NORTH EASTON, Mass. – A late goal from North Attleboro nearly led to the end of Oliver Ames’ season during last year’s playoffs.
It’s safe to say the Tigers learned their lesson.
In last year’s D2 South Sectional quarterfinal matchup, Oliver Ames boys soccer saw a lead disappear in the final minutes of regulation before pulling out a victory in the extra rounds of penalty kicks.
Fast forward to the first game of the 2020 season, and while the on-field product certainly looks a bit different under the current circumstances, the Tigers found themselves in the same situation: control of the game but only a 1-0 lead to show for it.
Oliver Ames’ experience was on full display as the Tigers made sure to slam the door shut this time around, opening the season up with a 3-0 win over the Rocketeers.
Similar to a year ago, Oliver Ames jumped in front with a goal inside the opening 20 minutes but couldn’t solve the Rocketeers’ defense and keeper David Floyd over the next two quarters — yes, soccer in 2020 means four quarters.
When North Attleboro finally found itself with some time in the attacking third, the Tigers turned the tables by doubling their lead on the break to make it 2-0, and tacked on an insurance goal five minutes later.
“[North Attleboro] is very disciplined,” said Oliver Ames head coach John Barata. “Geoff [Burgess] does a phenomenal job organizing the back four and then they have another line in front of that, so two lines of defense…they are very good at it. We have to do a lot of training to try and find a way to break them down. But then you throw the new rules in, and you throw in that it’s the first game of the season, this was a good first run at it in a real competitive environment.”
The first 60 minutes (or three quarters) belonged to the Tigers, with the Tigers knocking on the door in the 13th minute (a hard shot from Mathias Taylor denied by Floyd) and in the 17th minute (a Colin Milliken shot from inside the area turned aside by Floyd) before the hosts were able to breakthrough.
Milliken’s quick switch — taking a feed from the right side of the pitch and quickly changing the point of attack to the left side — put the ball at the feet of senior Kevin Louhis, who took advantage of the space he was given and deposited a low hard shot inside the far post for a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute.
“Honestly, the ball that killed us in the first half was a ball that normally could have been cleaned up with a header,” said North Attleboro head coach Geoff Burgess. “They played it every time and got Kevin in behind us and how do you defend it? I knew that’s how they’d play so I thought we had a good game plan to try to slow him and we kind of kept him under wraps but the way they move the ball so quickly from side to side, even as organized as we were with our back six, they were just too fast.”
OA continued to pressure but without anything to show for it. Anthony DaCosta had a shot from atop the area saved and then a combination between Michael Haikal and Louhis resulted in a shot from the latter that forced a diving save from Floyd; North Attleboro’s Kyle Robinson was first to the ball to clear it.
North Attleboro’s best chance of the first half came after a miscue from the Tigers in their own defensive third. Ryan Adams-Lopez was quick to intercept a pass out of the back but his bid on net was handled by OA keeper Drew Nickla.
“It’s an interesting dynamic,” Barata said of the effect the modifications have. “It feels like there’s a different intensity level in these games, we’re trying to get the guys to up their urgency. It almost seems that since they can’t challenge hard without it being a foul, they are almost holding back a little bit. But, that aside, once we’re out there playing, it’s great to watch them play even if it’s different. And we have a good style for this opportunity so we’re okay with it.”
North Attleboro Boys Soccer
Oliver Ames Boys Soccer
It didn’t take long for OA to threaten in the second half as Matthew Nikiciuk rocketed a shot off the post a minute in, and Taylor’s cheeky touch over a defender forced a fingertip stop from Floyd in the box.
North Attleboro’s defense made life difficult for the Tigers, who had a majority of the possession but spent a lot of time trying to find a way past the Rocketeers’ packed in defensive group. North’s Donovan Carter had a pair of big plays just minutes apart, winning a one-on-one battle to stop a chance on goal and blocking a shot moments later. Carter’s centerback partner Justin Silva denied a through ball attempt right after as OA continued to push forward.
“The gameplan was to park the bus and we wanted to create through our outside guys but the problem was we couldn’t hold the ball long enough to create anything,” Burgess said. “But credit to [OA], they create a hurried energy so you’re under stress all the time. But I’m starting eight seniors, there should be some composure there and we should be able to pull that off. Not that we have a lot of time to prepare for them Wednesday, but we need to be able to execute that going forward.”
The Rocketeers finally got their offense going at the start of the fourth quarter as junior Brody Rosenberg played speedy senior Matt Conley into some space but his centering pass in the area went without an answer.
North earned a corner moments later but a miscue resulted in a quick counter for the hosts. Taylor quickly cleared the ball up to Louhis, who played it to a streaking DaCosta. DaCosta carried the ball with pace, forcing the lone defender to commit before sliding it back to Louhis, who finished under the sliding keeper for a 2-0 lead in the 66th minute.
“We needed more offense but they don’t let you sustain it for very long with their pressure,” Burgess said. “The kid in the middle [Nikiciuk], he’s just so quick to the ball. He’s so good at disrupting, he does a good job of ruining plays we want to run. We knew what we wanted to do, we just couldn’t execute it which is a credit to them.”
