First Half Goal Just Enough for KP at Canton

King Philip Boys Soccer
KP defender Matthew Clarke (15) and the rest of the Warriors back line kept Canton off the board to secure a 1-0 road win. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – The field seemed to be tilted towards the far end zone all night. In the first half of Thursday night’s game at WWII Veterans Memorial Field, King Philip threatened with every attack, creating a number of chances, and putting Canton on the back foot. After the break, the hosts turned the game around and suddenly had the Warriors on their heels.

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When you’re on top in the game, you have to find the back of the net. KP managed it once, junior Tadhg Keller tapping in a rebound in the 14th minute, and that turned out to be just about enough, as the back line held up against the Canton pressure and held on for a 1-0 win.

“They had a lot of momentum,” said KP coach Mike O’Neill about the pressure his team faced to preserve the lead in the second half. “I’m really happy. It’s a character win, these guys really grinded it out. It was close, it was touch-and-go for a while, but I’m proud of how my boys stuck to it.”

Canton had the game’s first shot on target, but it would end up being the only save that KP starting keeper Aidan Lindmark had to make in the first half, as the Bulldogs struggled to manufacture consistent offense in the opening 40 minutes.

KP grabbed control by exploiting the edges of the Canton defense. Junior Alex Leon had a bright start down the left and he slipped a pass into the channel for Andrew Robinson to have a shot just six minutes into the game. Five minutes later, Leon quickly turned on his defender and had a go from inside the box but hit the side netting.

In the 14th minute, KP got a free kick opportunity from about 25 yards out. Sophomore Caleb Casseta-Waxman curled a shot that seemed destined for the back of the net only for Canton keeper Alejandro Correal to fly across and get a fingertip to it and put it off the bar. The rebound fell to Keller, who took a touch to settle it before slamming the ball into the goal.

“I thought we played a relatively complete game today,” said Canton coach Danny Erickson, “but soccer comes down to moments and we fell asleep admiring our goalkeeper’s save. They didn’t fall asleep and they buried a rebound and that’s what happens.”

Just a minute later, the lead was very nearly doubled. This time KP attacked down the right. Wesley Orzell and Owen Teixeira played a one-two to get Orzell into space and he burst past the defender on the end line. The senior looked up and slid a pass to Casseta-Waxman, who was unmarked in the six-yard-box. Only a heroic intervention by freshman Carson Eagles kept the goalbound shot from hitting the back of the net.

The chances kept coming for the visitors. Evan McEvoy teed up Teixeira in the right channel and his shot flashed into the side netting, confusing some in the crowd, on the KP bench, and the scorekeeper who all thought it had gone into the top corner.

Stephen Griffin managed to hold possession against several Canton defenders and he set up McEvoy for a 20-yard strike that Correal held for one of his five first-half saves. A long cross from right back Matthew Clarke picked out Keller for a free header with just minutes to go before halftime, but the shot was easily grabbed by Correal.

Whatever was said at halftime seemed to work for the Bulldogs. Canton came out of the break inspired and instantly started to put pressure on the KP defense.

“I’d love to take massive credit for an inspirational halftime speech,” Erickson joked, “but I thought we were showing signs of really good stuff in the first half and we focused on those things. Honestly, they started winning some battles and feeling good about themselves and that results in good things.”

Just three minutes into the second half, Dylan Baird had a shot from a long way out that new KP keeper Grant Orzell had to collect at the second attempt, just in front of Jacob Crugnale. Five minutes later, Crugnale had a go from distance that took a touch off a KP boot before going over the bar. From the resulting corner, Colby Cifolillo rose highest but his goal-bound header was deflected wide of the post.

“We’re still a team that’s struggling to create chances and finish and that’s something that we’re going back to the drawing board to keep working on,” Erickson said.

Midway through the second half, freshman Jorge Sanchez set up Crugnale for a one-time hit but Orzell was able to get behind it. TJ McCabe had several shots from the edge of the box that the defense had to charge down. Despite the chances they were able to create, the Bulldogs just couldn’t find a way through and the KP back three of Clarke, Jordan Hoyle, and Jeremy White held firm.

“They are the core of this team and they are the rock, the wall we build, and we really rely on them,” said O’Neil of his defense. “In addition to be excellent defenders, they’re really skilled, composed, and they know what they’re doing.”

KP had a couple of chances on the break to try and put the game away. The best chance came for Anthony Zappala, but his curling effort from distance was collected by Canton back-up goalie Giovanni Ruggeri.

King Philip (3-1-2, 2-1-2) will get nearly a week off before traveling to division rival Attleboro on Wednesday. Canton (1-3-2, 1-3-1) will try to end its three-game losing streak when it hosts Sharon on Monday.

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Hockomock Loses Legend in Sharon’s Davenport

Dudley Davenport
Former Sharon boys basketball coach and athletic director Dudley Davenport, pictured here in a Sharon yearbook from early in his career, passed away suddenly last week at the age of 81. He was recognized for his impact on the Hockomock League with the naming of the Davenport division in his honor. (Photo courtesy of Sharon High)

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In 1961, then Sharon High principal James Dowd brought in a young science teacher and handed him the reigns to the school’s boys basketball program. The new coach, who held the Westport High scoring record of 1,529 points and played at the University of Rhode Island, would spend 23 years on the Sharon bench and amass an impressive record of 328-114, turning the Eagles into a perennial power not only in the Hockomock League but across the state and making Sharon basketball games must-attend events for the whole school.

Under his guidance, the Eagles won five league titles, made the tournament 19 times, reached 10 semifinals, and the got to the finals four times. He stopped coaching after the 1982-83 season and six years later was inducted into the Mass. Basketball Coaches Association (MBCA) Hall of Fame. On top of his coaching duties, he also spent nearly 30 years as the school’s athletic director and oversaw numerous changes in Sharon’s sports programs, including the introduction of a football program and the expansion of girls’ sports offerings.

But the legacy of Dudley Davenport extends far beyond the basketball court and even beyond the town of Sharon. His legacy encompasses the entire Hockomock League, which he promoted for five decades, and the countless people that he impacted in his roles as coach, teacher, athletic director, camp counselor, and league executive secretary. Even more than his accomplishments in sports, what most people mention is his sense of humor, his larger than life persona, and the encouragement he exuded.

On May 15, Davenport passed away unexpectedly in his Westport, Mass. home at the age of 81. It is a loss not only for Sharon but for the whole Hockomock community.

“Dud was a Hockomock League giant in just about every way,” said Canton athletic director Danny Erickson, who knew Davenport from his days as a player, as well as coach and AD. “You can’t meet Dudley and not be impressed with the magnitude of the person and personality that he is. He makes everybody feel valued and he makes everybody feel good.”

