LEOMINSTER, Mass. – The playoffs have been one long road trip for Canton (14-4-4), which has logged more than 700 miles this postseason, but the No. 21 seed had managed to overcome the logistical challenges and make an improbable run to its first-ever state title game.
After a dramatic shootout win over the top seed in the semifinal, the Bulldogs carried momentum into Saturday afternoon’s Div. 2 championship game at Leominster’s Doyle Field, but a nervous start against 2013 state champ West Springfield proved too much to overcome. West Side scored twice in the first half and, despite a much better second 40 minutes from Canton, held on for a 2-0 victory.
“Hats off to West Springfield,” said Canton coach Danny Erickson. “I thought they played a great game today. They looked like they were composed from the starting whistle. I own the fact that we were a little nervous and the moment got us a little bit. That goes on the coach 100 percent. The kids were ready, which you can tell because once the game settled down I thought it was a really even game.”
Through the sting of Saturday’s defeat, Erickson was able to reflect on the remarkable run of four wins that got the Bulldogs to the final for the first time.
“Nothing but praise for the Canton Bulldogs,” he said. “I’m so proud of everything they did this year. What a run.”
The Terriers got off to a great start in the match. Just a little over a minute in, Garrett Daley cut in from the right side of the box and had a good look at goal, but his left-footed effort was tame and easily held by Canton keeper Giovanni Ruggeri.
Four minutes later, another nice move opened up the Canton defense, as Daley played the ball into center forward Lorcan Mitchell, who laid it off for Emery Sloat. Only pressure from Carson Eagles on his shoulder and Ruggeri being quick off his line prevented West Side from grabbing the early lead.
Midway through the half, West Springfield’s pressure and Canton’s hesitancy turned into the opening goal. A long throw from the left was allowed to bounce in the box. It was only partially cleared and Owen Hall pounced on the loose ball to knock it in, immediately racing to celebrate in front of the Canton fan section.
Canton finally fashioned a couple of half-chances from set pieces. Jake Mccabe, who has provided huge goals in both the quarterfinal and semifinal, had a 30-yard free kick saved, although it appeared to be going wide of the post. A few minutes later, Zach Dowling’s long free kick picked out McCabe in the box, but his header went over the bar.
With four minutes to go before the break, the lead was doubled. Another long throw, this time from Hall was directed to Daley, who rose up unchallenged on the edge of the six and flicked his header to the back post.
Erickson said, “They got two throw-in goals, which are goals and they deserved them, but once the game settled down I thought it was a really even game. We just didn’t execute early on in that half and I don’t think we were quite ready.”
The Bulldogs almost had an immediate reply, as Charlie McKinney, who hit the winning penalty in the shootout against East Longmeadow, made good progress down the left and skipped into the box, but his shot was charged down by the West Side back line.
The lynchpin for the Bulldogs this postseason has been McCabe and the Terriers made sure that he was well watched all match long.
Eight minutes after the break, McCabe’s corner was put into the mixer and West Side struggled to clear. The ball popped out to McKinney, who tried an overhead kick that the Terriers managed to block on the line. McCabe would wind up with a shot from a tight angle on the right but it was held by keeper Cathal Carney.
“We moved him around a little bit, but you’ve got to have him in dangerous places and only so many places to put him,” Erickson explained. “I was really proud of the way Jake played today. I thought the way we played in the second half and came out and competed really hard. We had the ball drop in the six and had we knocked that in then I think it would have been an interesting finish.”
While the game was more competitive in the second half, chances were harder to come by for both teams. Mitchell had a header just wide for West Side and then McCabe found a rare pocket of space 25 yards from goal and forced Carney into a save. The Terriers nearly put the game away in the 68th minute when Ruggeri came out to challenge Daley on the edge of the box, but the midfielder’s shot came back off the post.
Canton had one more chance to try and halve the deficit. In the 71st minute, McCabe had a free kick from about 20 yards and he forced Carney into a diving save down to his right. The rebound sat invitingly out in front of goal for a second but West Side was able to scramble it clear under pressure.
That could have made for a frantic finish, but West Side was able to see out the win and secure a second state title in the past nine years (the 2013 title was in Div. 1).
“When I looked at the remaining seeds, once we got to the final four, in all of soccer we were the only ones anywhere in that stratosphere,” Erickson said of his team making a run as the No. 21 seed. “Really proud of these guys stepping up when it was big time.
“Best memories I’ve had coaching and I’ve had a lot of good ones.”
MARLBORO, Mass. – As Canton junior Jake McCabe, who scored the lone goal for the Bulldogs in regulation and nearly won the game in extra time when his curling effort hit the post, walked back towards his team after seeing his penalty kick saved, shirt pulled up to cover his face, head coach Danny Erickson came to meet him halfway and told him emphatically not to worry because his teammates were going to pick him up.
Just seconds later, keeper Giovanni Ruggeri got down low to his right to instantly even things back up in the penalty shootout. After Zach Dowling fired a shot into the bottom left corner, Ruggeri, who had taken a knock to his leg in the final minutes of extra time and was limping going into PKs, lunged to his left and palmed away another penalty to put Canton on the brink.
Senior Charlie McKinney took the long walk for the fifth round, knowing that his kick could end Wednesday night’s Div. 2 state semifinal at Assabet Valley High’s Aztec Field and send the Bulldogs to their first title game in program history. He stepped up, finding the back of the net low to his left, and wheeled around in celebration after sealing Canton’s 1-1 (4-2 on PKs) victory over the top seed East Longmeadow.
Erickson said, “That’s what has to happen in those things, you’ve got to take care of your teammate. Jake took a good penalty and the kid made a great save and then Gio answered right away. You can’t say enough good things about them.”
“We’ve been practicing every day,” Ruggeri said after the game. “We though this day might come and it finally did and all of us showed up. It was a complete team effort. It was a great 100 minutes and it came down to pens. We stuck together as a team and it’s just a great team win overall.”
The Bulldogs came into the playoffs as the No. 21 seed and have logged nearly 600 miles through the first four rounds of the tournament. It was a long shot to even get this far and now Canton will get its first taste of the final.
“That game could’ve gone either way,” Erickson said. “We both had inches that made the difference. We just missed, they just missed, just a heck of a great game and a great team that we just faced. We played awesome and they represented Canton very well today. They never quit.”
Canton had the game’s first good chance when McKinney’s cross from the right wing gave Erik Valdovinos a chance to put Spartans keeper Ben Girioux under pressure. Three minutes later, the Spartans missed a chance on one end and on the other Valdovinos took a pass from Jacob Crugnale in the right channel and curled a shot just past the top far corner.
After Sonny Mazza teed up Ryan Brunelle for a gilt-edge chance in the 12th minute that the junior put just wide of the open net, the game settled down for a while.