Five minutes later, freshman Joey Carney combined with DaCosta off of a kick-in, the former using a fake to fool the defender before dropping a perfectly placed cross to Milliken, who positioned himself between three defenders. Milliken took the ball down off his chest and use a deft touch with the outside of his right foot to find the back of the net for a 3-0 advantage in the 71st minute.
“We’re very confident that no one is going to give us space because we know that if they do, we can most likely take advantage of it,” Barata said. “We just have to find a way to beat teams when they pack it in a bit. We want the space, we want to be able to run a bit and we’re hoping teams will try to run with us.
“[North] is very good in transition, they are good fast going forward. I just think that we did a good job of pinning them back in their own half for close to 90% of the game. We were definitely on the front foot in this game but we know they’ll make some adjustments and they’ll challenge us again Wednesday.”
Oliver Ames (1-0 Davenport, 1-0 overall) will travel to North Attleboro (0-1, 0-1) for a rematch on Wednesday night at 6:00.
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: North Attleboro Wrestling
2016 Davenport Division Champions
2016 Division 2 State Champions
The North Attleboro wrestling program has been one of the most successful in the state since its inception in 1987, and the past decade was no exception. And one of the most successful seasons in its history came in 2016 as the Rocketeers won championships at multiple levels and set numerous program records.
The Rocketeers posted a 24-1 record that season, dominating competition against in-state foes with its lone loss against national powerhouse Mt. Anthony out of Vermont. Not only did the group go unbeaten against Hockomock League opponents to claim the Davenport division title, North Attleboro claimed a handful of tournament wins including the Marshfield Holiday Tournament, and tournaments held at Whitman-Hanson and Cumberland (RI). At the Hockomock Championships meet, four Rocketeers won individual titles and North Attleboro won with an impressive 254 points.
“It’s only a target if you believe it is,” said North Attleboro head coach Wayne Griffin after winning the Hockomock Championship meet. Assistant coaches that season were Dan Thibeault, Ray Sturdy, Geoff Burgess, and Andrew McDonald. “We talked about it this morning. I told the kids that there will be a target on our backs but we can’t worry about it. We just have to focus on today, focus on wrestling today, and get through each match one at a time. I think it’s helped the kids keep perspective as each day goes by. We can’t worry about other things, we had to focus on getting through today first.”
After tying the program for wins in a season (24), North Attleboro continued its success in the postseason. At the D2 South Sectional meet, 10 Rocketeers reached the finals (out of 14 total weight classes) and five went to win sectional titles to help the team post 287.5 points, over 80 more than second-place Hingham. In total, the Rocketeers had 14 grapplers finish top five and it was the program’s 16th sectional title. Alex Devitto (126), Nick Gould (145), Jack Donahue (170), Nick Morrison (182), and Brennan Sankey (285) each walked away a sectional champion.
North Attleboro went on to win the Massachusetts Interscholastic Wrestling Coaches Association (MIWCA) D2 Dual Meet tournament as well as the MIAA D2 State Championship, a display of how well rounded the group was. Although the Rocketeers didn’t have an individual champion at the D2 State meet, North Attleboro’s depth was on full display as three Rocketeers reached the finals and eight members of the group finished top six for a total of 141 points; Central Catholic finished second with 111 points.
The program received the GoldLevel Academic Excellence Award for the 15th time that year, recorded the most pins (316) and wins (534) in a single season in program history and Devin Spratt (120) set the career record for most pins with 91. The MIWCA honored Mike Renzi with its Hall of Fame Award and the coaches were honored by The Boston Globe as Coaches of the Year.
SHARON, Mass. – North Attleboro has a lot of experience in dealing with the pressure of dual meets that can decide a league championship. It is essentially something that the Rocketeers deal with every season, but for Sharon this was a rare opportunity.
With a crowded gym cheering them on, the Eagles continued their historic season by putting together a solid team effort and handing North Attleboro a 37-19 loss. The win clinches Sharon at least a share of the Davenport division title, its first league dual meet crown. If the Eagles win the final meet against Stoughton, it would end North’s run of five straight league title across the Kelley-Rex and Davenport divisions.
“It feels great,” said Sharon coach Jeff Sonis. “The kids have put in so much work. We have kids come back and workout with them all the time. The kids deserve all the credit, they do all the wrestling, doing all the clubs and camps. They do everything it takes to win.”
North coach Geoff Burgess knew that his team was in for a tough night against the Eagles, particularly with an open spot at 120 that would be a free six points for Sharon. He praised the hosts for the effort that they put in during the off-season workouts.
“Their kids put in all the hard work in the off-season,” he said. “They were all at club. They were religious about it too, there every day, so they deserve it. Their kids wrestled fantastic tonight.”
It was hardly a runaway win for Sharon, as the teams combined for only three pins on the night and none of those pins occurred before the third period of a match.
