with the reigning HockomockSports Player of the Year and Hockomock League MVP Leo Coelho, who can play just about any position on the pitch at a high level. If there is a need to shut down a high-powered offense, you might see Coelho playing defense. Or if the Hawks need a boost offensively, he can just as easily move up front and provide creativity in the final third.
The Hawks are far from a one-trick pony with both Lucas Da Silva (eight goals, seven assists) and Joao Pedro Da Silva (six goals, three assists) back in the mix this season. Replacing the Hockomock’s leading scorer in Pedro Araujo (25 goals, 11 assists) will be tough but we saw the Hawks do just that when Araujo took over for former HockomockSports Player of the Year Wallison de Oliveira.
Defensively, the Hawks will be strong up the middle. Junior Kevin Gomes returns to start in goal for the Hawks after getting valuable experience there during last year’s season and deep playoff run. And junior Chris Tocci is back in the heart of the defense at centerback after a breakout sophomore campaign. While the new regulations will certainly challenge the Hawks defensively with heading and slide tackling banned, Milford should have a big advantage offensively because of their strong possession skills.
“I’m very excited to be out there with the guys this season,” Pinto said. “We are ready to play no matter what the rules and conditions are! We’re ecstatic to have a season.”
2019 Record: 9-7-4 2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinal Coach: Geoff Burgess
The Rocketeers and head coach Geoff Burgess have found a recipe for success over the past couple of seasons and will be looking to replicate that again this year. Defense always comes first for the Rocketeers, who allowed just 0.68 goals per game last year. While every team is being forced to make changes because of the new modifications due to COVID-19, the Rocketeers might be affected more than most with heading, slide tackles, and shoulder-to-shoulder challenges banned.
But the Rocketeers have adjusted during the preseason and will be relying on defense and goalkeeping once again this season. Replacing two-time HockomockSports Best XI selection Kyle Briere in net won’t be easy but the North Attleboro is turning to junior David Floyd, who is one of the most athletic players on the team this season according to Burgess. The Rocketeers also boast one of the best centerback combinations in the league with seniors Justin Silva and Donovan Carter back in the fold this year. With a season of experience playing together, it will be tough for teams to find ways to get by the defense anchored by that duo.
While defense remains a top priority for the Big Red, that doesn’t mean North isn’t a dangerous team in the attacking third. As they’ve shown over the past two seasons, speed can kill. Relying on the counterattack and set pieces for the majority of their offensive chances, North brings back senior forward Matt Conley (one goal, five assists) to try and beat defenses with his speed and skill. Junior Connor Ward will have a lot to say about the pace the Rocketeers play at as he orchestrates the team from the center of the pitch.
“With an abbreviated season and a large senior class, we hope to challenge OA for the league title,” Burgess said. “This will obviously be a huge challenge but our defense will be tough to breakdown and you can’t lose if the other team does not score.”
2019 Record: 15-4-0 2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal Coach: John Barata
Oliver Ames has reached the D2 State Final three times since 2014 and with a large group of experienced and skilled players back from last year’s team that went 15-4, another trip to the finals might have been in the cards for 2020. But with postseason canceled due to COVID-19, the Tigers are looking to make as big of an impact as they can.
After a four-year stint in the Kelley-Rex, one that included a pair of division titles (2017 and 2019), the Tigers are back in the Davenport division where they won five titles in the first six years after the Hockomock split. OA brings back nine players that either started or saw a good amount of minutes on the pitch last year, highlighted by HockomockSports Best XI selections Colin Milliken, Brady deVos, and Kevin Louhis. Milliken will help the Tigers transition from defense to offense from his center mid spot, Louhis will be a go-to option on the offensive end, and deVos is back to anchor the defense for the second straight season.
The Tigers will have plenty of options to go along with Milliken (10 goals, 14 assists) and Louhis (4 goals, 9 assists) in the attacking third. Jimmy Keane (six goals, one assist) bolsters the midfield while Anthony DaCosta (six goals, one assist) has improved each of the past two seasons and will be a handful for opposing defenses. Senior Matthew Nikiciuk really emerged as a force in the middle of the pitch last season and will be a big part of the offense, especially through set pieces. Both Mathias Taylor and Dillon Cupples burst onto the scene a year ago and will be in the mix as the Tigers push forward.
Senior goalie Drew Nickla returns in net after a strong year in 2019. The Tigers graduated the most from the defensive unit so the early challenge will be developing chemistry quickly in the backline. Head coach John Barata is also looking for Ben Cohen, Michael Haikal, and Hector Bucio as viable options for the Tigers while sophomore Jake Williams and freshmen Ryan Linhares, Joey Carney, and Diego Rivera are new faces to keep an eye out for.
