Oliveira had to exit the game with an injury early in the fourth quarter and in stepped Gomes, who came up with a colossal save on an indirect kick from inside the area as Milford claimed the cup with a 2-1 win on the road to finish the season undefeated.
“We know they are a powerhouse, always a top team, always a state championship contender…so this game to me is like a district final,” said first-year Milford head coach Antonio Pinto. “For me, these were the two best teams in Eastern Mass. and they put on a show. It was a back-and-forth game, chances both ways, full of excitement, and I couldn’t be more proud of Milford, and couldn’t be more proud of OA for the battle they put up.”
The Hawks scored twice in the opening 10 minutes of the second half but the Tigers pulled one back before the end of the third quarter to set up the frantic finish.
A low cross from Oliver Ames’ Brady deVos in the 78th minute was first touched by a Milford defender before Gomes handled it, giving the Tigers an indirect kick inside the box near the end line on the right side, about 10 yards from goal. Colin Milliken touched the ball in play and Matthew Nikiciuk blasted a rocket from close range but Gomes stood tall and pushed the ball over the bar to keep the Hawks ahead.
Milford boys soccer Oliver Ames boys soccer
“Me and Leo love each other, we practice together every day,” Gomes said. “Right when I saw he was hurt, I knew I had to do it for him. Because last year against Nauset, he did the same for me. He won it for us. He was upset from the injury but I wanted him to leave happy so I told him I got this, I was going to do it for him. I just had to be confident, calm down, and play my game.
“It was a close play but the angle they were in, there was only one way they could try and get it in and it was all power. So I had my teammates marking, lining up in front where they could and I just had to be confident and be strong when I approached it. It was the best feeling after saving that.”
The ensuing corner bounced around the box twice but was finally cleared away. OA had another attacking free kick a minute later but the service sailed wide. Chris Tocci came up with key clearances in the final seconds as OA continued to press.
Milford boys soccer Oliver Ames boys soccer
“It was a great game, a lot of fun,” said OA head coach John Barata. “Just one or two things separate the teams in a game like this. We hit the crossbar, they cleared a ball off the goal line and the game changes completely if those go in. Two nice goals [from Milford] but not goals we’ve given up all year. The challenge for us is the way it happened. The loss isn’t bad because it was a fantastic game, definitely a state final atmosphere, and we’ve been in them before so we know, and that team is excellent.
“The boys are a little more disappointed because of the errors. It wasn’t that they were dominated…sometimes it’s better to lose a game being dominated and not one that at times, you were on the front foot and better. But they have special players…their two best players put the two daggers in.”
After a scoreless opening 40 minutes, the Hawks took the lead less than five minutes into the second half. Senior Leo Coelho helped the Hawks transition into offense by splitting a pair of defenders and feeding a pass to Lucas Da Silva, who took a touch and was fouled five yards outside the box.
Coelho took the free kick, bending a left-footed shot towards the far post and just under the bar and out of the reach of OA keeper Drew Nickla.
Just six minutes later, the visitors tacked on another goal. A big clearance from Julio Dasilva was tracked down by Lucas Da Silva, and he was able to beat a defender along the right sideline before launching a high arching ball that eluded the keeper and fell just under the bar into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Milford boys soccer Oliver Ames boys soccer
“Two phenomenal goals from two phenomenal players,” Pinto said. “They can flip a switch and turn the game around in a second. If Leo gets half a chance, he can make it a goal. And Lucas scored from no angle, he didn’t have any options inside so just chipped it.”
Nickla came up with a big stop on a Coelho free kick in the 54th minute and the Tigers came back down and found the back of the net on the other end. After being dispossessed, OA senior Kevin Louhis tracked back to steal the ball back. He took one touch forward before unleashing a rocket that found the top left corner from 35 yards out to make it 2-1 in the 58th minute.
Although neither team scored in the first half, there were still chances from both sides. Milliken unleashed a blast in the 7th minute that was swallowed up by Oliveira. And minutes later, Milliken put another shot on goal that was denied and Dillon Cupples had a bid on goal but Avi Seri was there for the Hawks to clear it off the line.