Inside the final two minutes of the half, McCabe broke the deadlock. A long ball out of the back by Dowling was allowed to bounce. McCabe read it and was able to shrug aside the challenge from the East Longmeadow defender. Racing towards the box, he took an extra touch out to his right to get a better angle and then drilled a shot inside the far post to make it 1-0. It is his third straight game with a goal.
The lead only lasted five minutes after the break. Ruggeri made an easy save on a header off a free kick but then Sonny Mazza was able to get free down the left side of the box and played a perfect low cross to Luke Mazza for a tap in at the back post.
Rather than let their heads drop, Canton came charging back again. Caden Mirliani, Dylan Baird, and Brian Shea were shielding the back line well and getting the ball forward quickly. A ball over the top allowed Crugnale to run in behind the Spartans back line, but he missed the net when one-on-one with the keeper.
McCabe came close to restoring the lead in the 65th minute. His 25-yard free kick appeared to beat the keeper in the bottom corner but not the post, ricocheting out for a goal kick. Crugnale followed that with his own shot off the post just a minute later after a quick break freed him up on the left.
“They’re a driven group of guys,” Erickson explained. “A lot of teams would’ve come out in the second half and seen that goal go in and collapsed against the No. 1 seed. I thought the next 10 minutes after that goal, when we settled ourselves again, was the difference in the game. I think if we had conceded in that craziness, then it would’ve been a different result but we dealt with the hard times.”
There were chances on both ends of the field. East Longmeadow was finding spaces in front of the Canton back line and playing angled balls out to the wingers, who were slipping behind the wingbacks and getting runs into the box.
Brunelle missed the net with a couple of great chances. Ruggeri was forced into a great save, preventing Luke Mazza from finding the top corner. With seven minutes to go, Ryan Morneau smacked the post for the top seed.
Despite all the action in front of both goals, the game went to extra time. Four minutes in, McCabe nearly put the game to bed in spectacular fashion. He cut in from the left wing and drilled a shot from 20 yards that bent away from the keeper and seemed destined for the top corner only to hit the post for the second time. The rebound fell to Crugnale in the box but Enzo Mazza was able to block.
A beautiful cross to Colin Evans saw the East Longmeadow midfielder head just wide from close range and Valdovinos had another chance in the second extra time period when his run down the right got him into the box but he shot wide. Brunelle still had time for one more chance, slipping it past the slide of Ruggeri but Ashton Cetoute was on hand to clear it off the line.
In the end, only penalties could separate the teams and only through penalties could Canton keep its remarkable playoff run alive right to the final day.
“This was something these guys really wanted to accomplish,” Erickson said. “They’ve really been a team all year, they’ve worked together all year, they’ve gotten better all year.”
Ruggeri summed it up, “It feels fantastic, making history over here!”
Canton (14-4-4) will take on No. 6 seed West Springfield in the title game, after the Terriers, who beat Oliver Ames by a goal in the Round of 16, beat Longmeadow in penalties in the other semifinal. The game will be at Leominster High’s Doyle Field at 1:30 on Saturday.
Mansfield, 0 @ Canton, 3 – Final – Canton scored once in the first half and twice in the second and the Bulldogs secured their biggest win of the season, knocking Mansfield from the ranks of the unbeaten. Jake McCabe scored the opening goal (from Erik Valdovinos) and the final goal while Jacob Crugnale added one in-between. Giovanni Ruggeri earned the shutout in net for Canton.
Mansfield, 1 @ North Attleboro, 3 – Final
Milford, 0 @ Taunton, 6 – Final – Taunton built a three-goal lead over the first three quarters and then put the game away with three more in the fourth quarter. Kylie Thorpe and Jasmine Lucier each scored a pair of goals for the Tigers while Ashley Amaro and Kaysie DeMoura each found the back of the net once. Braeley MacDonald and Sarah Clark each added an assist in the win while Em Gannon posted the shutout in net.
Canton, 2 @ Westwood, 3 – Final – In a match that went down to the wire, Westwood prevailed with a 16-14 win in the final set to secure a 3-2 victory. Jess Wright led the offense with 15 kills and 18 digs, Talya DeGraw added 10 kills and 21 digs while Taylor Reynolds had a strong all-around showing with 35 assists, 15 digs, and two aces.
Sharon, 3 @ Stoughton, 2 – Final
Boys Cross Country
North Attleboro @ Canton, 4:45
Girls Cross Country
North Attleboro @ Canton, 4:45
Attleboro, 167 @ Taunton, 179 – Final – Leo Lombardo and Brendan Raymond shared match medalist honors, leading the Bombardiers to a win on the road over Taunton. Both Lombardo and Raymond finished at 38 for the day while Parker Sackett shot a 44 and Matt Harbour finished at 47 for the day. Taunton’s Jack Gobin and Alex Dias each shot 44, Sean Murphy added a 45, and Loran Corcoran came in with a 46.
King Philip, 166 @ Mansfield, 158 – Final – Mansfield picked up its biggest win of the season, knocking off previously undefeated King Philip to keep its division title hopes alive. Four seniors scored in the win with Cian Goulet firing a team-low round of 37. Hunter Tang added a 39 in the win while both Ryan Doherty and Jordan Tavares came in at 41.
Oliver Ames, 159 @ Canton, 142 – Final – Canton head coach Mike Barucci earned his 100th career win and the Bulldogs inched close to another division title with a win against visiting Oliver Ames. Sophomore Mekhala Costello fired an impressive two-under par round of 32 to earn match medalist honors in the win. Mike Leonetti added a 36 in the win while both Will Gefteas and Conor Hunter came into the clubhouse at 37 on the day. Sophomore Sean Kearns led the way for OA with a 37, Daniel Paul added a 40, and both Jo Jo Gaultier and Jake Kaplan shot a 41.
Foxboro, 167 @ Sharon, 160 – Final – Nathan Daley fired a bogey-free round on his way to match medalist honors and the Eagles took down Foxboro at The Cape Club of Sharon. Daley finished with a two-under round of 34, Eric Carter chipped in with a 39, Owen Kevorkian finished at 43, and both Rosie Leonard and James Spoto shot a 44. Jack Watts led the way for the Warriors with a 40, Louie Carangelo added a 41, and Reese Curreri added a 42 for Foxboro.
Stoughton, 185 @ Milford, 169 – Final – Milford split its tri-match, falling to Hopedale but taking a win over Stoughton. Anthony LaPierre and Nate Lawrence each shot a 41 to lead the way for the Hawks. Anthony Hern had the low score with a round of 40 for Stoughton.