“We are looking forward to competing this fall and enjoying the opportunity to grow as people and players,” Barata said. “This is a unique situation for a very unique group of players and we are going to make the best of it and play the best soccer we can. These young men are fantastic and we are going to have a great time this season regardless of the on field results…but we hope to have a few of those too!”
2019 Record: 6-7-5 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Scott Nathan
The Eagles enter the 2020 campaign with a chip on their shoulder, coming up just one point shy of the state tournament a year ago. While Sharon can’t make up for that with a tournament appearance this year with the playoffs canceled due to COVID-19, the Eagles can certainly make some noise while challenging for the Davenport division title.
Sharon said goodbye to a handful of experienced veterans including Michael Baur, Brian Higgins, and Isaiah Stessman, but first-year head coach Scott Nathan has a group of proven players plus a bunch of news faces eager to make their mark. Senior captain Bryce Nathan and junior captain James Zhang will lead the way both on and off the pitch this year as the Eagles compete for the Davenport crown.
Bryce Nathan is one of the most versatile players in the league, playing anywhere from defense to striker during his tenure with the Eagles. Zhang, fresh off an impressive sophomore campaign, is very confident with the ball at his feet and does a nice job distributing from the center of the pitch. Sophomore Matthew Baur is back in goal after getting a varsity season under his belt. Rhys Davis and Brandon Mauricio highlight a list of returners defensively while Coby Jacobson, Samid Khandaker, Adam Landstein, Aaron Livshin, and Daniel Zagoren are all back with varsity experience as well.
The Eagles will focus on a sound defense first before transitioning into offense. Patience will be key this year as Sharon looks to make the most of each opportunity as they push forward. Brady Daylor, Malachi Diaz, Adam Eastman, Daniel Fishman, Amjad Kordab, Jack Landstein, Rohan Prakash, Elliot Pototsky Nicholas Rincon, Aaron Tamkin, Jeffrey Xiang, and Tony Yang are new to the varsity level and will be looking to make an impact on the pitch for the Eagles in 2020.
“The game will be different…for players, coaches, referees, and fans,” Scott Nathan said. “I am just happy for the boys that they have the opportunity to play the game they love!”
2019 Record: 3-13-2 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Jon Grant
With a year of experience under coach Jon Grant, the Black Knights are aiming to have a bounce back year and compete with the top teams in the Davenport division.
There were plenty of bumps in the road during the 2019 season but Stoughton certainly showed some bright spots, including wins over Mansfield and Canton. Now the Black Knights will try to compete in each game and string some results together. Captain Nolan Gerome returns in goal for Stoughton and is among the best keepers in the league. Opposing head coaches have raved about saves Gerome has made over the past couple of seasons and he will be the anchor of the Black Knights’ defensive unit.
Playing in front of Gerome will be senior captain Ryan Sears and junior Owen Roddy, who both played valuable minutes last year. With a good amount of experience and skill in the back, Stoughton is hoping defense will be a cornerstone for the 2020 season. Grant is looking for Rhuan Carvalho to be a top playmaker for the Black Knights, distributing from the center of the pitch to create some offensive chances.
“Our goal for this year to improve on last season,” Grant said. “This year the players came in to the short season fairly well conditioned and with a great attitude. All the players are so grateful to have this opportunity to be back out on the field. This will definitely help us in this short season.”
2019 Record: 2-9-7 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Taylor Whitters
It’s easy to look at Taunton’s record from a season ago and make assumptions, but upon further review, the Tigers were in just about every game they played. Five of the nine losses were decided by just one goal and the Tigers had a league-high seven draws; one goal either way and the Tigers were that close to a spot in the tournament. It goes to show how competitive the league was and how important each goal is.
With a strong nucleus of players back from last year’s squad, the playoffs wouldn’t have been such a far reach for Taunton this season. But with the postseason not in play, the Tigers will shift focus on being a darkhorse in the Kelley-Rex division title hunt. The new modifications will make it tough for all teams when it comes to defending, but it will also benefit something that Taunton has plenty of: speed. The Tigers plan on utilizing their pace on both ends of the pitch, getting behind the defense on one end while using their speed defensively to fend off opposing offenses.
Taunton will be strong up the middle with senior Travis Nunes back in the heart of the pitch and sophomore Riley Rebello back to anchor the defense. Senior Hunter Cabral will give the Tigers flexibility by playing in both the midfield and up front. Head coach Taylor Whitters is looking for sophomores Joseph Renquinha Jr., Aidden Fitting, Quincy Jones-Sylvia, Jonathan Trinh, and Nathan Keenan to all be in the mix this season.