Just seconds later, Nikiciuk rifled a free kick from 40 yards out that hit off the crossbar and stayed out.
“We knew they’d be a top team…we said if we could give them a game we’d be happy and I think we did more than give them a game but we’re not happy [with the result],” Barata said. “It’s sad for the seniors but ultimately, if you have to end this year…when we look back, we went 12-1, won the division, and played the team who was probably picked to win it all this year. And we had a chance to play, what a blessing.”
Milford boys soccer finishes the season without a loss at 10-0-3, with two of the draws coming on cancellations. Oliver Ames finishes the season at 12-1.
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.”
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: Oliver Ames Boys Soccer
2015 Davenport Division Champions
2015 Division 2 State Champions
The pieces fit together perfectly during the 2015 season for the Oliver Ames boys soccer team. The Tigers received key contributions from three classes all season long en route to an undefeated season and a Division 2 State Championship.
The Tigers were made up of a talented senior class full of leaders, a group of juniors ready to make the most of their opportunities, and a skillful sophomore class that wasn’t afraid of the big moment. After coming up just short in the state final the year before, the Oliver Ames boys soccer team was determined to go all the way in 2015.
“I would say preseason we knew we were all locked in to push ourselves to have another great year,” said senior captain Keegan Nutt, who went on to have a successful four-year career at Stonehill. “We ended 2014 with a loss in the state championship and told ourselves we’re not letting this happen again. We made goals before our first Hockomock game and said first we want to win the league, then we want to win the south, and best of all we want to win our first state championship.”
Up top, junior Thomas McCormick was a menace inside the area, always quick to a loose ball to punish opposing teams. Nutt and sophomore Nathaniel Cardoza directed play from the center of the pitch while sophomores Matt Alvarado, Jack Sheldon, Mason Galbato, Cam Vella, and Matt Campbell applied pressure on opponents either up top or on the wings.
Defensively, the Tigers had 14 shutouts on the season with just eight goals against during the regular season. Sophomore Jack Carroll took over in net that season and was helped along by defenders Max Bamford, Max Ahearn, and Jared Mallers.
Senior captain Chris Romero did it all for the Tigers, anchoring the defensive unit at times while also getting minutes in the attack.
“This team was special from minute one,” said Oliver Ames head coach John Barata. “They trained at a high level all the time and never gave up. These players put in the extra time and never deviated from the plan we set during our preseason goals. We wanted to be dominant in every facet of the game and made a commitment to give everything we had to this team and the season.”
Oliver Ames went undefeated in the regular season to win its fourth Davenport division crown in a five-year span. The Tigers notched 13 wins, including an impressive 1-0 result against Kelley-Rex division champion Mansfield. Besides a draw with Sharon, OA tied a talented Foxboro side twice during the year. That Foxboro squad, featuring the likes of Anthony Barreira, Devante Teixeira, and Joe Morrison, was one of the most dangerous offensive groups from the Hock this decade.
The second meeting between the two featured a late equalizer from Cardoza that gave the Tigers a point and the division title. It was only a sign of things to come as this Oliver Ames team had a flair for the dramatic, especially in the state tournament.
“Players sacrificed social lives, free time and family time to put in extra effort for the Oliver Ames program,” Barata said. “This team had the X factor – the EXTRA something that is hard to quantify. I knew after our first game this group was going to be special. However, it was the Foxboro games that convinced me that we had the potential to go far in the tournament.”
OA grinded out a gutsy win in the opening round of the tournament, knocking off a tough Milton squad 1-0. Romero provided the heroics in the next round, depositing the game-winner in double-overtime with just seconds left to play. After a rout of the #2-seed Greater New Bedford (5-0), Vella and Cardoza scored in the South Sectional Final, the latter in overtime to give the Tigers a win over Medfield.
“We were playing with three in the back with the most relentless defense I had ever seen,” Nutt added. “And our offense was clicking too and teams couldn’t figure out how to stop us or score on us. We had great team chemistry but it’s all in coach Barata. He perfected a system and way of playing that was literally unbeatable, and it paid off.”