Joel Peckham came to Sharon a couple years after Davenport, who had already established himself as the varsity basketball coach. Peckham took over the baseball program from Davenport (who joked at Peckham’s final home game in 2015 that the job had been stolen from him) and also joined the basketball staff as coach of the freshman team. “I was the wise young guy who showed up who they had to put in my place,” Peckham said this week about Davenport and fellow assistant coach Basil Cronin (who passed away last summer). “He was a tremendous figure, in some ways a father figure for me. It’s an incredible loss.”

Former Mansfield High boys basketball coach Stu Hershman played for Davenport during those heady days when Sharon was a consistent presence in the annual Tech Tournament and made several trips to the Boston Garden, including a state final appearance in 1972. His family also ran the Sharon Country Day Camp where Davenport spent summers as the athletic director.

“He wasn’t just a coach,” said Hershman. “He was a teacher and a friend and he really cared about you. You felt it. After the basketball games, it was like a big family and he would invite everybody back to the house, parents, everybody, and it was just a nice atmosphere.”

The Hornets qualified for the tournament under Hershman in the days when teams needed to win 70 percent of their games to get in and Davenport attended the first playoff game that Hershman coached. “When I got into coaching, I wanted to be just like him,” Hershman said. He added with a laugh, “It didn’t turn out that way with the record.”

“He was king and he had so much success,” Peckham said. What he recalled most was all the fun moments that the coaches had getting together after every game at Davenport’s house, win or lose. “Always with good cheer, even in some of the worst losses, where we would lose big games, we would laugh and have a good time,” he explained.

Davenport is pictured at an award ceremony later in his career as athletic director. (Courtesy of Sharon High)

Former Sharon field hockey and girls lacrosse coach Peg Arguimbau has been connected with the Davenport family for decades. Her father was James Dowd, who hired Davenport at Sharon High. She had Davenport as a science teacher as a freshman, was a babysitter for the Davenport’s children, was a counselor with Davenport at the Sharon Country Day Camp, and he even convinced her to begin officiating basketball and field hockey, something that she continued for more than 20 years. Their relationship was closer to family.

“He just had an upbeat positive outlook,” Arguimbau said. “He had a great basketball record and people respected that but I think they also respected just how he treated people.” When asked what he was like as an athletic director, she replied, “As a coach, you need someone to support you when you hit the bumps in the road, whether it be athletes or parents or other coaches or whatever, and you could always go to him. His door was always open.”

She explained that Davenport would do things like grow his hair out until the team qualified for the tournament and would walk the halls with a “shaggy buzzcut.” It was the little things that endeared him to the school community. “It was a good time to be involved and he was the head of it,” she said. “I was just fortunate to be able to know him on so many different levels.”

Oliver Ames principal Wes Paul first met Davenport while playing in the Championship Basketball School, which Davenport was a counselor at during the summers. When Paul got into administration at OA, Davenport was the league’s executive secretary and Paul leaned on him for historical perspective and guidance when making decisions that would impact the league. “The Hockomock League was great not because of us,” he said. “It was on the backs of Dudley’s generation and before. He’s been in this room, he needs to be heard, and he needs to weigh in on this.”

When the league made the decision to expand in 2011, adding Attleboro first and then Taunton and Milford the following year, the athletic directors and principals decided to honor Davenport’s impact on the league by naming the small-school division in his honor. “It was absolutely a slam dunk,” said Paul. “It was like, that’s not even enough, but it’s a great start to pay tribute to his legacy.”

Former Franklin athletic director Brad Sidwell was one of the leading proponents for the naming of the Davenport division, crediting Davenport for explaining the league’s traditions to the young ADs. “He was always just very positive,” Sidwell said. ”He was just a great guy who got it. He really enjoyed the camaraderie between the ADs and the schools and the communities.”

A banner that hangs in the Sharon High gym honoring Davenport’s hall of fame coaching career and tenure as AD. (Courtesy of Sharon High)

Erickson also praised Davenport for setting him straight when he came into the league wanting to make instant changes. “He was not ever opposed to change but he made someone like me, who was really anxious to make some moves, really take a breath and go about things in a more thoughtful way,” Erickson said. “Looking back on that years later, he was a big part in my own growth on how to implement change in a positive way.”

Even up until a few days before he passed, Dudley Davenport was sharing messages, commenting, and liking posts on Facebook, remaining in touch with the numerous people who he had come into contact with during his long career. He continued to be a presence, a “giant” that the league would greatly miss.

“He was just a really good example of someone who believes that athletics are very educational and they are great for our kids,” said Sidwell. Paul added, “It’s hard to find the complete package and that’s why he’s a legend. He had the focus on others, not on himself and that’s a really special quality.” Hershman said, “It wasn’t just the coaching. There was something about him that made him special. He’s a great role model. It wasn’t about him, it was always about the kids.”

While talking about Davenport’s legacy, Peckham paused, taking a second to reflect on his time with his friend and said simply, “I miss him.”

Peckham continued, “He was a close friend and a really wonderful supporter. He helped me a lot. He helped me grow up. I came here as a young guy, full of piss and vinegar, and Dud was the one to suggest to me that I could be a little different at times.

“His legacy is one that no one will ever completely live up to. Others may establish their own, but he had it all going for him.”

(Editor’s Note – Donations in Dudley Davenport’s memory can be made to the Davenport Scholarship Fund c/o Sharon Credit Union, 30 Pond St. Sharon, MA 02067.)

Milford Clinches Davenport Title With Dramatic Win

Milford boys soccer
Milford’s Jordan Borges plays a ball forward while being defended by Canton’s Paolo Ruggeri in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
MILFORD, Mass. – Heading into Thursday evening’s matchup with Canton, the Milford boys soccer team needed just one point to clinch at least a share of its first Davenport division title.

But that’s not what head coach Brian Edwards told his team.

Edwards told his team it was a must-win in order to become Davenport champions.

“We didn’t want to share,” Edwards said.

His team responded, using a goal in the final five minutes to earn a dramatic 3-2 win over the visiting Bulldogs. It marks Milford’s first ever Hockomock Davenport division title, and the program’s first league title since 1999 when it won the Mid-Wach A crown.

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“I told them before the game they had to play for the win, and they are all about that,” Edwards said. “I thought this was one of the most entertaining games I’ve seen in a long time. I thought both teams just played incredibly hard, played good soccer…you saw contrasting styles but either team could have won this game.”

It was only fitting that the game had a dramatic ending after it was filled with goal scoring chances, terrific saves, solid defense, and timely goals.

The build-up started just before midfield at the beginning of the 77th minute with junior Jordan Borges electing to keep possession instead of forcing anything up field. He found sophomore Leo Coelho on the right flank, and Coelho quickly switched fields to senior Tiago Carvalho.

Carvalho slid a pass back up the middle to Borges, who used a deft touch with the outside of his right foot to get free from a defender. The junior took a touch towards goal and ripped a hard, dipping shot that found the side netting on the far post for a 3-2 lead in the final moments of the game.

“It was a great ball, my teammates put me in a great spot and I just happened to finish it,” Borges said. “Everybody has their chances on this team, we play together as a team, this was my chance. When I hit it, I knew right away when it came off my foot, it was pretty sweet.