“Despite everything that has occurred in recent months, we have one of the most versatile and technically sound teams that Taunton High School Boys Soccer has seen in a long time,” Whitters said. “This group of young men have the number one factor in the success of any team: chemistry. They have the willingness to play for the team, not for themselves. I feel with their talents, abilities, and desire to work together as a unit, we will be a team to watch in our division this season.”
Team: Milford Boys Soccer
2019 Davenport Division Champions
2019 Division 2 State Finalists
Some of the most talented individual players to compete in the Hockomock League together came together as a team and orchestrated one of the best seasons on the soccer pitch this decade.
The 2019 Milford boys soccer team was full of gifted players that formed one of the most dangerous attacking groups over the past 10 seasons. One question coming into the season was the defense but throughout the season, the Hawks got better and better on the defensive end and only allowed one goal in four South sectional tournament games. The combination of a deadly offense and a solid defense propelled the Hawks to their first state final appearance in two decades.
“I think the thing that made this team very different was the fact they really enjoyed playing the game together,” said head coach Brian Edwards. “In training, they would typically have a lot of fun and while it was sometimes very challenging to keep them on task, they genuinely enjoyed the game. More importantly, they genuinely enjoyed helping one another achieve something. They are a very special group of guys and their work rate was something that always blew me away.”
The Hawks went unbeaten throughout the regular season, which didn’t feature any non-league games. Milford rallied for a last-minute goal to tie Foxboro and battled to a 1-1 draw with North Attleboro late in the season; Milford picked up 14 wins including one over a talented Oliver Ames squad and went on to win the Davenport division title for the second straight season.
The likes of Pedro Araujo, Joao Pedro Da Silva, Jordan Borges, Lucas Da Silva, and Hockomock League MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Leo Coelho helped the Hawks average over three goals per game, notching a league-best 56 goals in the regular season. On the flip side, senior Dan Santos anchored a defensive line along with classmate Nuno Mestre and new faces freshman Gabriel Godoy and sophomore Chris Tocci. Senior Carlos Terrinha was one of the most reliable players sitting in the six role. Leo Oliveira and Kevin Gomes split time in net, allowing just one goal per game in the regular season.
“Another thing that made them special was their belief in themselves and one another,” Edwards said. “They had a level of confidence that I loved to see as a coach. One other piece of the puzzle was their ability to tackle one challenge at a time. They did a great job of not looking ahead and getting distracted. As a coach who is slightly obsessive over preparation, it was something that made my job a lot easier. I think about the Nauset game and the preparation that went into it. We scouted them three times and we put together a game plan that I felt gave us a very good chance of beating them. The guys really committed themselves to proving that they could beat a team that many people felt was one of the best in the country. We weren’t surprised that we beat them because we knew we had the ability to execute a plan that we felt was solid.”
The postseason featured a 6-0 blasting of Catholic Memorial, a hard-fought 2-0 decision over Dartmouth, and Coelho gave the Hawks a 1-0 win over Bishop Feehan in overtime. In the South Sectional Final, the Hawks hosted perennial state power and nationally ranked Nauset. Despite giving up a late equalizer in regulation, the Hawks prevailed. After switching goalies for overtime and penalties, Leo Oliveira made a terrific save in the shootout and the Hawks made all five attempts with the freshman Godoy scoring the winner as Milford advanced to the state final.
“One of my favorite memories of the season is the moment Leo Oliveira made the PK save on the fourth Nauset attempt,” Edwards said. “It was the single most exciting moment of a soccer game I can remember. I think the last time I lost my mind like that was when [Adam] Vinatieri hit the 45 yard game-tying kick against the Raiders in the Blizzard Bowl back in January of 2002. Leo stepped up in the middle of Double Overtime in a Sectional Final and made the play of the game.”
After an incredible run through the south sectional, the Milford boys soccer team had an uncharacteristic showing in the final, surrendering five goals (including the game-winner in overtime) in a goal-heavy 5-4 loss to Winchester.
WORCESTER, Mass. – Every time that Milford went forward, it looked capable of scoring a goal, but every time that Winchester lined up an attacking set piece on the other end of the field it looked just as likely to find the back of the net.
It made for a thrilling, end-to-end Div. 2 state championship game at Worcester State’s Coughlin Field. In the end, it also meant heartbreak for the Hawks.
Winchester got a free kick on the left side of the Milford box seven minutes into the first overtime period. The first ball in was half-cleared but Aras Kaya reacted quickest and was able to knock in the game-winner, handing the Sachems a 5-4 victory and the state title. It was the fourth goal that Winchester had scored from a set piece and denied Milford its first ever state championship in its first appearance in the final in 21 years.