In the state final, OA fell behind 1-0 to Masconomet but responded with three straight goals to claim the title. After going down 1-0 in the 12th minute, Romero equalized just seven minutes later. Five minutes later, Cardoza buried a loose ball in the box off a corner kick, and the Tigers added an insurance goal in the 57th minute off of the head of McCormick on a cross from Alvarado. It marked the first state championship in program history.
SANDWICH, Mass. – The Oliver Ames boys soccer team entered Thursday night’s D2 South Semifinal with a tall task against unbeaten Nauset.
Despite a spirited second half effort and a saved penalty kick, the Tigers were unable to complete their upset bid, suffering a 1-0 loss to the Warriors after a late goal.
The top-seeded Warriors extended their unbeaten streak to 44 straight games to advance to the D2 South Final against Milford. The last time Nauset lost was in the D2 South Semifinals in 2017 via penalty kicks to OA.
“I think the second half was much better than the first,” said Oliver Ames head coach John Barata. “I think they took it too us for about 50% of the [first] half, then the rest of it was a little more back and forth. We had some chances but they had more dangerous chances. They are a strong team. They are fast, they want to impose their style of play and they were able to do that. They a very good team, John [McCully] has done a great job. They are #8 in the country for a reason, they are no joke.
“I thought we played very well and have a lot of guys that will learn from this experience. They’ll remember how this felt, and the extra work that it takes. We had one or two bad mistakes and they punished us for it. Overall, I thought it was a great second half for us.”
The lone goal came in the 73rd minute of play. A ball over the top found Nauset’s Anthony Lovati, who controlled the ball and took a touch forward despite OA’s plea for handball. Lovati connected with Shavar Champagnie in the area, who was quickly met with a pair of OA defenders on his back.
Champagnie alertly played the ball back to the top of the area where senior Sebastian Headrick calmly ran onto it and placed a shot through traffic and into the bottom corner for the eventual game-winner.
The Tigers quickly switched to three in the back, throwing numbers and services forward, but the Nauset backline used its height to prevent any balls in behind. OA had a corner in the final seconds and put all of the players in the box, including the keeper, but were unable to get on the end of it before a Nauset clearance.
“For the most part we dominated,” said Nauset head coach John McCully. “Don’t get me wrong, Oliver Ames made it difficult for us. It was very difficult for us to get any rhythm today because we’re used to ball dominance. We didn’t have a lot of that, even though we controlled at times. And 0-0…it would have been a crying shame [if we didn’t win].”
OA keeper Drew Nickla was called into action in the 12th minute when Nauset’s Connor Cushing delivered a service to the back post that was met by Lovati but Nickla was perfectly positioned and tipped the bid over the bar.
While changes were hard to come in the first, Oliver Ames’ best opportunity came in the 19th minute. Anthony DaCosta played classmate Kevin Louhis wide on the left flank. Louhis used his speed to beat his defender before poking a cross to the edge of the six-yard box, but the service was in-between DaCosta and Dillon Cupples and a Warrior defender was quick to clear.
Nauset had two golden chances before the end of the half but couldn’t convert. William Schiffer got on the end of a throw-in from Lovati but his chance smacked off the crossbar. Just under 10 minutes later, Nathan Watring set Schiffer up right in front but his shot was over the bar.
Louhis had the first good chance of the second half in the 54th minute. After working his way around a pair of defenders, he cut near the top of the 18 and ripped a left-footed shot but a Nauset defender was able to reach out and make the block. OA’s lone shot on goal came off the foot of Louhis with a low shot from distance that was saved.
“We actually built up in the midfield well at times, but the challenge was then you run into a wall of six in the back,” Barata said. “And they weren’t soft, they come through hard. Ultimately I thought we did well, I am pleased with the guys. I am sad for the seniors because they’ve done a lot of good work for the program. But I thought they went out in a great blaze. It was a close game, they scored with seven minutes left in the game. Problem was, there was no time to bounce back. We pressed, we put everyone up for that last corner but they have a lot of big bodies in there.
“I think the guys did a really good job playing the game and they should leave here with their heads held high. They’ll learn and then we’ll come back, we’ll bounce back.”