The turning point of the meet came in the ninth match. At 220 pounds (the meet started at 132), Keysun Wise led 2-0 heading into the third period. Rhamsez Thevenin had a reversal to tie the match, only for Wise to escape and regain the lead. Inside the final minute, Thevenin thought he had won it with another near fall, but again Wise managed to escape with just 12 seconds remaining to send the match into overtime at 4-4.
In overtime, Thevenin didn’t settle for just getting the takedown that would win it, he also followed through and got the pin and six points for his team, pushing the lead to 24-12 and ratcheting up the noise in the gym to a new level.
“The pin at 220 by Rhamsez was huge for us in overtime,” Sonis explained. “We tell our kids all the time to fight through overtime, a pin in overtime counts the same. I think it was the turning point. That goes the other way and things would be a lot closer than I would’ve liked.”
John Kummer followed that match with a solid 11-0 win at 285 pounds, but he was frustrated in his attempts to get the pin right back and had to settle for four points for North. Adam Landstein continued his excellent season with a 10-2 victory at 106 and Ben Shocket scored a 13-11 victory over Alex Yan at 113 to put Sharon up 31-16.
Shocket’s win basically sealed the meet and title, as a walk-over at 120 meant six more points for the Eagles. Ethan Smith closed out the meet with a 10-5 victory at 126, but the three points were only consolation for the Rocketeers.
“Nice home crowd, chance to win a league championship, and every single dual meet is like this for them where it comes down to every bout and they just won all the close bouts,” said Burgess. “We just weren’t tough enough. We probably could’ve won four more bouts, they were that close.”
Sharon built an early lead through the first four matches. After Chris Galligan opened the meet with a 6-1 win at 132 pounds, the Eagles won four straight to jump in front. Aaron Cashton rolled to a 9-2 win at 138, Max Pozner had a pair of takedowns in the third period to win 10-5 at 145, Kirit Gossety won 7-1 at 152, and Tyler Freedman closed out his match with a third period pin to make it 15-3 overall.
Austin Dean won 7-0 at 170 pounds to get North three points back and Mike Edmonds grabbed six points with a pin inside the final minute of the third period at 182. Eric Rabkin put Sharon back in front by six (18-12) when his third period escape proved to be the only scoring in a 1-0 win against Alex Warsofsky at 195.
“I tell my kids all the time that dual meets can come down to a kid not getting pinned, a kid losing only by seven,” Burgess said. “There are numerous instances in our past where the moral victory is sometimes just as good as the actual victory.”
Sharon has had good teams in the past and individual wrestlers who have brought home titles at state and New England meets, but the Eagles had never broken through and won a league championship before this season.
When asked what separated this year’s team from others in the past, Sonis replied, “We have a lot of depth. We have 28 kids with a varsity win. We have 45 kids who work hard at practice. They work hard, they push each other, we have great leadership from the seniors, and the kids rally behind each other. I think they really enjoy being with each other.”
Sharon (21-2) will head to North Attleboro for the league cross-over quad meet on Saturday on before closing out the league campaign against Stoughton on Wednesday. North Attleboro (9-8) will host the quad and face-off against Franklin, King Philip, and Taunton before hosting Foxboro next Wednesday.
SOMERSET, Mass. – North Attleboro allowed only 13 goals in 18 games during the regular season and that disciplined, organized defense was on full display again on Monday afternoon at Somerset-Berkley in the first round of the playoffs.
The Rocketeers held the hosts to only two shots on goal, as North keeper Kyle Briere was largely untroubled in earning his ninth clean sheet of the season (and third in a row). With the defense in control, Matt Mordini’s first half strike turned out to be all North needed to beat the Raiders 1-0 and set up a quarterfinal against Hock rival Oliver Ames.
“I thought we played our brand of soccer and we had to possess a little more than we normally do and I thought we did a really nice job,” said North coach Geoff Burgess. “We’re still missing the timing of our runs forward to get in behind, but that’s always been a work in progress. We defended well. I think they had one legitimate chance where they go in behind us.”
The hosts started the game well, moving the ball around and keeping possession, but failed to generate any chances, whether it was a shot or just putting the ball into the penalty area. The North back line of Jeremy Folan, Donovan Carter, Justin Silva, and James Bush kept everything in front of them and bottled up the Somerset-Berkley forwards.
Defending began in the midfield, where the Rocketeers kept up the pressure and consistently stymied attacks high up the pitch.
Burgess explained, “That has come from our preparations for Milford. We know how good their midfield is so we worked really hard on our midfield defending. If we can hang with that midfield, there isn’t a midfield that is going to outrun us or outperform us.”
North’s offense was relying on quick transitions to get the ball to Mordini up top. It proved to be effective, as the Rocketeers had several chances to grab the lead in the opening 20 minutes.
Joey Coscarella played a ball into Andrew Tolfa in the center of the field and his pass to Matt Conley on the right wing caused confusion between the defender and goalie. Conley nearly pounced on the loose ball but the keeper was able to dive on it and cover. Two minutes later Mordini was played in behind the left back by an Alex Pfeffer flick, but his shot was sliced well wide.
In the 31st minute, North had a deserved lead. It came from a quick break out to Conley on the righthand side. He cut inside of the fullback and teed up Mordini on the edge of the box. The striker took a touch before finding the bottom corner.