“Our goal was to win the league title after we got into the playoffs. Coming in today, we knew Canton was a tough team so we felt like it was a must win. It was the best feeling to get the goal late and win the game.”

It was Borges’ third goal of the season, giving him seven points on the season.

“What a baller,” Edwards said of Borges. “That’s the kind of goal we expect froma Jordan. He’s the kind of player who does all of that hard work, like Tiago Carvalho and Joao Boaventura, those three guys do so much work and don’t get a ton of headlines. They don’t always show up in the scoresheet…but Jordan deserves that goal. He’s a three-year varsity player, he works tirelessly. He watches film more than I do, he’s always trying to improve. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

The final goal was the fifth of the second half alone. The teams played a scoreless 40 minutes to begin the game before the fireworks began in the second half.

It took Canton less than five minutes into the second half to get on the scoreboard. Senior Paolo Ruggeri drew a foul on the left flank and senior Paul Corcoran stood over ready to deliver a cross.

Corcoran whipped in a service but the ball eluded a pair of Canton runners. However, it was enough to freeze Milford keeper Josh Orellana (eight saves) and the ball hit off the far post and in for a 1-0 lead in the 44th minute.

Canton saw its advantage evaporate just minutes later as the Hawks pulled even with an immediate response. In the 46th minute, senior Joey Madden used a long throw-in into the area and the Canton clearance was knocked down by Joao Vitor Neiva. The block went right to the feet of sophomore Lucas Da Silva all alone at the far post and he blasted his shot in for make it 1-1.

“It was important just to kind of take a little gas out of their engine,” Edwards said of replying right away. “They’re already a great team, and when they get up on you, they can be incredible because they are so confident and the style they play can be difficult to come back against so coming back so quickly was vital.”

The chances continued for both sides as Ruggeri saw his shot go just over the bar in the 48th, and Borges had a header saved in the 50th minute.

Back on the other end, Griffin Roach latched onto a long throw from Corcoran behind a defender, made a nice move by another Scarlet Hawk, and ripped a low shot that was turned aside by Orellana. The rebound fell right back to Roach and he put hit his shot into the what appeared to be an open goal but Da Silva positioned himself perfectly on the goal line and cleared it away to keep the game level.

Milford capitalized on the goal line stop three minutes later to take its first lead of the game. After a nice combination from Walisson de Oliveira and Neiva, the latter was dispossessed by a nice tackle from Avery Minkin atop the area. Before Canton could clear, de Oliveira jumped onto the ball, raced to the end line and played a low cross back into the area and Neiva slid in-between a trio of Canton defenders to tap it in at the near post.

Similar to how Milford erased Canton’s lead in moments, the Bulldogs returned the favor by tying the game just two minutes later. Again it was a long throw from Corcoran that got things started. His throw was knocked down in the area right to the foot of senior Simon Cruz and he quickly one-timed a shot just inside the post to make it 2-2.

The next scoring chance was Borges’ game-winner in the 77th minute.

“We settled down a bit at the end,” Edwards said of the final 15 minutes of the game. “We really didn’t play our style for most of that game, we kind of got caught up in the moment and I think our inexperience in this type of game showed. We have experience but not in a game like this. Beside the last game of last year against Nipmuc, this is the closest thing we’ve had to a playoff game. I thought we were a bit too direct at times but we settled it down at the end and as you saw, good things happened.”

While the first half didn’t have any scoring, it wasn’t for a lack of chances. The first half had just as many scoring opportunities as the second half, and even saw Canton find the back of the net only for a whistle to take it off the board.

In the 19th minute, Cruz latched onto a loose ball and looked to play Roach in. Cruz was taken down on the play and as Roach turned and hit a shot that found the back of the net, the ref whistled for a foul on the play against Cruz.

Canton nearly scored on the ensuing free kick as well. Roach ripped his shot over the wall but Orellana came up with a key one-handed stop to keep it out.

“First off, hats to Milford for winning the Davenport, they deserve it,” said longtime Canton head coach Danny Erickson. “They are a great team and they are a real dangerous team, I’m real impressed with them. Having said that, I thought we played really well in the first half. I thought we dominated the entire half and I was really disappointed that we scored a goal that really would have made a difference and the referee had blown the whistle early. It happens, ref’s are fallible, it happens. That goal would have a big difference for us. But Milford put us under a lot of pressure the last 15 minutes of the game and they deserve to win that game. I’m real proud of my kids. We didn’t lose the Davenport today, we lost it over the last couple of weeks when we didn’t get some of the results we needed.

“When we wake up tomorrow and can worry about the future, today will have helped us. But it stings right now.”

Milford raced down the other end and nearly opened the scoring. After beating a couple of defenders, de Oliveira’s shot was blocked by a slide from Corcoran. The ball popped into the air and de Oliveira was first there, getting a head that went over the keeper but Canton senior Mike Mazzola covered perfectly, heading the chance off the line and out.

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In the 33rd minute, the Bulldogs had a pair of great chances, again starting with a free kick from road. Roach drilled a dipping shot from 30 yards out that forced a low save from Orellana. The rebound fell to the feet of Alejandro Correal and he put a good shot on goal but Orellana got up and made a spectacular sprawling effort to get in the way to keep the shot out.

“We could have been down 3-0 in that first half if not for the play of Josh Orellana,” Edwards said. “He made some outstanding saves to keep us in that game. Thankfully he did because that could have been a very different game.”

Milford’s two best chances of the first half came in the final five minutes. Coeleho linked up with de Oliveira in the area but the junior’s header glanced just wide in the 36th minute. And in the final minute of the half, de Oliveira worked his way past a pair of Canton defenders before playing Neiva in alone. Neiva was forced a touch wide by keeper Dylan Coyne and sophomore Matt Giglio recovered to block the shot.

Milford boys soccer (10-1-5 overall, 9-1-5 Hockomock) returns to action on Friday against non-league rival Hopedale, and finishes the season on Monday at Stoughton. Canton (9-4-4, 8-4-3) closes the regular season out on Saturday against Foxboro.

Attleboro Cashes In Late To Take Down Canton

Attleboro boys soccer
Canton’s Paul Corcoran (left) challenges Attleboro’s Aidan Lancaster in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Attleboro head coach Peter Pereira knew he needed junior outside back Josh Smith to have a strong game defensively.

Not only did Smith deliver, he gave a little extra.

Smith scored his first career goal in the 71st minute to break open a scoreless game to help the Bombardiers take a 2-0 decision over Canton in their season opener.

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“More importantly than the goal, he defended their best player,” Pereira said. “We were trying to find someone to finish, we tried subbing too. It was good for Josh to get it. He’s a solid player, he’s not a flashy player but he’s very smart.”

For the majority of the game, Smith was tasked with dealing with a Bulldogs’ offense that scored four goals in their season opener just days earlier against Marshfield. But he was able to give Attleboro the lead just inside the final 10 minutes.