“We were a little worried with the long throws and set pieces against a strong team but today he was pretty outstanding and stellar on all the throws and set pieces,” Barata said of Nickla. “And the PK was a great save.”
Just under 10 minutes after the penalty stop, the Warriors cashed in for the lone goal of the game.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames head coach John Barata admits there aren’t many positives to falling behind early in a tournament game, but there was one thing the Tigers learned about themselves on Sunday afternoon.
“It showed our ability to come back,” Barata said.
The fourth-seeded Tigers fell behind twice in the opening half against visiting Greater New Bedford but answered each time, and then some, on their way to a dominant 6-2 win over the 13th-seeded Bears.
“If it happens again, we won’t be panicked,” Barata said of the lesson learned from the win. “Ideally, we won’t want to go down but if we are, it was good it was early in the game because you have plenty of time and you don’t have to change your plan. We didn’t change our game plan.”
The visitors stunned the Tigers by taking the lead less than three minutes into the game. A long ball over the top from GNBVT defender Alexander Vieira Silva Macedo fell in behind the OA defense, drawing the keeper off the line. Landon Amaral won the race to the ball though, nodding a header past the keeper and into the open net.
But as Barata noted, the Tigers didn’t change their plan and their offense answered. The hosts knocked on the door plenty of times before breaking through. Kevin Louhis forced the keeper into a terrific diving game in the 5th minute, and Colin Milliken had his curling shot handled in the 7th minute.
The pressure paid off in the 16th minute as Milliken intercepted a pass from the Bears just over midfield. After a touch forward, the junior midfielder played a perfect through ball between the GNBVT defense that Louhis to run onto and finished at the far post to make it 1-1.
Despite the hosts having the majority of play, the Bears took another lead. Another ball over the top found space in behind the defense, Amaral took the service down and tucked in a low shot to put GNBVT back in front, up 2-1 in the 24th minute.
“We got a little panicky early and we didn’t play our brand,” Barata said. “Credit to [Greater New Bedford], they came prepared to play that long ball. They didn’t have a lot of shots, they used that long ball. Once we tightened up the backline, everything was better for us.”
Similar to their response after going down the first time, Oliver Ames was back on the offensive nearly immediately. Junior Brady deVos’ long shot was deflected that gave Louhis a chance with a header in the area but it was right at the keeper in the 26th minute.
OA pulled level four minutes later as right back Harry Ahearn connected with Dillon Cupples near the top of the box. Cupples had his bid blocked by a defender but the ball fell right to Jimmy Keane, who latched onto it with a low blast into the back of the net to make it 2-2 in the 30th minute.
This time the Tigers took advantage of their momentum, earning a free kick from 25 yards out. Junior Matthew Nikiciuk blasted a right footed past the wall and into the far corner to give the hosts their first lead of the game, up 3-2, in the 31st minute.
“I hope the guys felt reassured they could come back,” Barata said. “Once we got the lead, we definitely we weren’t going to give it back. The key was the get the goals and then be disciplined enough to not give another one back.”
The second half was all Tigers, who put on a clinic in the final third over the course of 40 minutes. Peppering the net with 10 shots on goal, OA cashed in for three more goals.
But before the OA offense could get in full gear, the defense came up with a big stop. Dominek Borden flicked a header off a throw in that eluded the keeper but defender Jonathan Freeman made the stop with a header before the ball could cross.
Cupples doubled the hosts’ lead in the 59th minute. After having his pass blocked by a defender, the ball popped up and Cupples blasted a wicked volley from 25 yards out that dipped under the crossbar for a 4-2 lead in the 58th minute.
Two minutes later, Louhis played Anthony DaCosta in with a through ball. DaCosta took a touch to cut the ball back onto his right foot and blasted a shot near post top shelf that gave OA a 5-2 lead.
The Tigers’ grabbed their third goal in a six-minute span when Mathias Taylor blasted a shot from a step inside the box that was saved, only for Louhis to race in and bury the rebound.