“Mordini is a work in progress,” Burgess said. “He was playing outside left early on and we moved him to that striker position and kind of moved some pieces around. I think he’s a budding striker. He has good instincts and he’s got a pretty good shot.”
Somerset-Berkley closed the half with a flurry, registering its only two shots on goal. Briere had to be out quick to block a chance for the forward in the right channel and then was able to make a diving stop on a powerful header off a corner. The ball pinballed around in the box for a minute and the Raiders started to celebrate a goal only to have it wiped away for a foul.
North could have been excused for trying to lock things down in the second half and just hold onto its one-goal lead, but instead the Rocketeers dominated the ball and had numerous opportunities to double the advantage. Burgess admitted that it was nerve-wracking watching chance after chance go by without a second goal.
“You know how that goes, a missed opportunity down here turns into a set piece or something down there and what happens, you give up that lead you’ve had all game long,” Burgess joked. “I was proud of the boys.”
The first chance fell to Mordini, who rose highest to meet a Tolfa free kick, but his header flashed wide of the post. Three minutes later James Sales played a give-and-go with Coscarella on the edge of the box to create shooting space, but he dragged his shot inches wide. The duo combined again just minutes later with Sales forcing a save from the keeper.
Mordini ended up with North’s best chance of the second half when the Raiders defender and keeper allowed a ball to bounce between them. He nicked the ball away and had a wide open goal to aim for, but only found the side netting.
Coscarella took advantage of a poor goal kick to have a left-footed shot that was saved, Tolfa tried his luck from 30 yards and his dipping shot flew narrowly over the bar, and Conley got in behind the left back only to have two players run offsides as he tried to pass it across the goal.
It turned out the one goal was enough and North Attleboro (9-6-4) celebrated a playoff victory and the chance to take on the Kelley-Rex division champion Oliver Ames on Thursday night.
Burgess said, “I’m excited about Thursday because we play them tough and these guys are motivated.”
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The state tournament doesn’t start until next week, but the North Attleboro boys soccer team got a head start in its final week of the regular season.
The Rocketeers’ final two opponents — Foxboro and Mansfield — head into their season finale’s needing points to qualify for the state tournament. The Warriors, who visited Beaupre Field on Tuesday afternoon, needed one point (a draw or win) while Mansfield needs a win on Thursday afternoon.
North Attleboro passed its first test, scoring a goal in each half to secure a 2-0 win over Foxboro and deny the Warriors a postseason berth.
“You go down against them, how many goals have they’ve given up all year? Not many,” said Foxboro head coach Joe Franchino. “They stay compact and keep it tight. To be fair, they were the better team. Our passing was just a little bit off, I think our intensity from the start wasn’t there. So give credit to them, they came out and beat us today.”
The hosts, who entered the contest with a playoff berth secured via a second-place finish in the Davenport, learned a valuable lesson from their first matchup with Foxboro. Despite taking an early lead, North Attleboro saw the Warriors score back-to-back goals to earn a comeback win.
“We’ve had moments where we scored first, like we did against them last time, and fell asleep,” Burgess said. “So we’ve been really conscious about that. But when we [get a lead] and decide to park the bus, we’re pretty confident. We knew they were going to push because they had to, and as soon as we scored that just kind of fed right into the game plan.
“We saw on film where there were moments that [Foxboro] defended with two guys. I know [Matt] Mordini is faster than half of the defenders in the league, and I know [Matt] Conley is faster than all the defenders in the league. So that gives us a great chance to surprise people.”
This time around, the Warriors need to score played right into the game plan of the hosts. With a defense-first mentally, the Rocketeers’ counter-attack style led to a handful of breakout chances, mostly in the second half after taking a 2-0 lead.
Despite missing out on a golden chance three minutes into the game, the Rocketeers did jump in front on their second chance which came in the 24th minute. Goalie Kyle Briere launched a deep ball over the top of the Foxboro defense that Joey Coscarella made a run onto. The bounce eluded Coscarella, but the run drew a defender free of Matt Mordini, who was able to just get his shot off before the oncoming keeper, placing it into the top corner for a 1-0 lead.
Foxboro’s best chances of the opening half came off free kicks. Junior Dylan Barreira put a shot on goal from 20 yards out but Briere (eight saves) was in position for the stop. Joe Cusack set up the other chance in the 34th minute, putting a free kick into the area but Tim Behn’s bid was over the bar.
“It seemed like we were building out of the back in the first half and we just couldn’t find that final pass,” Franchino said. “They were putting a lot of pressure on our back four. I think we were off in completing passes, breaking lines in the middle third. We didn’t try to play direct, there was some space behind but we didn’t have the intensity. But give credit to North, they came and played well today.”
The game really opened up after North Attleboro doubled its lead just under four minutes into the second half. Mordini played a ball wide to Matt Conley, who got a touch to center the ball and Coscarella latched onto a half volley, finding the bottom right corner to make it 2-0.