After a free kick was partially cleared by the Bulldogs’ defense, junior Michael Russo delivers a service back into the area. Sophomore Joey Soucy ran onto it and fired a one-time shot from in close. Canton keeper Alejandro Correal made a terrific first save but the rebound popped loose and Smith was there to tap it in for a 1-0 lead.

“It was a good win, the kids are excited,” Pereira said. Attleboro was the last of the 12 Hockomock teams to kickoff its 2018 campaign. “They’ve been ready to go, everyone else has been playing. They were nervous in the first half but then we settled down and it was a totally different team out there for us in the second half.”

The game was loaded was chances for both sides but it wasn’t until Smith’s goal in the final 10 minutes either side broke through.

With Canton down a goal and pushing for an equalizer, Attleboro senior Will Halben gained possession just over half after a turnover. He went at the defense with pace, getting by his mark and rifling a shot into the far corner to make it 2-0 in the 77th minute.

“Towards the end of the game, when you’re up by a goal, he can be deadly,” Pereira said of Halben, who has been the Bombardiers’ leading scorer for the past two years. “He had a couple of chances earlier too and he’ll get a couple of those each game, but it was nice to have him finish.”

The Bulldogs had the better of play for the first 40 minutes but couldn’t find the back of the net. Griffin Roach had a header off Paul Corcoran’s throw-in saved by Attleboro keeper Andre Menard in the opening 15 minutes.

The best chance came off the foot of TJ McCabe. After winning possession near midfield, the sophomore beat off two defenders to gain some space before ripping a hard shot from 25 yards out that just sailed over the crossbar.

“You can’t play 40 minutes of the first half where you’re really on your front foot dominating and not score a goal and think you’re going to win a game, you can’t do that in the Hockomock League,” said Canton head coach Danny Erickson, now in his 26th season at the helm of the Bulldogs.

“Attleboro is too good a team for that. I thought we played great soccer today, pretty much start to finish. I thought the second half was even, we both had some chances. I thought we dominated the first half but Attleboro was clean with a couple finishes in the end and that was the difference. But that was a great Hockomock League game. We could have come out on top but Attleboro deserved it today.”

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The first half hour of the second half was full of goal scoring chances, including two from Canton inside the first 15 minutes. Corcoran linked up with McCabe, who found Cruz but his chance was turned aside. Two minutes later, Roach once again got his head on a throw by Corcoran but it went just over the bar.

Attleboro countered two minutes later when Brady Holander’s service connected to Justin Lurssen but Correal made a nice diving save to keep the game level.

The Bombardiers next best chance came 10 minutes later when Eli Araujo played Halben into space behind the defense and the senior got past Correal but was forced wide enough by the keeper where his tough angle shot went high.

“The first half, they had the play and then in the second half I thought we outplayed them a little bit,” Pereira said. “They are a good team, they play physical, they play quick, they have size. That was a good game. You knew whoever got the first goal was going to get the win. We ended up with two nice ones.”

Attleboro boys soccer (1-0 Hockomock, 1-0 overall) faces another stiff challenge on Wednesday when it welcomes Mansfield (2-0) to Tozier-Cassidy Field. Canton (0-1, 1-1) will try to bounce back when it hits the road to take on Foxboro on the same day.

Boys Soccer: 2018 Davenport Division Preview

2018 Davenport Boys Soccer Preview
North Attleboro’s Joe Hilf (right) and the rest of the Rocketeers are ready to defend the division title. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2018 Davenport Boys Soccer Preview

Canton

2017 Record: 10-5-4
2017 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Coach: Danny Erickson

The Bulldogs have been one of the top offensive teams over the past two seasons, and that trend will likely continue with the personnel returning this season. The goal this season is to equal that success on the defensive end of the field.

“We have had lots of success the past two seasons in scoring goals but we have not been stingy enough with allowing goals,” said Canton head coach Danny Erickson.

Hockomock League leading scorer Paul Corcoran is back for his senior season and has been one of the top producers in the final third over the past two seasons. His nine goals in 2016 helped earn him HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year honors and last year he led the Hock with 15 goals and 23 total points. He is joined by HockomockSports.com Best XI selection Griffin Roach in the midfield. Roach is one of the best two-way players in the league and will undoubtedly be relied upon to help both the offense (10 goals, five assists last year) and the defense. Simon Cruz is another player with a good amount of varsity experience that will likely factor in.

While the offense looks to be in good shape, shoring up the defense won’t be easy after losing starting goalie Abe Garber and center back John Agnitti. However, Erickson can rely on Paolo Ruggeri to lead the way in the back. Ruggeri has a ton of varsity experience and will be the quarterback of the defense, organizing and keeping the back four in shape. Junior Alejandro Correal will step in as the starting keeper.

Foxboro

2017 Record: 11-5-4
2017 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Joe Franchino

Foxboro head coach Joe Franchino isn’t afraid to talk about how confident he is in this year’s team.

“The Hockomock title is coming to Foxboro,” Franchino said.

Although Foxboro graduated a dozen seniors, the players that the Warriors do return are the reason why Franchino is so confident in this group. Starting up top, Foxboro has both of its strikers back, including leading scorer Shane VandenBoom. Last year, VandenBoom was second in the league in the regular season with 21 points, scoring 12 goals and adding nine assists. He will be joined up top by Dylan Barreira, who had a strong sophomore season.

In the midfield, everything will run through junior Joe Cusack. There aren’t many midfielders that have the poise on the ball that Cusack does and he will likely be the engine for the team. He isn’t the biggest player on the pitch but his vision is among the best and his ability to play balls over the top and through the defense make Foxboro’s offense very dangerous. Nic Beigel will complement Cusack in the middle to give the Warriors a solid 1-2 combo.

Defensively, the Warriors are hoping to see more of the same after only allowing 15 goals through 18 regular season games. The good news is that Foxboro has plenty of experience returning in the back with Matt Garcia, Brian Gardner, and Will Regan back in the fold. Franchino stressed that the team must put defense first and buy into the system, and then the team can go forward — an area the Warriors are very confident in.

Milford

2017 Record: 7-8-3
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Brian Edwards

After missing out on the postseason by just one game, the 2018 Scarlet Hawks are laser-focused on making it into the state tournament and having a run at the division title.

Third-year head coach Brian Edwards saw his team go from four wins to seven over the first two years and is hoping that upward trend will continue in 2018.

“We are looking to build upon the lessons learned last year,” Edwards said. “We want to work on maintaining focus and closing games out this season. With many players coming back for their third varsity season we are hopeful that our experience helps us work towards our goals this season.”

One big reason for optimism is junior Walisson De Oliveira, who exploded as one of the best offensive threats in the league in the second half of the season. After playing in the midfield for half the year, Edwards moved De Oliveira up top and the move paid off big time. The striker scored 14 goals (second most in the Hock) and had three assists.