“It’s a great time of year to have these chances and have the ball go into the back of the net,” Barata said. “Hopefully we have many more to come. Greater New Bedford did a great job, we knew it would be a tough game. Sometimes that first [playoff] can almost be the toughest. It’s not always the toughest, I can’t really explain it, but you want to get that first one. Our journey is tough, we’re in for a battle next time out with either Somerset-Berkley or North Attleboro.”
Oliver Ames boys soccer (14-3-0) will host the winner of #5 Somerset-Berkley and #13 North Attleboro with a date and time still to be determined.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Heading into its regular season finale, the Oliver Ames boys soccer team had an opportunity to snap a rare two-game skid and head into the state tournament on a positive note.
But without two of its top players (Colin Milliken and Anthony DaCosta, both out with minor injuries) and a strong King Philip squad with a similar mission standing in its way, the Tigers knew it wouldn’t be an easy task.
Behind a pair of second half goals, Oliver Ames emerged with a win to finish the season on a high note, taking a 2-0 decision over the Warriors to finish the season at 13-3-0.
“It’s always positive to get a result, we played well in the last two games, it’s just the results didn’t go our way,” said Oliver Ames head coach John Barata. “So it’s nice to have a complete game where you actually play well, do pretty good things, and then get the win. Credit to KP, that’s a wonderful team that Mike [O’Neill] has done a great job with.”
After an even first half, the Tigers were able to capitalize on a free kick 10 minutes into the second half and grabbed a second goal just minutes later to take control of the game.
Junior Keanu Lakay drew a foul just outside the area while cutting into the center of the pitch to give the hosts a free kick from 25-yards out. Junior Matthew Nikiciuk fired a low shot to the right of the wall, with the ball skipping off the slick turf and finding the corner at the far post to give OA a 1-0 lead in the 41st minute.
The momentum stayed with the Tigers and the hosts quickly grabbed a second goal. Junior Dillon Cupples played a ball wide to classmate Kevin Louhis, who took a few touches before using a cheeky chip to find Cupples in behind the defense.
The King Philip defense swarmed to the ball but Cupples took a touch to put the ball back on his right foot and he fired a low shot into the bottom corner to make it 2-0 in the 43rd minute.
“It was a relatively even match in the first half, and into the second half too,” said King Philip coach Mike O’Neill. “We gave a bad foul away in a very bad spot, we know not to do that so it was a mental lapse on our part. But credit to OA, that was a terrific finish. Grant Orzell is a very good goalie and it’s hard to beat him off a free kick, and that shot was buried.
“And that next five minutes, as they say, they had their tail up and they were recalling coming at us. They were winning 50-50s, and that was more a scrum than anything but they were quicker to the ball and they finished so all the credit to OA. It’s a terrificly coached team, Coach John has done a great job this year.”
Both sides had strong possession in their own thirds throughout the first half but chances were at a premium with both defenses playing well.
OA had the opening chance of the game when Cupples played senior Matthew Nosalek wide, who then whipped a cross into the area but senior Nicholas Farley flashed a header wide in the 5th minute. Louhis registered the first shot on goal in the 17th minute but his low bid was handled by KP keeper Aidan Lindmark.
King Philip had its best chance come in the 27th minute as sophomore Caleb Casseta-Waxman connected with senior Brian McCarthy. McCarthy ripped a shot from 20 yards out that forced OA keeper Drew Nickla to make a leaping one-handed save over the bar.
“That was grep prep game for us because they move the ball nicely, they are aggressive, they are strong,” Barata said of KP. “We’ll see teams like that in the playoffs so for us it was the best preparation, and then to get a result was a nice positive to finish the regular season.
“The postseason is all about getting guys to show up and play, and also who’s going to step up for you. So today was a good indication that we have guys who are able to step up and willing. We were missing two of our best players, two of our leading scorers so it was nice to see us bounce back and play a good brand of soccer even without them on the pitch. And we got to play our seniors for the majority of the game, so it was to go into the postseason with a positive vibe.”
King Philip’s best chances came in the final 10 minutes of the game. In the 70th minute, Evan McEvoy fired a shot that required Nickla to handle on the bounce off the slick turf, and a minute later, McEvoy set up Owen Teixeira but his bid was over the bar.