“Winchester played really good today,” said Milford coach Brian Edwards. “They were very proficient, they were very effective in what they did and we were not. We were uncharacteristically sloppy with set piece defense.”
He added, “I’m really proud of how hard my guys played this season, but we didn’t deserve to win this game given how we played.”
Milford grabbed control of the ball right from the opening whistle and had the game’s first good looks at goal. Joao Pedro Da Silva hit a long, angled ball behind the Winchester left back to free Pedro Araujo, but the senior forward was unable to hit the target under pressure from the last defender. Just a minute later Lucas Da Silva went close with a shot to the near post.
Although it was the Hawks with the early chances, it was Winchester that grabbed the first lead. William Hofheinz hit a long free kick that went all the way through the box to Diego Diaz at the back post. Diaz had time to bring it down, look up, and slide a shot to the far corner.
The Sachems held onto the one-goal lead for 20 minutes, nearly doubling it when Kevin Gomes was forced into a diving save on a 25-yard shot by Ben Von Halle.
In the 34th minute, Milford sprung into life. Araujo got free on the right side and hit a cross into Leo Coelho that was cleared by the last defender. A minute later, Araujo again went to his right and skipped past his marker. This time he loped into the box and got all the way inside the six before chipping a shot over the keeper and into the corner.
Just about a minute later, the Hawks jumped in front for the first time. Joao Pedro Da Silva raced down the left side, leaving his defender in his wake, and then hit a deft toe poke that left the keeper stranded and snuck in off the far post to make it 2-1.
Jordan Borges had a chance down the right side to add to the lead just before halftime, but the Hawks went into the break with the lead.
“In the first half, I thought we were very disorganized,” Edwards explained. “We fought back, we fought back, scored those two goals at the end of the first half to make it a game but I don’t think we started playing well until we got to the end of the second half.”
That lead only lasted three minutes into the second half. Hofheinz curled a 30-yard free kick to this near post and the ball snuck in after the keeper lost track of his positioning in the goal and, thinking the shot was going wide, allowed it to bounce past him.
Milford came right back just five minutes later and regained the advantage. This time it was Lucas Da Silva on the left and he got all the way to the end line and was brought down as he tried to cut a pass back into the middle. The ref pointed to the spot and Araujo stepped up to score his second of the game and put the Hawks up 3-2.
In the 53rd minute, the Hawks were again guilty of not clearing a set piece and allowed Winchester to equalize. This time the bouncing ball went in off a Milford player at the back post.
Four minutes later, the Sachems were in front. Von Halle created the chance when he jumped on a poor clearance and he sent a ball in from the right side that Diaz was able to bring down at the far post. The forward roofed his shot, giving backup keeper Leo Oliveira no chance.
Injuries cropped up for the Hawks throughout the game, as Coelho, the league MVP, was forced to the bench and senior right back Nuno Mestre also missed a bulk of the second half. Eduardo Castro and freshman Arthur Tome played well off the bench, but those were key pieces that Milford was without down the stretch.
The Hawks went into desperation mode in the closing minutes and played some of their best attacking soccer of the game. It took until the 74th minute, but the pressure paid off. A long throw from Dan Santos bounced in the box and was met by Carlos Terrinha, who was able to turn it in first-time from close range.
Edwards said, “These guys have a lot of guts, otherwise they wouldn’t be here today. They’re here for a reason. This has been the best team I’ve ever coached and not just for their playing ability but for their character and their tenacity and their grit.”
With the joy of an equalizer and a raucous fan section at that end of the field, Milford found a second gear for the final few minutes. A Chris Tocci long throw to Araujo almost turned into a winner, only for the Sachems to crowd out the chance. Joao Pedro Da Silva had a great look off a corner, but his goal-bound shot was blocked at the last second.
“The last 10 minutes were how we should’ve been playing the whole game,” Edwards admitted, “and it wasn’t enough because when you play a good team like that you can’t wait 70 minutes to start playing good soccer.”
Borges forced a save from the Winchester keeper five minutes into the OT period and Milford looked the more likely to score at that stage, until the Sachems earned a free kick. After defending set pieces well all tournament long, the Hawks couldn’t find a way to stop one last chance and fell just short of winning an elusive first title.
“Any set piece near the area, a team that is big and strong they’re going to have chances and unfortunately we didn’t do a good enough job denying the chances and we didn’t do a good enough job defending them. We didn’t execute,” said Edwards.
Milford finished the season at 18-1-2, outscoring teams 71-22 along the way. Edwards, a former soccer player at Milford, called it a historic season despite the loss in the final.