King Philip, 0 @ Attleboro, 2 – Final – Attleboro netted a pair of goals in the second half to earn two hard-fought points at home against visiting King Philip. A long throw from sophomore Luke Hagopian played senior Connor Adema down the right wing, and Adema cut in before tapping a centering pass for an easy touch in front for sophomore Billy Badger in the 58th minute. The Bombardiers doubled the lead in the 67th minute when junior Lucas Marques forced a turnover, connected with Esvin Morales, who one touched it on to Alex Vecchioli and the sophomore’s shot eluded the keeper on the bounce.
Sharon, 2 @ Canton, 3 – Final – Click here for a Photo Gallery from this game. Canton twice came back from a goal down in the first half and then Erik Valdovinos found a winner just three minutes after the break to lift Canton to the division victory. Adam Eastman scored twice in the first half for the Eagles. The first came after three minutes when he ran onto a through ball and side-footed his finish into the far corner. His second was in the 24th minute as he rounded the keeper and was able to slide his shot in from a tight angle. Dylan Baird equalized for Canton after a nice turn and a shot through a defender’s legs into the bottom corner. After falling behind again, Canton was able to get back level six minutes before halftime. A low cross from Jake McCabe was partially deflected by Jacob Crugnale into the path of Charlie McKinney and he curled it from 18 yards. Three minutes into the second half, Valdovinos hit a low cross from the left that deflected off a Sharon defender and into the corner for the go-ahead goal. Sharon’s best chance at a tying goal came on a breakaway in the final 10 minutes but Amjad Kordab’s shot was parried by Canton keeper Giovanni Ruggeri and cleared by Jay Kelleher.
Foxboro, 0 @ Oliver Ames, 2 – Final – Oliver Ames scored once in each half to earn a key division win over Foxboro, pushing its win streak to five games. Senior Clide Neau put the hosts ahead in the first half, finishing off a pass from Antonio Fernandes. The Tigers doubled the lead in the second half when freshman Casey Milliken played sophomore Joey Carney for a goal. Mathias Taylor and Michael Haikal played well in the middle for OA.
Milford, 1 @ Franklin, 1 – Final – Franklin and Milford traded first half goals and the match finished level with each team taking home a point. The hosts struck first to take the lead when Jack Moran scored off of an assist from Rex Cinelli in the 14th minute. But just five minutes later, Bill Silva knotted the score on a pass from Avi Serri.
North Attleboro, 4 @ Stoughton, 2 – Final – North Attleboro twice erased a one-goal deficit and then scored the final two goals in the last 20 minutes to take a win on the road over Stoughton. The Black Knights opened the scoring in the 16th minute only for North Attleboro’s Brody Rosenberg to equalize in the 35th minute, finishing off a corner from Connor Ward. Stoughton regained the lead early in the second half but Bryce Newth nodded in a cross from Griffin Rodden in the 57th minute to bring the game level again. Quinn Conley gave the visitors their first lead by finishing off a cross from Ward in the 64th minute and tacked on an insurance goal in the 71st minute off a feed from Carson Dameron.
Attleboro, 0 @ King Philip, 6 – Final – Ella Pisani and Mikayla Thompson each recorded a brace and KP scored three times in each half to pick up the big win and remain atop the Kelley-Rex. Pisani opened the scoring in the 12th minute, finishing a corner kick from Morgan Norrman. Thompson doubled the lead eight minutes before the break, after a great pass by Dani Lomuscio, and then added her second two minutes later, this time off an assist from Pisani. Pisani scored in the opening minute of the second half on a free kick. Norrman had her second assist, setting up Kylie Menendez to make it 5-0 and Sarah Harper wrapped up the scoring with four minutes to play after being played behind the defense by Danielle Gresham.
Oliver Ames, 1 @ Foxboro, 2 – Final – Jordan Carman found the back of the net with four minutes left in regulation to lift Foxboro to a dramatic win and into a tie for first place in the Davenport division. Camryn O’Connor broke the deadlock with 25 minutes to play, putting the Tigers in front by a goal, but Kailee McCabe equalized from the penalty spot. Foxboro coach Katie Stalcup said, “I am so proud of my team and the fight they gave today. All-around amazing effort by all!” Kyla Melton and Mary Cross both had strong games for OA.
Franklin, 4 @ Milford, 0 – Final – Anya Zub had a hat trick to lead the Panthers to the road win and keep them within two points of first place in the division. With three goals on Thursday, Zub hit double digits (12) for the season. Kelly O’Connor added the fourth for Franklin. Stella Regan, Bridget Leo, Reilly Lorenzo, and Tori Carmignani all had assists for the visitors. Kailany Ferreira had a big game for the Hawks, making 18 saves to keep the hosts in the game. Brooke Ferreira, Serena Borges, and Aislinn Bennett also played well for Milford, whose head coach Lou Colabello said he was proud of how his team competed despite not getting the result.
Stoughton, 1 @ North Attleboro, 2 – Final – Emma Pratt had a goal and an assist and North Attleboro earned its second straight win, moving back to .500 on the season. Steph McKenna opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, off a pass from Pratt. Autumn Hewitt set up Pratt for what turned out to be the game-winner, as Pratt was able to beat the keeper to the ball and finish. Sivannah Marcy got the lone goal for the Black Knights in the closing minutes. North coach Bill Wallace praised the play of midfielders Brayden Rice, Charlotte Moynihan, Brooke Sullivan, and Lily Adams. Stoughton coach Hermes Lima is hoping that his team can carry momentum from a solid performance into Friday’s game with Norwood. He highlighted Morgan Cook for her playmaking and Shayla Ford for being able to create scoring chances. Lima also credited Bianca Casna and Emma Byrne for being able to put pressure on the North defense.
Taunton, 24 @ Franklin, 32 – Final
Oliver Ames @ Canton, 3:45
Taunton, 40 @ Franklin, 21 – Final – Franklin took first and second overall, three of the top five, and used its depth to take a win over Taunton. Senior Charlene Peng clocked in at 20:20 for first overall while sophomore Alexandra Batla took second in 20:30. Taunton freshmen Colby Dunham (20:39) and Emerson Deponte (20:49) finished third and fourth, respectively, while Franklin sophomore Vivienne Loukota took fifth in 21:33.
Oliver Ames @ Canton, 3:45
Canton, 147 @ Taunton, 177 – Final – Canton’s Will Gefteas fired a two-under par round to lead the Bulldogs to a big win on the road. Gefteas came in with a two-under round of 34 for medalist honors while Mekhala Costello shot a 37, and both Conor Hunter and Mike Leonetti carded rounds of 38. Jack Gobin led the way for Taunton with a 38.