In the midfield, the Hawks boast a trio of talented and experienced players. Tiago Carvalho, Joao Boaventura, and Jordan Borges have all shown improvement over the offseason and will be counted on to handle the middle of the pitch. Seniors Joey Madden and Zach Brown return to anchor the defensive unit in front of senior goalie Cam Doherty.

North Attleboro

2017 Record: 11-2-6 (Davenport Division Champions)
2017 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Coach: Geoff Burgess

Despite graduating over a dozen seniors from last year’s Davenport division-winning squad, North Attleboro head coach Geoff Burgess believes his team will be ready to defend its league title.

The Rocketeers will have to find a replacement for HockomockSports.com Best XI selections Gabe Pinhancos (center mid) and Brendan Matracia (goalie), as well as the entire back line, but Burgess does have options to fill the voids.

“I’m excited to see what this group can accomplish,” Burgess said. “We have a good nucleus of talented players and high expectations.”

Senior striker Joe Hilf was second on the team in points last year after scoring six goals and adding two assists and Big Red also has junior midfielders Dylan Corrigan (four goals, three assists) and James Sale back in the fold. All three have plenty of varsity experience and should be major factors for North this season. Junior Joey Coscarella will see more playing time as well this season.

Senior captain Evan Rosenberg will step in at center back to anchor the new back four. Burgess is also optimistic about his options in net with junior Kyle Briere taking over as the starter.

Sharon

2017 Record: 5-9-4
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Bryan Kelly

Only one year removed from winning the Davenport title, Sharon is hoping its versatility will help get them back to the top of what is shaping up to be a very competitive division.

“We have some dynamic players this year which gives us the ability to use different formations making it difficult for teams to plan for us,” said Sharon coach Bryan Kelly. “We have a rotation of players who can play two or more positions and play them well. If we stick to our game plan, we will be a tough team to reckon with.”

The Eagles have a strong core of returning players that Kelly can build off of. Ethan Kantor is back for his third year in goal and will be the leader of the defense. Alex Dias returns from a torn ACL to take up one of the outside back positions. Kelly expects Brendan Arnold and Daniel Gunduz to step up on defense this season.

In the midfield, junior Michael Baur (HockomockSports.com Second XI selection) will be a key piece and help the Eagles transition from defense to offense. Baur is also one of the more dangerous free kick takers in the league. Baur will work with the speedy Isaiah Stessman and Norway-transfer Viktor Schneider on the wings in the midfield.

Kelly is looking for junior Brian Higgins and Daniel Lillenfeld to form a dynamic partnership up top while Antonio Elkoury and Eli Berkowitz can step in and provide depth in both the midfield and up front.

Stoughton

2017 Record: 1-16-1
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Joshua Aubin

After three straight years in the playoffs, the Black Knights had a down season a year ago but new head coach Joshua Aubin is anxious to get Stoughton back into playoff contention.

“This is definitely a team that is not afraid to get down and dirty,” Aubin said. “We’ve got some scrappy players who will not be backing down from the challenges ahead.”

Stoughton will be relying on its 10 seniors to set the pace this season, starting with captain Fabi Ponce de Leon. In his fourth year on varsity, Ponce de Leon will be the engine in the middle of the field and help facilitate things for the Black Knights. Aubin is looking for some new faces to step up around Ponce de Leon to take some pressure off the senior and give him some space. Fellow captain John Ortiz will be a leader for a defensive group that is looking to improve on last season.

All-Hockomock selection Carter Gerome returns as the starting goalie for the Black Knights.

“We do have a lot of athletes where we hope to be able to maximize on their individual abilities,” Aubin said. “We have a little bit of everything – some height, some speed, some strength, some physicalness, and some finesse.”

Foxboro, Canton Settle For Draw In Davenport Clash

Foxboro boys soccer
Canton’s Griffin Roach (left) and Foxboro’s Dylan Barreira battle for possession in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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FOXBORO, Mass. – With the wind at its back, Foxboro boys soccer had nearly a dozen legitimate scoring chances in the second half alone, but walked away from Sam Berns Community Field with a 1-1 draw against visiting Canton.

The strong wind helped dictate the play in both halves. Canton benefitted in the first half, while Foxboro took advantage in the second half.

“That was one of those games,” said Foxboro head coach Joe Franchino. “We were banging on the door, just not getting one of them in. [Soccer] can be a brutal game, and we ended up with just the point.”

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Canton came out strong despite being on the road. It took less than two minutes for the Bulldogs to register a scoring chance as Simon Cruz set Griffin Roach up for a chance just inside the area, but Roach’s shot went wide at the far post.

Four minutes later, the Bulldogs created another chance and this time, chased in. A deflected clearance fell right back into the area and Canton junior Paulo Ruggeri did well to use his body to shield some space, taking the ball down and placing it in from close range to make it 1-0.

Bulldogs senior keeper Abe Garber made one of his several stellar saves in the eighth minute, denying Foxboro sophomore Dylan Barreira at the near post after being sent in behind the defense by Shane VandenBoom.

Canton nearly doubled the lead in the 17th minute when junior Paul Corcoran found Cruz atop the area, but Foxboro goalie Bobby Harrison – who was well off his line — got just a touch to the shot and the ball was cleared away.

Foxboro found the equalizer in the 18th minute. After a throw from Matt Garcia found its way over the top of Canton’s defense, Foxboro senior Ryan Kelley barreled his way through traffic, eventually getting the last touch off the front of his head and in from close range to tie it 1-1.

“To give up a goal within the first 10 minutes and then to get it back in the first half is a lot of credit to the guys,” Franchino said. “They kept fighting and didn’t give in, even against the wind.

“We had the chances in the second half, but it can be a brutal game sometimes.”

With the wind making it difficult for Canton to clear its own zone, Foxboro put the pressure on to try and score the go-ahead goal.

In the 38th minute, Hussein Kafel served a cross from the left side that VandenBoom ran onto at the near post, but his touch was over the bar.

Kelley nearly found a second tally when he got his head to Barreira’s corner in the 39th minute, but the senior couldn’t get all of it.

Just two minutes later, Garber robbed Kelley of his second goal. Kelley dribbled past a pair of Canton defenders and ripped a shot at the near post, but Garber did well to get down and make the stop.

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Nic Beigel had his chance just four minutes later when he weaved his way through the defense and had a go, but once again Garber was in great position to knock the shot away at the near post.

In the 69th minute, VandenBoom hooked up with Barreira once again, but the sophomore’s shot at the near post was just inches over the bar. VandenBoom had a chance himself a minute later when he tracked down a ball over the top, but he couldn’t get over his volley and his shot was just high.

Foxboro finally had Garber beat in the 77th minute when an errant header found Barreira, who placed his shot at the far post outside the reach of Garber. However, Canton defender Mike Mazzola was in the right spot and got a touch on it, with Garber smothering the rebound.

The Warriors had a final chance in the 78th minute when Garcia placed a perfect service into the area that VandenBoom got his head to, but Garber grabbed his final save to preserve the point.