“It’s nice to give the town something to talk about,” he said. “We take the name on the front of the jersey very seriously. We take a lot of pride in how we represent ourselves, how we represent the town, and how we represent our school.”
MILFORD, Mass. – Milford junior goalie Leo Oliveira stood on his goal line face-to-face with the next Nauset penalty kick shooter and took his right hand and pointed in that direction a handful of times.
Oliveira, who was a spectator from the bench for 90 minutes in the snow and cold, was suddenly thrust into action in the second overtime, and now in the midst of a penalty kick shootout with one of the top teams in the country.
With each team converting their first three attempts, Oliveira stepped back in net and pointed to his right as Nauset’s senior captain Spencer Rushnak placed the ball on the spot.
It worked as Rushnak fired his shot in that direction and Oliveira made the diving stop. Three attempts later, Milford freshman Gabriel Godoy calmly deposited his chance into the back corner to give the Hawks a 5-4 edge in penalties, a 2-1 win in the match, and the program’s first-ever D2 South Sectional Championship.
It’s the program’s first sectional title since 1999 when it won the D1 Central crown, and Nauset’s first loss since 2017, snapping a 44-game unbeaten streak. The Warriors’ last loss came to Oliver Ames in the sectional semifinals, which also went to penalty kicks and was played on the same Milford High turf field.
“I told him to go right and he did, and I was ready for it and I saved it,” Oliveira said. “All I heard was the crowd cheering my name, it was amazing. The best moment of my life so far.”
Sophomore Kevin Gomes, who had a strong game in net through regulation and the first overtime, came out between overtime periods due to illness. While Milford was planning to go with Oliveira if it went to penalties, he was thrust into the game in the second sudden-victory overtime period.
“It’s hard sitting on the bench in the cold weather but I’m always ready just in case something happens to Kevin, and I was ready tonight,” Oliveira said. “During the playoffs, we’ve been practicing them for around 30 minutes at the end of practice, and I’ve been able to save them there. When you have guys like Pedro [Araujo] and Leo [Coelho] who barely miss, it’s hard to save them. Nauset, they are amazing, but I was able to come up with the big save.”
Milford head coach Brian Edwards wasn’t surprised that Oliveira was ready for the big moment.
“Leo is our best goalie for PKs,” Edwards said. “We were planning to make the change in overtime and then Kevin in-between overtime periods wasn’t feeling well so we told [Leo] to go in and he delivered. He’s the hero of the hour. He doesn’t really get nervous, he just shows up and plays. He isn’t really fazed [by the moment].”
Nauset went first in penalty kicks and junior Ben LaBranche slotted a low shot into the bottom left corner past the reach of Oliveira’s save. Milford boys soccer senior captain and center back Dan Santos answered with a low to the left of his own.
Nauset senior captain Sebastian Headrick put the Warriors back ahead with a low shot to the left despite Oliveira getting a fingertip to it. Milford sophomore center back Chris Tocci blasted a shot into the upper left corner giving the keeper no chance to make it 2-2.
The Warriors scored again as junior Anthony Lovati was the first to go in the other direction, hitting his shot into the right side. Milford senior and the Hockomock League’s leading score Pedro Araujo went up the middle with the keeper diving to the side to make it 3-3.
Oliveira’s mind games worked to get the big stop, and Milford senior Jordan Borges blasted a hard shot off the underside of the crossbar and in to give the Hawks’ a 4-3 lead.
“It was very scary when it hit the bar but it ended up going in so I was happy,” Borges said. “For Leo, it’s all theatrics before the kick. He just gets guys nervous, throws them off. We’ve practiced them before just in case we go to penalties and it paid off.”
Nauset junior center back Ethan Boyle kept the match alive with a nice shot to the left side but Godoy, despite being a freshman, placed a left-footed shot into the back corner to give the Hawks the win.
“Our JV coach Antonio Pinto has been working with these guys on PKs for a while so I asked who he thought the best five guys were, he told me and I went with those,” Edwards said. “A lot of these decisions aren’t mine, they make me look smart. We have a whole crew of coaches and the players have an input too.
“It was awesome, I lost my mind when he made that save, I knew that was it because I have complete faith in our five guys to make their kicks. When Leo made that save, I knew we were going to win it.”
Not only did Milford have to weather a strong Nauset attack in overtime, the Hawks had to do so without Coelho, who had to miss the extra period due to injury. Then the Hawks lost Joao Pedro Da Silva to an injury for the second overtime period. Senior outside back Nuno Mestre also missed some time in the extra period but was able to return.
“We’re just confident at all times,” Borges said. “We believe in ourselves, we believe in our teammates and that’s what it’s all about. When we believe, I think we have a chance to win at anything. We have that team mentality, the next guy up. Anybody can step in and do the job. Of course we don’t want to see guys go out but everybody on the bench is ready to go in there and make a difference.”