Mansfield, 164 @ Taunton, 177 – Final – Junior Drew Urban fired a 41 in his first varsity match, helping the Hornets pick up their 10th win of the season against Taunt. Senior Cian Goulet shot a team-low round of 39, senior Hunter Tang added a 40, Urban came in with a 41, and Jordan Tavares, Ryan Doherty and Nathan McLean all shot a 44. Jack Gobin earned medalist honors, leading Taunton with a low-round of 38.
Attleboro, 161 @ Milford, 170 – Final – Brendan Raymond earned medalist honors, coming in as the lone golfer under 40 for the day to lead the Bombardiers past Milford at Hopedale Country Club. Raymond shot a 36, Evan Houle and Leo Lombardo each carded a 41, and Jackson Sweeney finished with a 43 for Attleboro. Nate Lawrence led the Scarlet Hawks with a 40 while Ronan Fleming shot a 43.
Foxboro, 162 @ King Philip, 148 – Final – Mike Matheson had the best individual round of any Hock golfer this season as King Philip took down Foxboro. Matheson had three birdies (three, four, six) and added an eagle on the fifth hole to finish with a 31. Jared Curran added a 37 while both Pat Reardon and Gavin Croke shot a 40 for the hosts. Jack Watts led Foxboro with a team-low round of 37.
Oliver Ames, 150 @ Stoughton, 196 – Final – Oliver Ames senior Jo Jo Gaultier recorded four birdies and the Tigers rolled to a win at Easton Country Club. Gaultier birdied on two, six, eight, and nine to finish with a two-under medalist round of 34. Senior Jake Kaplan added a 38 in the win while sophomores Sean Kearns and David Rodgers each carded a 39. Anthony Hern led the way for the Black Knights with a 41.
There aren’t many strikers in the league with the amount of varsity experience that Foxboro senior Matt Angelini has. A four-year member of the Warriors’ varsity team, Angelini has improved each and every season and could be poised for a breakout year in 2021. He bagged a pair of goals as a sophomore and then was Foxboro’s leading scorer during last year’s abbreviated season with six goals, which was tied for the fourth-most during the regular season. He is very dangerous inside the box and has a knack for finding a loose ball or a rebound but he can also play with the ball at his feet; he’ll make defenses pay when given space outside the area.
King Philip lost a very large senior class to graduation but head coach Mike O’Neill has some veteran players to lean on, including three-year player Caleb Cassetta. Cassetta is a true box-to-box midfielder and we’ve seen over the course of the past two seasons just how skilled he is with the ball on his feet. He can help translate defense to offense and is a calming presence on the ball. When King Philip is looking to build its offense, it’s likely going to come through Cassetta at some point. Whether it’s just keeping possession, hitting the through ball in the final third, or having a go from distance, expect him to be the engine for the Warriors this season.
It could be a pretty big year for Mansfield senior Matty Hyland, both on the pitch this fall and on the court during the winter. Head coach Steve Sheridan said the midfield unit is the backbone of the team this year and Hyland is a big reason for that. He’s not only a great option in the air, which fits really nice in the Hornets’ attack plans, but he’s very smart with the ball at his feet. He will be tasked with pulling the strings in the central midfield. He showed last year the ability to link the defense with the offense. He can also drop back and be a key piece of the defense while smoothing the transition and solidifying the middle. We’ve seen it in the past and it’s bound to happen again this season: Hyland can be= lethal from distance. If defenses decide to sit back and give him space, he has no problem putting one on target from distance.
There isn’t much to say about Franklin senior Terry O’Neill that we haven’t already said sometime over the past two seasons, but that won’t stop us from doing so again here. A truly versatile player, O’Neill can play just about anywhere on the pitch, playing mostly in a holding mid spot as a sophomore and then dropping deeper to solidify the defense last season. One thing we’re looking forward to this season is the return of heading the ball. The players did a nice job adjusting to the rules modified by COVID, but heading is such a key aspect of the game and it’s certainly a big part of O’Neill’s game. He does a nice job really standing out in his box against set pieces, and on the other end of the pitch, he’s the one setting the offense up whether it’s with a cross, a set piece service, or a shot on a free kick.
Taunton had its already abbreviated season cut short last fall, only getting four games in early on in the season. That means there weren’t many players that were able to gain valuable experience, getting used to the speed of the varsity level. Junior Riley Rebello already had a full season under his belt, playing nearly every minute as a freshman. That will be huge for head coach Taylor Whitters and her Tigers this season because they have a very young roster. Whether it’s at center back — where he played the majority of his freshman year — or further up the pitch, which is what we saw more of recently, Rebello will be a key cog in the middle of the pitch. His versatility will be important too as he can step up front and score (like we saw in the season opener against Stoughton) and if the Tigers need to pack it in or park the bus to protect a lead, they have Rebello’s height and skill to rely on.
Canton could be poised for a big year with a strong core of players, including a pretty talented senior class that top goal scorers Jacob Crugnale and Erik Valdovinos plus the calming veteran presence of Dylan Baird. But if there’s one thing in common that recent division champs of the Davenport division have in common, they are among the top defensive units in the league. Canton has a strong core back there which is anchored by senior goalie Giovanni Ruggeri, who is entering his second year as the starter in net but has two years of experience after getting good minutes as a sophomore. We saw a big jump last year as Ruggeri played with a lot of confidence and came up with some big saves for his squad. Now a senior, Ruggeri will be one of the top keepers in the league and he does a nice job controlling his area. That will be key as opposing teams try to break the Bulldogs down and use set pieces to attack the back four.
There was a lot of spotlight on the Class of 2020 for Oliver Ames, and for good reason as that group led the program to back-to-back division titles, one in the Kelley-Rex and last year in the Davenport division. Losing over a dozen players is always tough, especially when they made up nearly the entire starting lineup. But one key piece to the puzzle is back for the Tigers in senior captain Mathias Taylor, who has two years of varsity experience under his belt and is hoping to lead a young and inexperienced group back atop the division. Taylor is very skilled with the ball at his feet and moves the ball well, he seems to always find space to be an option for teammates. He played striker for a lot of minutes last year so he can certainly get up field and be a threat in the final third, whether it’s with a shot or getting on the end of a service.
Milford has had some of the most gifted offensive players over the past couple of seasons from Hock MVP Walisson de Oliveira two seasons ago, Pedro Araujo in 2019 during the run to the state final, and most recently All-American selection Leo Coelho. But the Hawks have had some pretty good defenders during that span as well and senior Chris Tocci has been one of them. Now in his third year starting at center back, Tocci has gotten better each and every season. After being a big reason that the Hornets allowed just six goals last season (in 13 games), Tocci is back to anchor this year’s defense which looks to be a strong point for the Hawks. Tocci is like a quarterback in the defensive third, helping the backline keep its shape. He is strong in the air as well, often being the one to come up with a big clearance on corners or set pieces.