From that point on, the Rocketeers had a handful of chances to add to its lead but couldn’t solve Foxboro keeper Dylan Tierney (10 saves). Foxboro had its share of chances but only came up with a pair of serious threats against Briere.
Just minutes after the second goal, another long ball from Briere found Mordini but Tierney made a big one-on-one stop and the rebound fell back into the keepers’ arms. Six minutes later, North senior Alex Pfeffer got a hold of a clearance that forced Tierney into a terrific diving save.
Foxboro junior Jeremy Neale kept the game at a two-goal deficit in the 55th minute by clearing a chance off the line. After Tierney made the initial stop on Coscarella, Mordini’s follow up chance was inches away from crossing the line until Neale intervened.
A change in formation led to more chances for Foxboro over the final 20 minutes. Cusack found Barreira at the back post on a free kick, but Barreira’s high touch was corralled by Briere. Two minutes later, Barreira had back-to-back free kick chances but the first was saved by Briere and the second just skipped wide at the post.
With Foxboro pushing, North’s counter-attack was on as Conley got in behind on a partial breakaway but Tierney came up with another big stop.
Barreira, who was almost always surrounded by a sea of red jerseys, had a shot blocked in the 67th and the loose ball fell to Will Morrison, but his blast went over the bar in the 67th minute. Max Beigel played a quick 1-2 with Barreira but his shot from atop the area was gobbled up in the 75th minute.
Briere put an exclamation point on the shutout with a terrific diving save in the 78th minute, robbing Barreira on a free kick from just outside the area.
“That was a big part coming in, we knew they’d come at us full boar cause they needed the game, they needed a point,” Burgess said. “Mansfield is in the same situation on Thursday so we have a chance to treat both of these games like playoff games. I think it’s great preparation going forward.
“We focused on taking Barreira out of the game, we moved [James] Sales to a different position, he was playing the six instead of the 10. Every set piece, he was always around Barreira, because he killed us last time as he probably he does a lot of teams.”
With Foxboro needing just a point entering the game, Franchino was asked if there was any thought about playing a similar defensive-first style that North plays, but the head coach noted the team was looking for a win to get in.
“That’s not the style we play, we could have had a draw to go through but for me, I was looking to not play the number one seed and get over [North Attleboro], that was my mentality, that’s always my mentality,” Franchino said. “We could have [sat back from the beginning], but I think we if set back, and with the intensity we didn’t have, we would have gotten bombarded. I want to win the game, want to be confident and try to instill that in my players.”
North Attleboro (8-5-3 Hockomock, 8-6-3 overall) will host Mansfield in both teams’ regular season finale on Thursday. The Hornets are unbeaten in seven straight with four straight wins and need a fifth straight in order to qualify for the state tournament. Foxboro finishes the season at 7-8-3.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – It was a clash of styles on Wednesday evening at Beaupre Field as North Attleboro hosted Milford boys soccer in a battle of two of the top teams in the Davenport division.
The Hawks are one of the top offenses in the league with a handful of skilled players that can break down opposing defenses at will at times. On the flip side, the Rocketeers emphasize defense first with plenty of numbers behind the ball and then look to hit on the counter.
The game played out accordingly as Milford controlled the majority of possession but didn’t create a ton of chances against North’s strong defense. And the Rocketeers’ best chances came counter trying to get in behind the Hawks’ defense.
The difference came just moments into the second half as Milford capitalized on a North Attleboro miscue defensively to score the only goal and grab a 1-0 win on the road.
“Kudos to Geoff [Burgess], his team is so well-coached and so well organized, you have to be on your toes the entire game,” said Milford head coach Brian Edwards. “If you make one mistake, they will capitalize. We were fortunate they didn’t score on that header right before half, and if they do it’s 1-0 and we probably don’t win that game.
“They are a really tough team to move the ball against. They are athletic, they are disciplined, they don’t give you any good chances. They all communicate well and they all tackle well. That’s the best team we’ve seen all year easily.”
The best chance for each side in the opening half came in the final five minutes. Junior Leo Coelho connected with senior Pedro Araujo, and the Hawks’ striker played the ball wide for freshman Nick Ribeiro. Ribeiro got to the ball first, beating the keeper lower but his shot clanked off the near post and his rebound bid went over the bar.
North nearly struck in the 40th minute when senior Joey Coscarella whipped in a cross from the right sideline and classmate Matt Mordini elevated over his defender but his header was just off target to keep the game scoreless.
After a lack of real chances in the first half, Milford came out in the second half and had three real good chances. Milford capitalized on the first one, just seconds in, as Araujo pounced on an errant pass between North defenders, getting just enough on his shot to North keeper Kyle Briere and the ball trickled over the line for the lone goal.
“You know what they want to do, but we know what we are and we’re a team that’s best going forward,” Edwards said. “We trust our players to not make a mistake that will let them punish us. We weren’t going to change how we play because of their game, we just made some adjustments. They really force you to be focused the entire game.
“They give you some space and you want to take that extra touch, and you want to try and break them down, but sometimes it’s really difficult when you have that space because you fall into that trap. But I thought we did a good enough job today, even without getting many quality chances. They always have three or four guys behind the ball so its tough to create a lot.”