It was a scoreless first half that saw both sides have a share of strong play, but the Warriors ended with the two most dangerous chances on goal. In the 7th minute, Rushnak smacked the crossbar on a free kick and Milford senior Carlos Terrinha was well-positioned to block the rebound chance.
Rushnak also flashed a header just wide in the 20th minute of a corner from Patrick Pinto and then smacked the crossbar for the second time off a well-hit volley from distance that knuckled and dipped before hitting the woodwork in the 34th minute.
Milford had its fair share of chances too as Coelho, who started up front along Araujo, took advantage of some space before rifling a left-footed shot from 25-yards out just wide in the 13th minute. In the 26th minute, Araujo sprang Coelho free with a perfect through ball but Nauset keeper Jack Avellar played it perfectly off his line and came charging to block the shot just inside the box.
Gomes made a strong save on a chance from Boyle in the 42nd minute, pouncing on a header in the area. Two minutes later, the Hawks opened the scoring.
Coelho drew a foul near the corner of the area on the right wing, and then took the free kick himself. He lofted a perfectly weighted ball to the far post to an open JP Da Silva, who nodded the ball just inside the post for a 1-0 lead.
Edwards was frank when asked if he could believe it that his side had beaten Nauset.
“I do, I do believe it because they are high school kids just like anyone else,” Edwards said. “Regardless of how you look, how you dress, how you put your bags in a row…your high school kids and so are we. We believe in who we can beat and bring them on, we’ll play anyone.
“It was just belief…belief in each other, belief in ourselves. This team is very confident but we know how good Nauset is. They are a top 10 team in a country but we did our homework, we knew what we needed to do. Thankfully we got the job done. I can’t be prouder of them right now.”
Araujo played junior Lucas Da Silva in on the right side seven minutes later but his bid was denied by Avellar, and he was unable to pounce on the rebound bid. Nauset nearly drew level in the 59th minute as Shavar Champagnie broke free at the near post but flashed his header just wide.
Araujo had three chances over a two-minute space but wasn’t able to double the Hawks’ lead. He was played in off a flick from Borges but Avellar was quick off his line and just got to the ball first just inside the box. Still in the 63rd minute, Borges delivered a ball over the top but Araujo’s shot on goal was saved.
A minute later, Araujo nearly got his touch past an oncoming Avellar, but the ball popped up and the keeper did very well to recover and hang on.
Nauset cashed on in the final five minutes of the match after earning a free kick along the left sideline. Boyle dropped a service to the near post and LaBranche was left open and he buried his shot into the bottom left corner to make it 1-1.
“Nauset has one of the best attacks I’ve ever seen,” Edwards said. “They are deliberate in what they do, you know exactly what they are going to do, and regardless of that they still generate scoring chances. They are that good, they are that well-coached, they are great soccer players. Our defense was superb tonight I thought. I thought we minimized the throw-ins for the most part.
“We got in trouble with the free kicks, that’s where their goal came from. I was very proud of our backline and I was very proud of our goalie, I thought Kevin played a stellar game. Nauset is a hell of a team, that’s the best team I’ve seen in 11 years of coaching soccer.”
Gomes was forced into an early save on Champagnie two minutes into the first overtime but the best chance of the first extra period was from Borges. After a win at midfield, Borges received a pass and ripped a shot from 30-yards out that Avellar had to backtrack and then tip over the bar.
Neither side had a genuine scoring threat in the second overtime.
“It’s been two decades since we’ve been in a game like this,” Edwards, an MHS graduate, said. Milford boys soccer reached the state final in 1998, the year after Edwards graduated. “We know whoever we’re going to play is going to be a tough test. We’ll try to make our league play and do what we can do, and hopefully, get the job done.”
Milford boys soccer (18-0-2) will play North sectional champion Winchester (14-3-5) in the D2 Final on Saturday with the time and location to be determined.
Edwards moved Coelho from his defensive center mid spot to striker, and the decision paid dividends nearly immediately.
Coelho scored the lone goal of the game just under 90 seconds into the sudden-victory overtime period, handing the second-seeded Hawks a 1-0 verdict over #6 Bishop Feehan.
“I was playing through an injury and it felt like nothing was going to go my way, I felt like it was probably one of my worst games,” Coelho said. “I asked coach if I could play up top in overtime, and he had the trust and confidence to put me there, and I was able to get it done.”
Milford went to work quickly in the extra session, applying pressure as it had done for the majority of the 80 minutes of regulation. This time, the Hawks were able to find the back of the net.