Attleboro sophomore Alex Vecchioli had a breakout season in his first year of high school, emerging as one of the most reliable options for the Bombardiers, patrolling the center of the pitch. His strong freshman season saw him lead the Bombardiers in goals scored. He’s a very confident player and very strong with the ball at his feet. Not only can he find teammates with nice through passes or balls over the top, but he can also go at defenders one-on-one and beat them. He showed off a strong shot last year and will be a dangerous option on set pieces for Attleboro again this season. Defenses will be keying in on him a bit more, so it will be interesting to see how he does against the added pressure.
Anyone who saw Sharon play a year ago knows just how important James Zhang was for the Eagles. Now a senior, Zhang patrolled the middle of the pitch for the Eagles a season ago, helping them transition from defense to offense and had some nice takes on goal from distance. Zhang can play anywhere up the middle, as he’s just as comfortable sitting back as a part of the defense as he is getting the ball at his feet and attacking opposing defenses. Zhang’s versatility is what really makes him stand out among his peers. If the Eagles need a goal, expect Zhang to be a top candidate to come up with the key play. Opposing defenses aren’t going to want to give him much space, especially in the attacking third. Expect Zhang to be an on-field leader this season for the Eagles.
2020 Record: 2-5-6 Coach: Peter Pereira
The Bombardiers seemed to get things in gear just as last season was coming to an end, finishing the season unbeaten in its final five games. But there won’t be much carryover to this year as Attleboro only has three starters back from a team that lost 14 seniors to graduation.
It will be a lot of new faces for longtime head coach Peter Pereira, who is still trying to fit the puzzle pieces together to figure out the best combination for his Bombardiers. Senior Cashel Stuger joined the lineup last season and will be a main part of the Attleboro defense this year with Lucas Marques, Ian Miller, and John Blouin all in the mix to see minutes. Junior Esvin Morales begins his third year on the varsity level and has the most experience at this level on the team. Morales is a crafty midfielder that is very dangerous in the attack and on set pieces. Seniors Liam Bischoff and Thomas Russo have good varsity experience and should see expanded roles this year.
Sophomore Alex Vecchioli exploded onto the scene last year, scoring a team-high four goals. He’ll join Morales to solidify the Attleboro midfield but he’s no stranger to getting forward and making some noise in the attack. Sophomores Tyler Rocchio and Brady Whitmarsh are battling for the starting position in goal while Pereira is looking for the likes of Connor Adema, Yannie Skortas, and Emilio Ticas to step up in the attack.
2020 Record: 6-3-3 Coach: Danny Erickson
Canton was the main challenger to OA’s division title win last season, playing tough against the Tigers in both matches. In fact, the Bulldogs’ lone losses were to both division champs in OA and Milford, the latter coming in the semifinal of the Hock Cup.
Canton has a large chunk of those players returning to the pitch for this season and a lot of them have multiple years of experience playing at the varsity level, which means expectations are high for Canton. OA has been the team to beat in the Davenport for the majority of the past decade but it looks like that could be different this year with how much skill the Bulldogs have.
There are veteran players all over the field, starting in the back with the anchor of the defense in senior All-Hockomock selection Giovanni Ruggeri, who returns as the starting goalie. Establishing a strong defensive group in front of Ruggeri will be key but the Bulldogs have a track record of getting better defensively as the season goes on. There is a lot of firepower going forward with senior Dylan Baird being the link in the midfield, helping the Dogs transition from defense to offense. There will be a lot of options in the attacking third with both Erik Valdovinos (three goals, two assists) and Jacob Crugnale up front (goal, seven assists). Junior Jake McCabe is also back after scoring three goals and notching two helpers.
“We are so excited to head into the season,” said head coach Danny Erickson. “Our team has a very high ceiling for success and we are working hard to reach that ceiling. Couldn’t have much more difficult of an early-season schedule playing Franklin, OA, and Milford to open up the Hock so we will certainly be presented some very tall tasks right out of the gates.”
2020 Record: 4-6-2 Coach: Dan Ambrosio
Foxboro is leaning on a strong senior class, a group of talented returners, and a mix of new faces to try and make a run at the Davenport division title. The heart of the team will be with the senior class, including four-year player Derek Axon and midfielder Alex McGarry.
Axon has been on the roster since his freshman year and will start in net for the Warriors, leading the way for what head coach Dan Ambrosio hopes is a strong defensive unit. Foxboro has been on the lower half of the Davenport table in terms of goals against in each of the past two seasons but Ambrosio believes he has a strong defensive unit that will play well in front of Axon. McGarry, a three-year member of the varsity squad, will be a key piece in the middle of the pitch.
It’s not often a team gets a transfer with not only varsity experience, but experience playing in the Hockomock League. But the Warriors added Jorge Sanchez, who has two years of playing at Canton under his belt and could be a big boost for Foxboro. Senior forward Matt Angelini has improved each year with the program and will be one of the top strikers in the league while junior Alex Penders has impressed so far in the preseason. Sophomore John Hollis made a splash during the COVID-shortened 2020 season and could be poised for a breakout year for the Warriors.
“The group has done an outstanding job of coming together as a team,” Ambrosio said. “We look forward to playing the Foxboro way and competing to win the Hockomock regular season.”
2020 Record: 3-5-4 Head Coach: Fran Bositis
Hall of Fame head coach Fran Bositis is back on the sidelines for his 51st season in charge and he and his Panthers are anxious to get back to normal soccer after last year’s abbreviated season that featured rule changes that altered the game.
Bositis has liked what he’s seen so far in the preseason with the team improving after each training session and after each scrimmage. Having a trio of four-year players is an advantage that many teams won’t have so the Panthers will lean heavily on seniors Terry O’Neill, Tyler Powderly, and Aidan Griffith for their veteran leadership. There are a lot of upperclassman on the roster with seniors Jack Moran, Nelson Martinez, and Kevin Proenca all back in the mix after playing last season.
O’Neill, the 2019 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, is the spine of the team, patrolling the middle of the pitch. We saw early on in his career his ability to get forward and become a scoring threat but he also showed he can sit back and solidify the defensive unit. Both Powderly and Griffith provide a lot of speed on the outside. Junior Trey Lovell and sophomore Rex Cinelli earned some minutes a season ago while Bositis expects junior Will Krysak and sophomore Sean O’Leary to be steady contributors this season.
“I feel the outlook is bright as long as we continue to work hard and look to make small improvements every day,” Bositis said. “I also feel that we have very good senior leadership and that this will be important in helping our younger players develop.”