The Warriors now find themselves in the same situation as Oliver Ames. King Philip heads into the regular season finale on home against Feehan with a two-game skid but a chance to get back on track before the playoffs.
“In many ways I think we’re fortunate because we play OA and Feehan, so we’re playing really good competition going into the tournament which I think helps keep us sharp,” O’Neill said. “But we’ve talked about it as a team, and we have to understand that we need a certain mentality going into tournament play. There’s such a small margin between good teams, and it usually comes down to one moment here or there. But I’m happy we have Feehan on Wednesday because its another good team to help us get ready.”
Oliver Ames boys soccer (13-3-0 Hockomock, 13-3-0 overall) awaits its seed and matchup for the MIAA tournament while King Philip hosts Feehan on Wednesday at 6:00.
“I think the season has gone really well, the boys have worked hard,” said Oliver Ames head coach John Barata, who has taken the team to the playoffs every year since he took over in 2009. “We’ve overcome some adversity and some challenges. Look at today, if you work hard luck can go your way. I think we learned you have to keep going. The first goal was a bit of a gift, to be honest, after [Canton] had done well defending and playing. The season has gone very well, we’re working hard and getting better.”
The first 50 minutes of the game was loaded with chances with each team coming inches from the opener. The Tigers hit the post and had a couple of point-blank chances turned away by Canton keeper Gio Ruggeri. The Bulldogs saw a good chance hit off the crossbar and stay out, and another bid cleared off the line by an OA defender.
The first goal finally came in the 51st minute on an unlucky play by the Bulldogs. After Ruggeri made the initial stop on a shot from OA junior Jimmy Keane, a Canton defender went to clear the loose ball but the kick ricocheted off of a teammate and into the open net for an own goal and a 1-0 lead for the hosts.
As it often can, the goal changed the game. From there on out, it was almost all Tigers. Oliver Ames scored a pair of goals inside a five-minute span later in the second half to secure the two points and the division title.
“We played a really good first half, I thought we both had the same amount of chances by halftime,” said Canton head coach Danny Erickson, now in his 27th year at the helm of the Bulldogs. “We decided to give them most of the possession and the field because I think that was the way the game was going to go anyway. We didn’t completely hunker down, we just gave them their half and wanted to counter a little bit. I thought it worked out pretty good in the first half and maybe 10 minutes into the second half.
“When you give them a lot of the field, you take chances that fluke things can happen. We gave up a fluke own goal and I think that kind of took the wind out of our sails. I thought we were good up to that moment and then we struggled against a very good team, hats off to [Oliver Ames].”
Oliver Ames kept applying pressure following the first goal of the game and found a second 11 minutes later. Junior Kevin Louhis was able to find space between two defenders and laid off a perfectly weighted through ball into the area. Junior Colin Milliken made a diagonal run onto the ball and used a simple touch to beat the keeper and find the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Five minutes later, Milliken had his second and the Tigers had a 3-0 lead. Senior Jonathan Freeman blasted a clearance up field. Louhis was able to keep possession over two defenders, playing Milliken in again. Ruggeri was first to the ball at the top of the area but Milliken tracked down the loose ball in the area and tucked it away for a 3-0 lead.
“We had a lot of chances, we had balls go through the six, had some shots blocked [in the first half],” Barata said. “Once that went in, it felt like there was a relief of the pressure. The guys were just playing, not every shot was to win the World Cup Final. Canton is a great team, Danny has done a great job with a young team. They are going to be very good in the future.”
Both sides had good chances in the first half, starting with Milliken’s blast from 20 yards out that was smothered by Ruggeri. Three minutes later, Canton freshman Jorge Sanchez put a free kick into the mixer and the rebound fell to sophomore Jacob Crunagle, but he couldn’t get over the ball and a shot on target.
OA responded when junior Anthony DaCosta won a battle on the sidelines, connected with Louhis who fired a left footed shot just wide at the far post. Two minutes later, the Tigers had a great combination play with Harry Ahearn linking up with Mathias Taylor. Taylor found Keane, who in turn played DaCosta in behind the defense but the final shot skipped wide.