“On the day, I didn’t think it was much of a contest in the second half,” admitted Canton head coach Danny Erickson. “They played very well, kudos to Foxboro. I thought they were the better side, we were unable to find any part of our game…we couldn’t connect passes, we weren’t winning challenges.

“Abe was the one positive I thought. He was very clean and bailed us out a couple of times. But kudos to Foxboro, that’s a hard working group. They changed the point of attack well and we didn’t open our mouths on defense. We have a lot to work on.”

Both sides came into Tuesday’s contest with a mathematical chance at the Davenport, but North Attleboro clinched the division with a win at Milford. Foxboro boys soccer (10-4-3 overall, 8-4-3 Hockomock) will host the Rocketeers on Thursday night to close the regular season.

“We want to make a deep run in the tournament,” Franchino said. “There was a lot of hype for that game, and even though it’s not for the title anymore, they can make a statement going into the playoffs. We fought to the end today, but it didn’t turn out in our way. We were so close though.”

Canton (8-4-4, 7-4-4) will entertain Stoughton on Friday before heading to Marshfield on Monday to conclude the regular season.

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Foxboro, Canton Trade Late Goals in Draw

Canton boys soccer
Foxboro’s Dylan Barreira is defended by Canton’s John Agnitti in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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CANTON, Mass. — Canton took an early lead, only to see Foxboro find the equalizer just over 10 minutes later.

Foxboro took its turn with the lead, netting the go-ahead goal late in the second half, only for Canton to respond with the tying tally seven minutes later.

The result was a 2-2 tie at Veterans Memorial Field and a key point for both sides in a Davenport division clash.

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“I was proud that we bounced back,” said Canton head coach Danny Erickson after going down a goal inside the final 15 minutes. “I thought that we gave up two soft goals today. Foxboro played really hard and really tough had a had a great first half. They really challenged us and we had to change some things at halftime and I thought we did and got on our front foot. They took their chances though.”

The Bulldogs cashed in less than 10 minutes into the game, taking advantage of a long throw from junior Paul Corcoran. The service found its way into the area, and after a scrum in front of the goal, senior Jake Verille found the back of the net to go up 1-0.

“It definitely could have gone one of two ways,” admitted Foxboro head coach Joe Franchino after the early deficit. “We could have put our heads down but the guys fought back and got the goal back within about 15 minutes or so. The guys stuck together. Then they continued to fight all game. We didn’t get the result we wanted but we fought hard all game.”

Canton nearly doubled its lead in the 15th minute when a loose ball fell to Griffin Roach just inside the area. The junior connected his boot to the ball on the bounce, sending a shot destined to go right under the bar but Foxboro senior goalie Bobby Harrison made a last second class save, tipping the ball over for a corner.

That save proved beneficial for the Warriors, as they leveled the match just over five minutes later. After most of the play was in Foxboro’s defensive third, the Warriors broke out on the counter.

Foxboro senior Cam Cass sent a service to the far post, and an errant header from Canton put the ball right at the feet of sophomore Dylan Barreira and he buried his close-range bid to level the match.

The Warriors put another one in just minutes later on a training ground routine on a corner kick. The corner was played short and let through on a dummy, allowing Ryan Kelley to place his shot to the far post but Cantons senior goalie Abe Garber was quick to get down and make the stop.

Foxboro started the second half on the right foot, as Cass nearly set up another tally. This time, he sent a low service to the near post that found Shane VandenBoom but he was defended perfectly by Canton’s Chris Milne and he blocked the touch at the near post.

Canton had an immediate response and nearly re-took the lead in the 50th minute. Roach made a darting run with possession into the area and ripped a shot to the near post. Harrison made the initial save but it looked as though the Bulldogs had a chance to bury the rebound, but Foxboro’s Matt Rongione made the clearance.

It was the Warrior’s turn for a chance in the 54th minute when sophomore Joe Cusack laid a perfect ball over the top for Kelley, but his near side bid hit off the post and stayed out.

Ten minutes later, Foxboro was finally able to break through again. A Canton clearance was blocked down and the ball fell right to VandenBoom, who took a couple touches forward before lofting a perfectly weighted ball over Garber and just under the bar to make it 2-1.

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Foxboro nearly put the game away just moments later when Cusack sprang Kelley in, but Garber did nicely to stop the shot at the near post.

After a Canton free kick was cleared, Milne released a shot from distance that forced Harrison to tip the ball over the bar. On the ensuing corner kick, it looked as though the service was going to go over everyone and out for a throw.

But instead, Corcoran tracked it down, using an acrobatic bicycle kick to keep the ball in and keep possession with the Bulldogs. The ball ended up back with Roach at the top of the area but his shot was blocked. However, the ball fell right to the feet of Corcoran on the six-yard line and he made no mistake about his chance from close, making it 2-2.

“That was great hard word by Pauly to get us that goal,” Erickson said. “I thought overall it was pretty good performance. We had some tired legs, we played yesterday. It’s not an excuse, but you could tell. We weren’t very clean in the final third. Foxboro was good on the day, it was a good game and I think the result was fair.”

“We can learn from today, we’ve seen them now too so that helps,” Franchino added. “I think the only thing they were dangerous on was the log throw and they have some big guys up front. But for the most part, I thought we were the better team.

“Bobby made some big saves. And then we had some few chances ourselves. So it was back and forth, so 2-2 is a fair result.”

Rongione had one final chance just before the final whistle, ripping a shot from distance but it just sailed over the crossbar.

Canton boys soccer (4-2-2 overall, 3-2-2 Hockomock) finishes up its first trip through the Davenport schedule with a trip to Stoughton on Monday. Foxboro (4-2-2, 3-2-2) also wraps its first trip through the division schedule with a trip to unbeaten North Attleboro.

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Boys Soccer: 2017 Davenport Division Preview

2017 Davenport Division Preview
Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2017 Davenport Boys Soccer Preview

Canton

2016 Record: 8-7-5
2016 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Coach: Danny Erickson

After playing a good handful of juniors and sophomores during the 2016 season, the Bulldogs look to be an experienced group heading into this year. Leading the way will be senior and two-time captain Jake Verille, who leads the Bulldogs from the middle of the pitch. Fellow captain Abe Garber is back for another year in net and senior captain John Agnitti with anchor the defensive line.

Verille, a HockomockSports.com Best XI selection last season, has been one of the top playmakers the past two years. On top of Verille’s offensive ability, Canton also returns junior Paul Corcoran – the team’s leading scorer (nine goals) and the HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year. Alongside Corcoran, the Bulldogs have a slew of juniors with varsity experience including Griffin Roach, Simon Cruz, Paulo Ruggeri and Avery Minkin that will all factor into the attack.

“We are confident that we will be able to keep the ball and attack this year,” said Canton head coach Danny Erickson. “The chances should be created, but we will need to finish. We will also need to defend as a group of 11 MUCH better than we did last season.”