2020 Record: 5-4-4 Coach: Mike O’Neill
The Warriors graduated nearly its entire starting lineup, losing a total of eight players from the starting 11, along with five more seniors from last year’s squad, but somehow KP boasts a strong returning group of players.
That’s a credit to head coach Mike O’Neill, who has shown since he took over the varsity team that he will take full advantage of the depth of his roster, getting a lot of player’s minutes each season. Last year’s abbreviated season was no different; KP has half a dozen players back with varsity experience ready to make a run at the division title.
There are four captains: Caleb Cassetta, John Pfeiffer, Sean McCarthy, and Stephen Griffin, and all four bring something a little different to the table. Cassetta can do a bit of everything, from being the maestro of the midfield, to shoring up the defense, to sliding up front to score goals. Pfeiffer plays both defensively and in the midfield and provides key leadership, McCarthy is an aggressive outside back, and Griffin is a four-year member of varsity that can play in a variety of roles going forward.
Junior Matt Cargo could be poised for a breakout year in the midfield while senior Dan Fifolt is back in the mix to give KP at outside back. Junior Andrew Seropian has had a good preseason so far while sophomores Tommy Lomusico, Will Bowen, and Dermott Amorim are all competing to try and give the Warriors a boost on the offensive end.
“I think there is going to be a lot of parity in the Hock this year,” O’Neill said. “It will be difficult (as always) to win games. We graduated 13 seniors and 8 starters last year. That is a significant loss of experience on the field, but it also provides opportunities for younger players. I am excited to see which players will step into the available roles and have a breakout year.”
2020 Record: 6-4-2 Coach: Steve Sheridan
For years, Mansfield has been known as a defensive team that sets the tone with its physicality, taking advantage of set pieces on the offensive end to win games. Things might be a little different in 2021.
While Mansfield still boasts a strong defensive group, the heart and soul of the team is in the midfield. There is a lot of creativity in the group that features senior captains Matty Hyland and Danny Rowe along with juniors Grady Sullivan and Connor Palinski. The unit has impressed in the preseason, moving the ball around, combining to get up field and attack opposing defenses. Mansfield has traditionally used a lot of subs for its forwards under Sheridan and that looks like it will be the case again this year with senior Liam Anastasia and junior Dan Checkoway both in the mix.
Four-year varsity player Dylan Buchanan will take on a new role this year, making the switch to defense. His speed will make it tough for opponents to get in behind the Hornet back line. Senior Michael Caridi is another returner and he will join Buchanan in the back in front of senior goalie Jack Lasbury-Casey.
“This is the first time in a very long time that I can honestly say that the defense is not the strength of our team, the midfield is!!”
2020 Record: 10-0-3 Coach: Antonio Pinto
The target on Milford’s back this season will be bigger than ever as the Scarlet Hawks enter the season with three straight division titles; last year’s Kelley-Rex crown and two from the Davenport prior to that. While the Hawks are certainly in the hunt to make it four straight, they’ll do so without their best player from the past two seasons.
Last year’s Hockomock League MVP and lone Massachusetts All-American selection Leo Coelho graduated alongside nine other players that helped Milford won the Hockomock Cup last season. That class also included star midfielder Lucas Da Silva and 2019 playoff hero and goalie Leo Oliveira. While it might seem like the cupboard is a bit thin, the Hawks have reloaded with some new talent eager to win a title of their own.
Kevin Gomes has been on varsity since he was a sophomore and has plenty of varsity starts in net under his belt. He came off the bench in the Hockomock Cup and came up huge to help the Hawks take the win. Milford also has veteran centerback Chris Tocci back in the fold; Tocci is not only one of the most experienced backs in the league but he’s one of the most skilled and his prowess in the air is key for the Hawks.
Senior Avi Seri and juniors Arthur Tome and Hulanger Pires all took advantage of their expanded roles last season and will be key in the offense this season.
“We have a good direct style of play,” said head coach Antonio Pinto.
2020 Record: 3-6-3 Coach: Geoff Burgess
It was a good offseason for the Rocketeers, who used their time between seasons to improve their craft. North has developed a reputation for a defense-first-minded program over the past couple of seasons and the Big Red is sticking true to its colors in 2021.
The strength of the team lies in the defense with a lot of experience in the defensive third. Senior captain Brody Rosenberg will slide into a center back role and anchor the defense from there while sophomore Kaden Burns returns to his outside back position after picking up vital experience during last year’s abbreviated season. Senior David Floyd returns in goal this year after posting a 1.50 goals against average last season.
Connor Ward has been making plays in this league for a long time and look for that to continue during his senior season Ward uses his versatility and creativeness to orchestrate the Rocketeer push forward. Sophomore Carson Dameron is another returner in the midfield unit for North Attleboro; look for senior Jaad Ismail and juniors Griffin Rodden and Givany Carney to give North’s offense a boost.
“We have a great mix of experience and talent that will hopefully lead to a successful year,” said North Attleboro head coach Geoff Burgess. “The team really came together this summer at Camp Manitou and they really believe in each other. They really want to work hard to improve each day and are one of the most coachable groups we have ever had. We are all really excited to get back to normal soccer and see what this season holds for us.”
2020 Record: 12-1-0 Coach: John Barata
Oliver Ames spent the majority of the last decade at the top of the mountain in the Hockomock League, winning five Davenport division titles and two Kelley-Rex crowns since the league split. The Tigers are the defending champs in the Davenport and lost just one game (Hock Cup) last year, but this will be the biggest turnover that OA has seen in a long time.
Oliver Ames graduated over a dozen players, including nearly its entire starting lineup of a team that scored a league-best 59 goals and had a league-low five goals against. Not only did the Tigers lose a talented senior class, but a majority of the players were also either two or three-year starters, so there will be a lot of new faces getting playing time at the varsity level for the first time. Senior captain Mathias Taylor is the most experienced player back for the Tigers after getting a lot of time as a sophomore and starting last fall. His versatility will be key as the Tigers carve out roles for the new players; Taylor can control the play from the middle of the pitch, move up front as a dangerous attacking option, or sit back some to help solidify the defense.
Hector Bucio is the other returner starter for the Tigers after earning some minutes after a sophomore, picking up some starts in the process, and will be a big part of the offense for OA. Michael Haikal also saw time on the field during the COVID-shortened season and will see an expanded role this year as one of the team’s captains. With new faces in the mix, OA is focusing on attacking with pace while stressing getting numbers behind the ball to defend against the tough competition in the Hockomock League.
“We are excited to be back playing regular soccer and looking forward to seeing how this very young and inexperienced team gels during the season,” said OA head coach John Barata. “We hope to win a couple games and get these underclassmen a lot of experience.”