Milford’s offense got some life from the goal as Coelho was able to create some space and rip a left-footed blast that was just high, clanking off the football goal post and bouncing into the net. And in the 43rd minute, Lucas Da Silva took a pass from Coelho and blasted a shot from inside the area but it was wide at the far post.
North Attleboro coach Geoff Burgess called a timeout to relax his squad, and the break worked out as the Rocketeers returned to form, with a stingy defense and wing players streaking down the sideline on the counter.
Coscarella combined with classmate James Sales, playing Sales in behind the defense but Milford keeper Kevin Gomes was quick off his line to thwart the bid. The duo combined again five minutes later but the shot rolled wide.
“I thought after the start of the second half, I thought we upped our level of play,” Burgess said. “We had one mistake [defensively]. We had a couple of chances with through balls, with Sales and Coscarella linking up, and the offsides call was pretty close. Those were three great chances there. I don’t think too many teams are breaking down them like that because they have the four backs plus the holding [midfielder] in front.”
Briere did well to come off his line in the 65th minute to deny a connection from Coelho to Araujo, forcing the shot to go wide.
The Rocketeers thought they had the equalizer in the 66th minute as Matt Conley laid a pass off for Sales, who beat the keeper, but it was ruled Sales was in an offside position.
“Our mantra is stay disciplined, keep the ball in front, intercept passes, and get out on the break,” Burgess said. “That was what we did tonight, and you saw, once we get rolling we can be pretty dangerous. We just have to put it in the back of the net.”
Both teams had chances in the final moments as Araujo flashed a header wide a the near post after a service from Gabe Alvarenga for Milford, Conley had his header go over the bar off a free kick from Andrew Tolfa, and North defender Jeremy Folan won a key challenge in the box in the final minute.
Milford boys soccer (5-0-1 Hockomock, 5-0-1 overall) travels to Taunton on Friday while North Attleboro (3-3-0, 3-3-0) visits Franklin the same day.
FOXBORO, Mass. – North Attleboro started the dual meet season 4-4, as a young roster tried to acclimate to competing at the varsity level against some of the top teams in the state. The Rocketeers have progressed over the course of the season and entered Wednesday night’s meet at Foxboro having won 10-of-12 meets.
The development of the North team was on full display against the Warriors, as the Rocketeers earned five pins as a team, won five straight matches through the middle weights to pull away, and took home a 44-21 victory that clinched a third straight Davenport title and fifth straight Hockomock dual meet championship overall.
“Beating Mansfield and now beating Foxboro in consecutive dual meets shows how hard my kids have worked and how much they’ve improved and that’s the most important thing,” said North coach Geoff Burgess. “I’m very proud of these guys and how they’ve gotten better and steadily improved over the course of the season.”
North got off to a 6-0 start, as Tanner Ferguson earned a 9-4 win at 106 pounds, scoring five unanswered points in the third period to take the victory, and Alex Yan won a 3-0 decision over T.J. Whitehouse at 113.
The 120-pound match, although only the third match of the night, was the turning point. Foxboro was counting on big points from Adam Lanctot, who is one of the top wrestlers in the state at that weight class, but he struggled to put away Ethan Smith. Leading 7-6 in the third period, Lanctot aggressively went after more points and Smith caught him, went on the attack, and got a pin that drew the loudest reaction of the night from the North bench.
“That was it,” Burgess said. “That match right there pretty much swung it. There were a bunch of coin flips but that wasn’t, they had the advantage. It’s one thing to catch a kid and put him on his back but to stick him, that was huge. That was a nine-point swing in our favor and it’s a different match if they win right there.
Foxboro coach Billy Ivatts admitted, “The match at 120 was pretty deflating. It was a tough matchup for us, a tough loss obviously there. We had a couple close matches that we thought may go the other way and really they won all the close matches.”
North responded right away. Mike Burns got a second round pin at 145 to make it 18-15 and Mike Edmonds followed with a dominating match at 152, getting three back points in the final second to earn a tech fall and the bonus points. Montrel Jackson added a pin in the first minute at 160 to put the visitors ahead 29-15.
The run continued at 170, as Max Warsofsky used a late surge to pull away for a 6-1 win and then Liam Risk pinned his opponent at 182 to make it 38-15 and seal the win and the title for North Attleboro.
“I knew it was going to be a tough task going in and it really was,” said Ivatts. “We’d love to beat North one of these times but they’ve just got the horses this year. Hopefully, we can learn from it. The season isn’t over…we’ve still got a long way to go.”
“He’s the insurance policy. As long as we’re within five points, we know we can win. I’ve never had a wrestler like Mateusz. He also has improved dramatically, even if he doesn’t always get to show how much he’s improved.”
Burgess appreciated that the rivalry, which has gone back decades, is once again decisive for the league title. He said, “The last three years it has come down to us wrestling them and we’ve been fortunate to get the best of them, but they’re always tough, they’re always well-coached.”
North Attleboro (15-6, 5-0) will head to the Div. 2 duals this weekend and Foxboro (22-5, 4-1) will wrestle at the Div. 3 duals at Ashland.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – For nearly 80 minutes, Attleboro continue to knock on the door, but couldn’t break through.