Senior Pedro Araujo hustled to a ball down the right flank, battling a defender off to earn possession. He got the ball on his right foot and fired a cross/shot that was parried away by Feehan keeper Thomas Potenza.
But the ball fell right to the feet of junior Joao Pedro Da Silva, who was quickly surrounded by a trio of Shamrock defenders. Da Silva calmly carried away from goal before sliding a pass to Coelho at the far post, and the junior let the ball come across his body before depositing a shot into the back of the net for the game-winner.
“We had to change something up, the ball wasn’t going in,” Edwards said. “I trust him and he rewarded our faith in him. He played a tremendous game, I thought everyone did. But we couldn’t get the ball in the net. Thankfully we made the play when we needed to.”
While the ball wasn’t going in, it wasn’t for a lack of possession or chances. The Hawks controlled the game from start to finish, putting nearly a dozen shots on frame while limiting the Shamrocks to just two chances, both coming within seconds of each other.
Coelho registered the first serious chance for either side in what was a rare foray into the attacking third. The junior midfielder controlled a clearance, took a touch towards goal, and fired a shot from 25 yards out but his bid clanked off the top of the crossbar and stayed out in the 14th minute.
JP Da Silva took a pass from Lucas Da Silva and forced a save from Potenza, but the Hawks couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing chance. Two minutes later, Coelho found Jordan Borges but his chance went over the bar.
Bishop Feehan’s best three chances all came in the final 15 minutes of half. A cross to the far post eluded the Milford keeper but Chris Tocci was in position to head the first ball up, and Dan Santos cleared the second ball to keep the game scoreless.
The Shamrocks nearly jumped ahead in the final moments of the first half. A lackadaisical play on a loose ball afforded Feehan’s Zach Stephenson possession. He used his speed to get past the Hawks’ defense and rifled a shot alone with the keeper but Milford sophomore Kevin Gomes made the leaping stop.
The rebound bounced to the Shamrocks’ left wing and to the feet of Samir Kassel, who had a good look to bury the rebound, but his chance was denied by Gomes as well to keep the game scoreless
“Kevin has done a good job, we didn’t ask him to do a lot tonight (two saves) but he actually did a nice job coming off his line tonight,” Edwards said. “He snuffed out some chances and he was very decisive when he came off his line. And that’s important against a team like this that’s relying on you to make a mistake defensively so Kevin was big for us.”
Milford continued to control possession in the second half but the Shamrocks often had five or more players behind the ball, making life difficult for the Hawks’ offense that likes to connect on short passes.
The chances still came though as Borges saw his shot go just over the bar in the 44th minute, and Araujo’s header at the far stick was handled in the 50th minute. Potenza came up with a save on a low strike from Borges in the 57th minute and had plenty of time to recover and handle the loose rebound.
“They could have been wearing red and white (North Attleboro),” Edwards said of Feehan, comparing their defense-first approach to that of the Rocketeers. “They played so well defensively. From what we saw leading up to this game, they gave us a very different look. Credit to their coaching staff and players, they were able to adopt a very different strategy against us that was very effective.
“I think we were more frustrated that it wasn’t going in. I think we generated more chances in the second half. I wasn’t happy with the first half, especially defensively, but we adjusted. I thought we were better in the second, and I think we kept our composure.”
After Feehan made a push into the offensive third, Milford countered with one of its best chances. With more space than usual, Coelho pushed forward with possession, using a nice stepover move to get past a defender. He unleashed a shot from 30 yards out that froze the keeper, but it smacked off the post and stayed out in the 58th minute.
“The first half, I think we were all being a little too selfish,” Coelho said. “We were a little too excited, everyone was trying to be the hero. We talked at halftime about playing our game, and if we do that, we can get the job done. They definitely played like North Attleboro, behind the ball, and we had some difficulty breaking it down.”
Milford had a flurry of chances late in the game but couldn’t unlock the Shamrocks with a final product. Potenza made a leaping stop but the rebound was deflected right off Borges’ foot, too hard for him to control in short range.
Tocci’s cross found the feet of Araujo and he tested the keeper with a low shot but Potenza smothered it. A minute later, Araujo beat his defender to the touchline and fired a low cross across the face of goal to Borges at the far post, but the ball found his weaker foot and was cleared after the first touch, and regulation ended scoreless.
Coelho’s winner sends the Hawks to their first-ever D2 South Sectional Final. The last final appearance for Milford boys soccer was in 1999 when they played in the D1 Central Final.
With Milford as the predetermined site for the sectional final, the Hawks (17-0-2) will end up “hosting” Nauset but as the away team, on Sunday at 3:30.