2020 Record: 0-10-2 Coach: Jon Grant
It starts with the fundamentals for head coach Jon Grant and his Black Knights: an improved defensive effort to stay in games and better technical play to increase scoring games.
And so far, so good as Grant has seen improvement on both ends of the pitch throughout the preseason. Throughout each of the last two seasons, the Knights have shown glimpses and the goal this season is to string together consistent performances and limit the mistakes to keep Stoughton in the game. Captains Rhuan Carvalho and Joao Marotti, both seniors, give the Knights some experience up top as they battle against a tough Hockomock League schedule. Although Evan Khang and Kyle Grant as just sophomores, they saw a lot of time last season and will bring that experience and talent to Stoughton’s midfield.
Defensively, the Knights will turn to senior captain Owen Roddy to anchor the defense. He will be joined by classmate Val Pierre to try and solidify the Stoughton back line.
“Everyone is excited to be back out on the field and it will make it even sweeter as we add the competition of the season,” said Jon Grant. “This season we are looking to not beat ourselves by limiting our mistakes. This mentality will put us in a good position each game to compete. Combine that with great effort and a positive attitude and we have a pretty good recipe for success.”
2020 Record: 0-3-7 Coach: Taylor Whitters
The Tigers only played four games last fall due to COVID so there wasn’t much of an opportunity to pick up varsity experience for the younger players, which make up most of the roster for the 2021 season. The lineup will feature mostly juniors along with a group of sophomores so Taunton will lean heavily on the few players that have played at this level before.
That starts with juniors Riley Rebello and Joseph Renquinha, who both enter their third season apart of the varsity team. Rebello has seen time just about everywhere for the Tigers, including at center back, attacking mid, and up front at striker. The experience that both he and Renquinha possess will be key as the young Taunton team tackles a difficult schedule. Taunton is also looking for juniors Aidden Fitting, Quincy-Jones Sylvia, Conal Scully, and Jonathan Trinh to step into big roles right away.
Taunton will rely on a strong work ethic to try and put pressure on teams, using team speed to attack opposing defenses. The Tigers have been in a lot of close games — three of the for from last season, and 11 of their games in 2019 were decided by a goal or less. Taunton will be hoping to end up on the other end of those one-goal results this season to try and make a push for the postseason. Sophomores Javonte Fernandes, Delano Costa-Hanlon, and Joshua Letourneau, alongside junior Sete Deletoile, will be in the mix on their first year with the team.
“I am hoping for us to continue to mature this season and raise the bar a little higher each game,” said head coach Taylor Whitters.
Below are the official 20020 Hockomock League Boys Soccer All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.
Kelley-Rex Division MVP
Leo Coelho, Milford
Kelley-Rex Division All Stars
Joey Soucy, Attleboro
Jackson Singer, Attleboro
Ethan Cain, Franklin
Terry O’Neill, Franklin
Evan McEvoy, King Philip
Aidan Lindmark, King Philip
Ajae Olsen, King Philip
Evan Eames, Mansfield
Tommy Lanzillo, Mansfield
Michael Jeans, Mansfield
Leo Coelho, Milford
Lucas Da Silva, Milford
Chris Tocci, Milford
Davenport Division MVP
Colin Milliken, Oliver Ames
Davenport Division All Stars
Giovanni Ruggeri, Canton
Jacob Crugnale, Canton
Abdul Barrie, Canton
Erik Valdovinos, Canton
Max Beigel, Foxboro
Justin Silva, North Attleboro
Kevin Louhis, Oliver Ames
Colin Milliken, Oliver Ames
Brady deVos, Oliver Ames
Mathias Taylor, Oliver Ame
Matt Nikiciuk, Oliver Ames
Anthony DaCosta, Oliver Ames
Bryce Nathan, Sharon
Alex Vecchioli, Attleboro
Jorge Sanchez, Canton
Matthew Angelini, Foxboro
Ben Moccia, Franklin
Cole Breen, King Philip
Eric Sullivan, Mansfield
Leo Oliveira, Milford
Matthew Conley, North Attleboro
Drew Nickla, Oliver Ames
Matthew Baur, Sharon
Nolan Gerome, Stoughton
Riley Rebello, Taunton
Boys Soccer Hockomock Cup
#D4 Sharon, 0 @ #KR1 Milford, 1 – Final (OT) – Milford senior Leo Coelho scored minutes into the first sudden death overtime period to help the Scarlet Hawks avoid an upset bid from visiting Sharon. Milford advances to the semifinal round of the Hockomock Cup to play against Canton.
#KR3 King Philip, 1 @ #D2 Canton, 2 – Final (PKs) – Canton senior Abdul Barrie tucked the game-winning penalty kick inside the right post to secure a win as the Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals of the Hockomock Cup. King Philip took the lead in the first half but a third quarter goal from Jake McCabe leveled the match. After a scoreless overtime, the teams headed to pens where Giovanni Ruggeri, Dylan Baird, Erik Valdovinos and Barrie scored to give Canton the win. The Bulldogs will take on Milford in the semifinal round of the Hockomock Cup.
North Attleboro, 2 @ Stoughton, 0 – Final – Centerbacks Justin Silva and Donovan Carter each scored on a free kick as the Rocketeers picked up a win on the road over the Black Knights.
Girls Soccer Hockomock Cup
#D4 North Attleboro, 2 @ #KR1 Franklin, 1 – Final – Tess Collins put North in front six minutes into the fourth quarter and the Rocketeers held on for an upset over the Kelley-Rex champions to advance to the Hockomock Cup semifinal. North grabbed the lead in the second quarter on an Emma Pratt goal after she followed up a save by Franklin keeper Julia Bertone. Sydney St. Marie equalized for the Panthers five minutes into the second half, but Collins popped up with the winner to send North into the next round. Franklin coach Tom Geysen said, “It was a well played game by both teams. North finished better than we did. We had a number of chances but could not find the net.”
#KR4 Attleboro @ #D1 Canton – Canceled. Attleboro advances due to forfeit.
#D3 Oliver Ames, 1 @ #KR2 Mansfield, 0 – Final (PKs) – Emma O’Donnell and Emily Meyers both made saves on penalty kicks to help Oliver Ames pick up a win on the road and advance in the Hockomock Cup. The Tigers are scheduled to take on Attleboro with a time and date to be announced.
Sharon, 2 @ Milford, 3 – Final – Dani Atherton scored with two minutes remaining to lift the Hawks to the win. Atherton received a pass from Jillian Michelson and managed to slip it by the keeper to put the Hawks, who had led 2-0, back in front. Sofia Goclowski scored both of the goals for the Eagles, including one with 13 minutes remaining that tied the game at 2-2. Brianna Franzini had the opening goal on a cross from Atherton nine minutes into the game. Atherton added her first of the game to double the lead, before Goclowski cut the lead to one before the break. Milford coach Lou Colabello said that Carly Ferreira stood out again in goal.