Foxboro

2016 Record: 6-9-4
2016 Finish: Reached D3 South First Round
Coach: Joe Franchino

After graduating just five seniors last season, head coach Joe Franchino brings back the majority of squad that had just one loss in its last eight regular season games in 2016. However, two of those five players – Anthony Barreira (two-time Best XI selection) & AJ Bubencik (now playing at Mass. Maritime) – were four year players and will be tough to replace.

The good news is that while the Warriors were young a year ago, a good portion of the team has at least a season of varsity experience under its belt. Senior captain Shawn McNamara, now in his fourth year starting for the Warriors, will lead the way along with fellow captains Matt Rongione and Ryan Kelley. Senior Cam Cass also has plenty of experience and will be relied upon as a playmaker. Junior Shane Vandenboom had a strong sophomore season and will be an important piece in the midfield along classmate Nic Beigel and senior Hussiein Kafel.

Seniors Bobby Harrison will be the starting goalie for the Warriors.

“Coming into my third year, I am confident the team has bought into the system and I’m really looking forward to see how they compete,” Franchino said. “We have experienced senior and junior classes with a couple of sophomores to watch out for. We may not have a target on our back but when it’s all said and done, I believe we have the team to win! I believe in this group and really excited to see what they accomplish.”

Milford

2016 Record: 4-10-4
2016 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Brian Edwards

The Scarlet Hawks are looking to take the next step in year two with Brian Edwards at the helm. After just four wins a season ago, Edwards is hoping that the experience gained by his younger players will translate into more success this time around.

Midfielder Andre Oliveira will be a key piece for Edwards and the Scarlet Hawks, helping both the offense and defense. Oliveira’s ability to transition from defense to offense will be key for the Scarlet Hawks this season. On the defensive side of the ball, senior Jacob Balzarini is back in the center of the defense. After getting plenty of time in that spot last season, Balzarini will be the anchor of the backline this year. On top of Oliveira and Balzaini, Edwards is looking for new players to step up and make an impact.

“I’m looking for us to be a team that stresses balance,” Edwards said. “I am hopeful that the experience many of these guys gained last year translates into more success in the standings. I am also excited to see what the new guys bring to the squad. There are a bunch of hungry young players that want to make their mark on this team and in this league.”

North Attleboro

2016 Record: 2-10-6
2016 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Geoff Burgess

North Attleboro boasts over a dozen seniors on the 2017 version of the Red Rocketeers and head coach Geoff Burgess is hoping that experience will translate into success on the field.

Leading the way will be senior and 2016 HockomockSports.com Second XI selection Gabe Pinhancos, who has been Big Red’s field general for the past couple of seasons. Josh Rodriguez and Ryan Pasquel are also back this season to help bolster the midfield. Junior Joe Hilf and senior Jeff Gale will be relied upon to pace North Attleboro’s offense.

Big Red’s biggest strength could be in the back, having a defensive unit with plenty of experience. Noah Barney and Zach Matracia both saw significant time and will be joined by classmates Andrew Fontaine and Kevin Aguilar. That defensive unit will be in front of senior goalie Brendan Matracia.

“I am hoping that we are going to be a team on the rise this year,” said Burgess. “I have a strong senior class and we’ve had a good summer and an even better preseason.”

Sharon

2016 Record: 11-4-4 (Davenport Division Champions)
2016 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Coach: Bryan Kelly

The defending Davenport division champs will boast a large senior class (14) but will also rely on some younger players as they look to win back-to-back Hock titles.

The Eagles’ tri-captains will provide leadership in each part of the pitch, with senior center back Shubo Roy-Chowdury on the back line, senior Tyler Hippler leading the midfield and senior Spencer Hall up front. Sharon’s attack will bolstered by seniors Marques Benton and Andy Reyes-Jones, who both saw plenty of time up top a year ago. Meanwhile, sophomore Michael Baur is back after a standout freshman season and classmates Isaiah Stessman, Brian Higgins and freshman Brice Nathan will all play a role in helping the Eagles go forward.

Maybe the biggest advantage the Eagles have is returning keeper Ethan Kantor. The junior had a terrific season in net a year ago and will be the backbone of the team’s defense.

“With a solid defense that is smart and has speed, we should be able to keep up with fast offenses while not losing the capability to support a potent offense,” said SHS head coach Bryan Kelly. “Overall, we are solid from goal to forwards, it just depends on if we can put the ball in the back of the net.”

Stoughton

2016 Record: 8-9-2
2016 Finish: Reached D2 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Chris Suchorski

Stoughton will be looking to make it back again to the postseason, this time under first-year head coach Chris Suchorski. The Black Knights just made it in a season ago but it marked the third straight year for the program.

Suchorski is tasked with replacing 12 seniors that graduated from last year’s team. However, all of the players he is returning all saw varsity time last season and that should soften the blow dealt by graduation. Senior Tyler Melo (six points) is back and will likely be a vital part of the Black Knights’ midfield and attack. Junior Fabio Ponce de Leon (six points) begins his third season on varsity and will once again be one the Black Knights’ top offensive options. Brian Peoples also returns as one of the team’s top playmakers.

The biggest question could come with the back four, as the Black Knights must find a replacement for 2016 Best XI selection Goddy Fombe, who anchored the back line the past two season the sweeper position.

Eagles Win at Canton to Clinch State Tournament Berth

Sharon boys soccer
Andrew Reyes-Jones celebrates the game-winning goal against Canton on Saturday afternoon that sealed a state tournament berth for the Eagles. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – Two days of rain forced the game to be moved from its home field, but Sharon did not seem bothered by having to play at Canton for a second time or to be without two of its starting midfielders.

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The Eagles locked down defensively, with keeper Ethan Kantor largely untroubled by the Canton attack, and got second half goals from Andrew Reyes-Jones and Ben Stamm to walk away with a 2-0 victory that clinched a spot in the state tournament and extended Sharon’s lead in the Davenport division to four points over the Bulldogs.

“We’ve been talking about the importance of getting these two points,” said Sharon coach Bryan Kelly. “This puts us in. That’s great; now we’re playing for seeding.”

The weather forced the game to be played on Canton’s turf pitch rather than the grass at Sharon and that decision looked prescient when the skies opened up during warmups and the pitch was deluged by rain through almost the entire first half.

The downpour had its effect on the opening 40 minutes with the ball skidding around and both teams struggling to create any scoring chances from open play. Both teams relied on set pieces to get the ball into the attacking third with Sharon’s TTyler Hippler sending in a number of long free kicks and long throws into the box.

Canton’s best chances fell to Jake Verille in the 19th minute and to Sam Papakonstantino a minute later but the first effort sliced wide and the second was easily held by Kantor. That would be the lone save that the Sharon keeper was forced to make.

“We had no attack today,” admitted Canton coach Danny Erickson. “They pressured very well and we didn’t handle it. Tackles were all Sharon, everything in both boxes were Sharon and they clearly deserved to win today.”