And in a flash, just when it looked like the Bombardiers had a chance to find a way in, North Attleboro delivered a knockout punch on the counter attack, scoring the lone goal of the game in the 79th minute to secure its fourth straight Leach and Garner Cup.
In the 34th addition of the rivalry game between Big Blue and Big Red, it was the hosts that had a lion’s share of possession, though not a tremendous amount of scoring chances.
It looked like they might have something going with an attacking free kick late in the game. The service came in from the right flank but North Attleboro junior goalie Kyle Briere came flying out to punch the ball free.
The Rocketeers quickly cleared the ball up field, where senior Joe Hilf did his job by holding the ball up right at midfield. That allowed North sophomore Matt Conley to come flying down the wing. Hilf played a ball in behind and Conley tracked it down. The sophomore delivered a hard cross to the far post where junior Alex Pfeffer connected on a one-timer. The shot bounced right off the ground and bounced over the outreach of Attleboro keeper Andre Mendard for the game-winning strike.
“When we started thinking about that situation was against Mansfield,” said North Attleboro head coach Geoff Burgess of the quick counter against opponents’ set pieces. “We knew when they go forward for set pieces, they push everyone but one defender up. And I think our chances with a 1-v-1 and if we get Matt Conley or one of the other guys on the outside running hard, not many teams are going to get enough numbers back in time. We hit Mansfield a couple of times with that exact situation so we started talking about using it more. Kyle knows when he comes out and catches a ball, find Joe and then everyone runs and we hit the counter.
“The first 10-15 minutes we played really well and moved the ball well but the first time we played them, we dropped hard and sat deep, and they ran out of ideas. They kept bombing it forward, we’d win the second ball and counter. And that’s how that game continued to go. It worked really well in the first game. This is what we’ve decided to play like because we’re pretty fast up front, Matt Conley on the outside is lightning, Joe Hilf is lightning. [Goalie] Kyle Briere is a stud back there, we trust him and we play out of his hands a lot. So we’ve bought into a defense first mentality so it’s just kind of what we expect now.”
While playing the counter is a dangerous weapon for the Rocketeers, it allows their opponents to mostly control the game. And that’s exactly what the Bombardiers did.
In the 18th minute, junior defender Josh Smith ventured into the offensive third and latched onto a cross from Colin Levis, but the difficult shot was wide. Six minutes later, the Bombardiers had their first bid on goal when Brady Holander placed a free kick from 30 yards out on frame but it was right at Briere.
While Attleboro controlled the play, North Attleboro nearly stole the lead right before half. On a corner from Joey Coscarella, a low service was dummied before Hilf ran onto it and delivered a hard shot on frame. Menard, who was going the other way, made a diving save back to his left and made a one-handed save to keep it out.
Hilf had another chance on the next corner but Menard pushed the header over the bar.
While Hilf had a pair of chances to find the back of the net, it was ultimately his hold up play late in the game that led to the game-winning, something that the senior has worked on to add to his game this year.
“He’s been working really hard on that,” Burgess said. “He’s a player that prefers the flicks and touches to himself but we’ve been working hard on having him bring it down, let the other guys come forward and playing it. He does a nice job with his flicks to keep the offense honest but having him bring it down and let the offense run up, we can create some chances that way.”
In the 63rd minute, Attleboro’s Aidan Lancaster saw his low shot from atop the area roll wide. North nearly countered an Attleboro corner in the 70th minute when Hilf played Matt Mordini in behind the defense by Menard came charging off his line for the clearance.
Attleboro senior Will Halben had a bid saved by Briere in the 72nd minutes, and two minutes later Levis’ low shot off a corner kick went just wide of the post.
“That’s been our entire season,” said Attleboro coach Peter Pereira. “We’ve outplayed a lot of teams but we don’t have a true finisher. We had some shots but nothing too dangerous. This is like the sixth game where we’ve made one mistake, in this case not coming back to cover, and we lose. It’s tough because the kids were looking forward to this one. Second half I thought we were better, played some good soccer but they have a good defense, a good goalie…they hold on, hold on, and then they get the break at the end but that’s why you play 80 minutes.”
North Attleboro boys soccer (6-3-8 overall, 5-3-7 Hockomock) finishes the regular season at home against Sharon on Tuesday afternoon as it tries to improve its seeding for the D2 South bracket. Attleboro (5-9-3, 5-8-3) closes its season on Monday afternoon against New Bedford.
“We think we’ll be a tough out in the tournament,” Burgess said. “We don’t give up many goes and if we can counter and hit you once, it could be enough. It’s real important to know we can strike late. I was selling this style at the beginning of the year and now they’ve bought into. So now they have the confidence they can sit, play defense and then all they need is one chance and it can be a game-winner.”
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – When the calendar turns to October, teams start keeping an eye on their rivals in the league standings and two points become even more important. North Attleboro started the night just three points back of Davenport-leading Canton, which was playing second place Milford, so the Rocketeers understood the importance of two points on Thursday night at Beaupre Field.