MILFORD, Mass. – In last year’s playoff, Milford was considered one of the teams to beat in Div. 2 South but ran into a physical, direct Walpole team in the quarterfinal and were knocked out. On Wednesday night, almost a year to the day after that loss, the Hawks faced another tough quarterfinal against Dartmouth with the chance to show what they have learned.
Milford scored once in each half, dominated possession throughout, and overcame the physical battle to secure a 2-0 win and a spot in the sectional semifinal.
“Some teams think we’re soft, we’re a finesse team, but we can be hard,” said Milford coach Brian Edwards. “I thought the guys responded really well physically, especially in the second half when it got nasty because it was a really intense, exciting soccer game and I thought my guys responded. It wasn’t our best performance, but we did what we had to do.”
Dartmouth played direct balls over the top of the defense and tried to take advantage of their size on set pieces, particularly on long throws in the attacking third. The Milford back line held firm, especially center backs Dan Santos and Chris Tocci, and sophomore goalie Kevin Gomes looked adept at controlling the box against the Indians’ aerial threat.
“It’s vital because we work as a unit,” said Santos. “We defend well and we attack just as well, so we sent a message out to the other teams. [Our confidence] is through the roof.”
In fact, it was Milford that looked more dangerous at dead ball opportunities. An early corner from Lucas Da Silva was met by Santos at the near post and had to be cleared off the line by Luke Sylvia. The Hawks used another free kick to grab an early lead.
Pedro Araujo, the Hockomock League’s top scorer this season, curled in a teasing ball that found Santos at the back post. The senior defender knocked the loose ball towards goal and it snuck just past the keeper and just over the line. The Dartmouth players chased after the official claiming the ball went through a hole in the side of the net, but the goal stood.
“It was huge, just for confidence,” Edwards explained. “It really put them under pressure. You could see it in the second half when they switched formation that we were really able to get some more looks.”
A free kick from Leo Coelho in the 18th minute almost made it 2-0, when the ball was spilled and both Araujo and Jordan Borges had shots blocked. Araujo came close again nine minutes later off yet another corner, but his first-time hit from the edge of the box after a weak clearance was blazed over the bar.
Dartmouth’s best chance of the half came off a Sylvia long throw that was met by Matt Furtado, but his lefty shot was wide of the mark. Araujo and Borges combined well on the edge of the box to open space and Araujo played in Eduardo Castro down the right but his shot to the bottom corner was well saved.
Holding a precarious one-goal lead at the break, Milford set out in the second half to try and add an insurance goal. The Hawks would have a number of chances to double the lead and the frustration and concern for an equalizer was growing as the opportunities were spurned.
Edwards said, “I had a feeling where it could be one of those games where you don’t get a second goal and they tie it late because it felt like it was going to be that way, but thankfully we got that second goal from JP.”
Araujo almost played provider in the 48th minute when he was able to work space for a right-foot cross by neither Da Silva was able to get a foot on it. A minute later, Araujo hit a free kick straight at the keeper. Da Silva flicked a header to Borges, but his volley went over the bar and then Da Silva split the defense with a through ball to Araujo but the keeper was out quickly and blocked the shot with his trailing foot.
Dartmouth sent a warning with a Sylvia long throw that was met by Mitchell Taradash, but his shot went over the crossbar. It was a reminder to the Hawks to keep pressing for a second to make things more comfortable, although the combination of Coelho and Carlos Terrinha was protecting the back four and keeping the Indians largely at bay.
“Those two guys have been big for us all year,” said Edwards. “There’s a reason why Leo is league MVP, he’s an animal. Carlos is an absolute beast. Those guys put in really strong performances. They don’t end up on the scoresheet but without those two guys we don’t win this game.”
With the visitors switching to a back three to try and get more numbers forward, Milford started to find more space for Araujo to operate along the right flank. He rose up to nod a header to Joao Pedro Da Silva but the Dartmouth keeper was able to block the close-range shot and then Araujo cut inside a pair of defenders onto his left and forced a solid diving stop.
In the 75th minute, the Milford pressure finally paid off. Borges sent a long free kick into the box and a Dartmouth defender headed it sideways rather than out. Da Silva reacted first, cutting straight down the box and the side-footing the ball into the corner for a critical two-goal lead.
Edwards said, “JP’s been our iceman all year. He’s the finisher, he’s our closer. Joao Pedro’s a real special, clutch kid. He just shows up and plays a great game.”
“I’m proud of the boys,” Santos added. “They’re very hard-working, we went over it at practice all week and we got the outcome we wanted.”
Milford (16-0-2) will take on No. 6 seed Bishop Feehan in the semifinal on Tuesday at Sandwich High.