#D4 North Attleboro, 2 @ #KR1 Franklin, 8 – Final – Franklin scored five straight goals over the first three quarters to build a big lead that it never relinquished in an opening round win of Hockomock Cup action. Junior Kaitlyn Carney scored twice while Stephanie Bell, Amanda Lewandowski, and Lindsay Morse each scored once for the Panthers, who led 4-0 at the halftime break and 5-0 heading into the final quarter. North’s Julia Puccio and Zoe McKeon scored early in the final quarter to cut into the deficit but Sara Carney sandwiched a pair of goals around a tally from Lewandowski to help the Panthers put the game away. Neilee Hess made three saves in net for the Panthers.
#KR4 Mansfield, 0 @ #D1 Oliver Ames, 2 – Final – Oliver Ames found the back of the net twice in the final quarter to pick up a win over an upset-minded Mansfield squad. A close, competitive match went without a goal for 45 minutes before the Tigers scored twice in the fourth. Georgia Costello (from Maggie Woods) broke the stalemate with a goal with 12:30 to go. Woods went on to add an insurance goal with 1:12 to play. Julia Maclaine, Ava Costello, and Erin Cottam all had strong games for OA while Peyton Phillips had a stellar game with a nine-save shutout. Oliver Ames advances to the semifinal of the Hockomock Cup to play King Philip.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – There might not be a state tournament this season, but Monday night’s game between Oliver Ames and Canton certainly felt like a playoff game.
Oliver Ames boys soccer
Both teams entered the Davenport heavyweight clash undefeated but only one, the Tigers, walked out still without a loss. Oliver Ames built a two-goal lead and added a key insurance strike in the fourth quarter to earn a 3-1 decision over the Bulldogs.
The battle between the top two teams in the Davenport division delivered with high intensity throughout, stout defensive efforts, a pair of class goals, and some fourth quarter drama.
“It was like a playoff game, a great game,” said Oliver Ames head coach John Barata. “They were well prepared, they came out with a very playoff tactic to get the win. We came in with our tactic to win, we were both playing this game to win no doubt about that. They don’t let you play your game, and we didn’t let them play their game so maybe it wasn’t the best either team has played…it was very intense, but that’s what Canton OA is right? We haven’t had this energy or feel in other games. And we expect the same type of vibe there.”
Oliver Ames scored early in the second quarter and doubled its lead with a goal just minutes into the second half but the Bulldogs took advantage of an opportunity in the 55th minute to get back into the game, halving the deficit.
That goal seemed to give the visitors some life and resulted in Canton’s best passing sequence of the game. Senior Abdul Barrie combined with sophomore Jorge Sanchez, the former getting some space in the corner and whipped a service in. Junior Jacob Crugnale got a touch to the cross but his bid was inches off, hitting off the far post and staying out, keeping the hosts ahead 2-1.
Oliver Ames boys soccer
A minute later, the Tigers built quickly out of the back with senior Colin Milliken carrying possession into the middle third, springing classmate Dillon Cupples out wide on the left. Cupples connected with senior Kevin Louhis, who worked around a defender to get to the corner of the area and Louhis blasted a curling shot inside the far post to make it 3-1 just seconds after the Bulldogs nearly tied it.
“Oliver Ames is a great team, they are strong everywhere on the field, really well organized,” said Canton head coach Danny Erickson. “We knew we’d have to play a rather mistake-free game to beat them and we didn’t. We played great moments, I was really proud of our work ethic but we kind of drifted in moments and let them take the game.
“The game really came down to moments, some bounces and some weird mistakes cost us the game. We had a brilliant opportunity with probably our best build up of the game, three of four great passes in a row that led to a great opportunity that hit the far post, and then as soccer goes, a good team will make you pay for missing opportunities and they went down and Kevin scored a banger.”
The game started as expected with two of the best defenses in the Hockomock League this year. OA entered the contest having surrendered just one goal while the Bulldogs had just two goals against. Both defenses shined in the opening 20 minutes, taking away chances and denying passing lanes.
Canton boys soccer
Canton looked to get in behind the defense on a great ball from Colton Mirlianiy but OA senior Ben Cohen, who had a very strong game at outside right back, did very well to recover and thwart the chance.
Canton boys soccer
Meanwhile, Canton keeper Giovanni Ruggeri was up to the task on a low shot from distance from Cupples in the 12th minute, and Barrie intercepted a pass in the area, taking away a combination between Milliken and Cupples.
OA opened the lead in the 23rd minute on a free kick from Matthew Nikiciuk after he drew the foul. On a direct kick from just over 30 yards out, Nikiciuk blasted a low shot that skipped into the area and senior Brady deVos made a run right to the penalty spot and got a touch to it, changing the direction just enough to catch the keeper going the wrong way.
The Tigers went on to double their lead just minutes into the second half. Anthony DaCosta touched the corner into play and Milliken drove a cross into the area that hit off a Bulldog defender and into the net for an own goal.
Canton got on the board late in the third quarter after high pressure resulted in a turnover. Crugnale applied a lot of pressure, getting a piece of a pass out of the back to knock it free. Mirliani latched onto it, taking a touch with his left to set up a blast from 30 yards out that caught the keeper off the line and snuck under the bar to make it 2-1.
The Dogs nearly had the equalizer just before the third quarter came to a close. On a free kick from straight away from just over 25 yards out, Mirlinani touched to Barrie, who skipped on shot on goal that was spilled on frame but junior Dylan Baird’s bid on the rebound was just over the bar.
Canton boys soccer
Canton continued to press in the fourth but Louhis was able to put the game away with his strike in the 67th minute.
“The maturity factor of the seniors is finally paying off for us,” Barata said. “We allowed them to get in and Abdul whipped a wonderful ball in and it ricocheted off the post and suddenly it’s 2-2 and the momentum has shifted. Sometimes with younger kids, you might panic but our senior experience showed today.
“Danny has them well prepared, they know how to play tactically and they are well prepared and ready to go. We didn’t put them away early when we had the chance and it became a much tougher game in the second half. But it was great to have Kevin put in that third goal because then it was done.”
The two teams will clash again on Wednesday as Oliver Ames (7-0) travels to Canton (4-1-2) on Wednesday for a 6:15 PM kickoff. The Tigers can clinch at least a share of the Davenport title with a draw, and can clinch it outright with a win.
“We hadn’t talked about [the division title] until today, we talked about today being a championship game for us, Canton coming in undefeated,” Barata said. “But whenever you play Danny and Canton, you know they will be prepared so it’s a good game to get ready for the tournament, but this is like a tournament game for us this year.”