The best chance of the opening half came on a Hippler throw that fell to Jeffrey Gao, who managed to flick a shot to the far corner where Canton keeper Abe Garber was able to tip it around the post. On the ensuing corner Shalin Patel headed over.

The sun came out just before halftime and the Eagles seemed to gain energy from the changing weather. The second half saw Sharon push forward and look far more dangerous in the attacking third.

“We’ve been looking for the diagonal ball and we haven’t been hitting it, so we just need to continue to do that and win the ball,” said Kelly about the second half surge. “We weren’t doing much in the first half and once we started to do that in the second half the game really changed.”

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That change in momentum created the opening goal nine minutes after the break. Hippler squared a pass from the right into Stamm on the edge of the box and he turned his defender before laying the ball into the path of Reyes-Jones. The junior took a touch past his marker before firing a shot inside the far post for what turned out to be the game-winner.

“Ben Stamm was the difference tonight,” Kelly explained. “Getting that solid touch, the first-time ball, nice turn on it to Andy and Andy put it home. Without Ben in the middle there, it’s a different game.”

Six minutes after the goal, Reyes-Jones nearly played provider with a through ball to Spencer Hall but his shot was saved by Garber. Canton had only one clear chance from the run of play in the second half when Griffin Roach turned on the edge of the box after a Paul Corcoran throw but his shot slid wide of the post.

The only chances that Canton was able to manage came on free kicks and corners with Matas Leveckis having a couple of headers in the box that he was not able to put on target.

Erickson said, “Our only chances were on set pieces and we never really got any test on them. It was a tough one for us today.”

With the game winding down, Canton was caught with everyone up field and a quick ball played over the top sprung Stamm, who was onside because he started the run in his own half. Stamm beat Garber to the ball, touched it past the keeper and then walked it in for the goal that settled the game.

When asked if he felt a little better after the second goal, Kelly laughed and responded, “Absolutely, that second one was, thank you…thank you.”

Sharon qualified for the postseason for the third straight season. The past two years have seen the Eagles get knocked out on the road in the opening round and Kelly said that the team is intent on changing that this fall.

He said, “The important thing is my boys aren’t focused on that first game. We want to get through that first game, we don’t want it to end in the first game this year.”

Sharon (8-3-3, 7-3-3) will step outside the league on Monday to face Norwood, before getting back into Hockomock play against Stoughton the following day. A win against the Black Knights would clinch at least a share of the Davenport crown for the Eagles, the program’s first league title since back-to-back championships in 1993 and 1994.

Canton (6-5-4, 5-5-3) needs two points to clinch a spot in the postseason and will next face Foxboro on Tuesday night.

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Ruggeri Goal, Garber Save Lift Canton to Win

Canton boys soccer
Canton scored off a first half free kick and it was all the Bulldogs needed to pull out a win against Milford on Saturday night. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)
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CANTON, Mass. – In a game that featured aggressive pressing in the midfield and disciplined back lines that maintained their shapes and proved hard to break down, scoring chances were always going to be at a premium.

Canton took advantage of a set piece opportunity to take the lead in the first half, as Paolo Ruggeri flicked home a free kick for the lead, and the Bulldogs got a full stretch save from Abe Garber with eight minutes remaining to pull out a 1-0 victory on Saturday evening against Milford at World War II Veterans Memorial Field.

“I thought we played really, really well,” said Canton coach Danny Erickson. “Milford played a lot of guys at the back…they were very disciplined and were hard to break down…I thought goals were going to be hard to come by after 10-15 minutes and we were right.”

The Bulldogs had the game’s first chance in the opening two minutes but Jake Verille‘s shot from distance was deflected and easily held by Milford keeper Danny Zwonik. Five minutes later, Milford had its first shot on goal when Marcello Panno’s header from a corner was tipped over the bar by a back pedaling Garber.

In the ninth minute came the break through. Canton had started the game well and pushed the Hawks back, which led to a foul on the left side of the box. Griffin Roach served the ball into the box and it was side footed towards goal by Ruggeri. The ball hit the underside of the bar, landed and then was headed home by Ben Waterhouse, but the official said that the initial shot had crossed the line.

“We worked on restarts yesterday, so we’re really happy about that,” said Erickson.

The game settled into a midfield stalemate for the majority of the first 40 minutes. Milford absorbed the Canton pressure and kept the Bulldogs from getting the ball into dangerous areas. In the 25th minute, Verille sent in a corner that was met at the far post by Dillon Anderson but his shot was saved by Zwonik. Two minutes later Zwonik got down well to his left to keep a long free kick attempt by Verille from sneaking inside the post.

Milford had one great chance with three minutes to halftime. Garber’s mis-hit goal kick surprised his defender Matas Leveckis and allowed Mike Webber to cut in and intercept. The Milford forward pulled his shot just wide of the post.

The Hawks started to find more space in the second half with Pedro Sampaio, Tiago Carvalho, and Panno getting on the ball more often and being able to create. Milford also started to find success with diagonal balls towards the fullbacks that got its playmakers in one-on-one situations rather than the crowded midfield.

A long throw by Joey Madden in the 47th minute was headed on by Panno but Carvalho nodded his shot wide from the middle of the box. In the 69th minute, Panno again rose above the defense but his headed chance from Sampaio’s corner was easily held by Garber.

Canton’s two best chances to that point in the second half had both fallen to Roach but he had sent his shots narrowly past the post with Milford keeper Luke Capobianco at full stretch both times. In the 71st minute, the Bulldogs had another opportunity when left back John Agnitti’s long diagonal found Paul Corcoran on the edge of the box. After a touch to create room, Corcoran’s shot was saved by Capobianco.

According to first-year head coach Brian Edwards, Milford’s defensive effort was the perfect response to the six goals that the Hawks gave up to Stoughton on Tuesday.

“I have no complaints defensively,” Edwards said. “After the performance we had on Tuesday, this was a completely different team. I’m happy with the performance if not the result…These guys have great character, so I wasn’t surprised by the reaction.”

Milford would create its best chance of the game in the 72nd minute. A throw-in on the near sideline (at a spot that was disputed by the Canton bench) found Sampaio, who turned his defender and found room on his left foot at the edge of the box. He unleashed a shot that looked destined for the bottom corner until Garber dove to his left and got a strong hand to turn it around the post.

“Great, great save by the keeper,” said Edwards.

Erickson added, “They certainly could have had a goal at the end but Abe came up with a big save. Abe didn’t have to do anything until he needed to and that’s what you need from a goalkeeper.”

Canton was able to run out the clock and take home the two points, but the losing coach was pleased with what he saw from his team, particularly in the second half.

“I actually thought we played really well,” Edwards said. “We weren’t able to get the ball in the net but I thought we created a good number of chances. At first we had a hard time dealing with the physicality they brought but I thought we adjusted…we just weren’t able to finish today.”

Canton (2-2) will host Sharon on Monday night, while Milford (1-4) will try to get back on track with the visit of Foxboro.