North dominated the first half, scoring twice, and then held off a Foxboro charge after the break, keeping the Warriors off the board until the final two minutes of the game, to walk away with a 2-1 victory that moves within one of the Bulldogs and Hawks in the league standings.
“Especially going forward, we’ve got an idea where we want to go with it now,” said North coach Geoff Burgess. “We have a plan and in the first half we executed it really well. We were able to counter them quickly, with speed.”
The hosts took that to heart on Thursday and gave an early warning to the Foxboro defense when Joe Hilf played Matt Conley in behind the Foxboro left back just two minutes into the game. There was contact, but not enough for the official to give the penalty. Hilf almost opened the scoring a minute later but dragged his shot from the edge of the box just wide.
Both teams settled into their styles after that, with North loading the midfield and looking for the quick outlet in transition and the Warriors trying to play out of the back. It was the Rocketeers that controlled the action in the opening half, limiting Foxboro to only a couple of weak shots on goal and constantly putting pressure on the visitors’ back line.
Hilf sparked North into the lead after 19 minutes. He made a long run down the far sideline, rode a sliding challenge from Brian Gardner, and got free on the right side of the box. His cut back into Conley was blocked by a couple of Warriors but the ball popped out to Alex Pfeffer in the middle and he side-footed his shot into the empty net.
Just four minutes later and the Rocketeers doubled the lead. This time it was Matt Mordini that got free down the right channel. The junior cut it back into middle for Hilf, who was left free on the edge of the box, and he hit it first time into the far corner.
Foxboro’s best look of the opening half fell to Shane Vandenboom, who hit the outside side-netting with a curling effort from 18 yards. It was about all the North defense gave up in the opening half, as center backs Evan Rosenberg and Gavin O’Malley kept the Warriors out of dangerous areas.
“They’re a great partnership,” said Burgess. “Evan especially, he was JV last year, didn’t play a minute, and I think he’s now one of the best center backs in the league. The way he plays positionally, he’s always covering in the right places, he’s quarterbacking the team.”
Foxboro coach Joe Franchino admitted, “Everybody was just on their own page…We weren’t shooting in the first half, just lumping balls in and playing right into their hands.”
In the 29th minute, North could have put the game away when James Sales’ free kick from 28 yards came back off the crossbar. Hilf almost sealed the win in the 35th minute when he nodded a long clearance by right back James Bush past his marker and got a free run on goal, but his shot went over the bar.
“He had a really good matchup in the first half,” Burgess said of Hilf. “Normally, I’d yell at him for trying to flick it snd take it himself but I think he realized that it was probably the right play. Everything kind of revolves around a target and he’s embraced that.”
Foxboro needed to make some changes at halftime and came out with more intensity, but Hilf nearly hit the Warriors on the counter when his clever dummy beat his marker, but Foxboro keeper Nick Penders was out quick to smother it.
The visitors started to get a foothold going forward, particularly through midfielder Joe Cusack, who kept popping up in between the lines and finding pockets of space where he could dictate play. He had Foxboro’s first good look that went just wide.
Chances started to flow for the Warriors. A throw-in from the left found Vandenboom, who laid it off for Daniel Basler, but his shot from 20 yards went high. A minute later, a long free kick from Daniel Lowey found Dylan Barreira’s head in the box and he nodded it down to Nic Beigel but the shot was saved.
Barreira also forced North keeper Kyle Briere into a save with a 28-yard free kick. Briere made his best stop just a few minutes later to deny Cusack at full stretch at the midway point of the half. It kept Foxboro off the board when the Warriors were clearly on top in the game.
Burgess said of his keeper, “Kyle is this great safety blanket we have because he does come up with the good when we need him to. Today he was mostly calm but he had that one good one.”
Cusack had a free kick from just outside of the box that was saved comfortably and Foxboro nearly fashioned an opener with five minutes left when Matt Garcia played the ball through to Barreira, whose header found Vandenboom but he couldn’t keep his shot down.
“Even at Franklin, we go down a goal, two goals, and we’re trying to fight back into the game,” Franchino said. “The game’s only 80 minutes long, so you’ve got to start quicker and it’s just not happening right now.”
North had one more chance with a late free kick that was played straight across the box by Joey Coscarella, but Pfeffer couldn’t put his shot on frame when he met it at the far post.
Foxboro did get one to make for an interesting final two minutes. Beigel’s free kick from the left corner of the box went through a sea of bodies in front, and possibly got a touch off a North defender, before sneaking in the far side. But, it turned out to be only a consolation for the Warriors.
“The loss Friday to Canton woke us up a little bit,” said Burgess. “We lost 3-1 but in the second half we had four almost breakaways and didn’t convert on any of them. It was very much a winnable game but I think they realized if they don’t go out and actually put the ball in the back of the net, 0-0 isn’t going to get it done.”
North Attleboro (4-1-6, 4-1-5) will next face Kelley-Rex leader Mansfield on Wednesday, while Foxboro (3-5-1, 3-5-1) will be back in action on Saturday at Bishop Feehan.