Canton nearly took the lead in the 32nd minute. Senior Colby Ciffolillo rose up above the defense and got his head to it, lofting it over the keeper, but the ball smacked off the crossbar and stayed out.
A minute later, Ruggeri came up with a huge stop to keep the game scoreless. DaCosta connected with Milliken and he blasted a shot on target but Ruggeri pushed it away. Ruggeri made a point black stop a minute later when Milliken set up Keane inside the area.
Oliver Ames junior Brady deVos used the outside of his foot to near give the Tigers the lead in the 35th minute but his shot clanked off the post and went out. On the other end, deVos robbed Canton of a goal with a goal line clearance, heading away another bid from Ciffolillo in the 36th minute.
Oliver Ames boys soccer (12-1-0 Hockomock, 12-1-0 overall) returns to action on Tuesday with a night game at Mansfield. Canton (3-9-1, 3-9-2) will take on Sharon at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday night in the second half of a double header with the girls teams playing first.
MILFORD, Mass. – Prior to Friday afternoon’s game with Oliver Ames, Milford coach Brian Edwards was joking about his team’s lack of a long throw. The Hawks used one in the defensive zone to occasionally relieve pressure but rarely utilized a throw in the attacking third.
With the game tied 2-2 and the clock winding down inside the final two minutes, Milford won a throw on the near touch line. Sophomore defender Chris Tocci had made a rare foray forward and he grabbed the ball, stepped back, and unleashed a throw into the middle of the OA penalty area.
It pinballed around, taking several deflections off both teams before finding the foot of junior Joao Pedro Da Silva, who fired a low, hard shot through traffic and into the back of the net. That goal proved decisive for the Hawks, who pulled out a 3-2 victory in a playoff-like atmosphere worthy of two teams that entered Friday unbeaten and leading their respective divisions.
“We’re talking about how neither of us have a long throw and I was like, well Tocci has one but we only use it deep in our own end to get it out of there,” Edwards joked. “He just happened to be up there and said I’ll take it. Not how we drew it up but it was quite a finish.”
He added, “I told the guys after they tied it, ‘You have nine minutes. We’ve been here before. I’m not nervous now because I feel like you can score a goal or two.’ Overall I thought we played a good game, but they’re an awesome team. Anytime you get to play OA you get to test yourself, and I thought we rose to it today.”
The first half was an even contest with both teams creating chances. Milford junior Leo Coelho skimmed the post and found the side netting with a shot from 20 yards, then OA nearly grabbed the lead when junior Colin Milliken slipped a pass behind the defense for classmate Anthony DaCosta, but Milford keeper Leo Oliveira was out quick to smother the chance.
In the 14th minute, the Hawks took the lead. Senior Pedro Araujo created the opportunity with a slick through ball to Da Silva, but OA keeper Drew Nickla was off his line to block the shot. The ball flicked high in the air and had to be cleared off the line. The rebound effort was also sent goalwards but went off the arm of an OA defender.
Araujo, the league’s leading goal scorer, stepped up to the spot and slipped his shot under the dive of Nickla (five saves).
Milford had a couple of good chances to double its advantage before the break. Coelho latched onto a bad clearance, heading past the defender, but he skied a shot when clean through on goal. Jordan Borges set up Lucas Da Silva in the OA box, but his shot was skewed wide.
The Tigers had their own moments to try and get on the board in the first half, only to be denied by Oliveira (four saves). Milliken had the best chance but his curling free kick was palmed away by the keeper at full stretch. The junior almost grabbed a goal with another set piece from a tight angle but just missed the top corner. Jonathan Freeman also tested Oliveira with a long free kick that the keeper was forced to punch clear of the OA attackers.
“That’s the best game Leo’s played,” said Edwards. “He made some big saves. It was tough in the first half cause the sun was in his eyes and the wind in his face. I thought he played great and he’s come a long way because he’s working hard and he’s grinding.”
Just a minute after the break, OA was inches from equalizing. Brady deVos made a slide tackle on the far sideline, taking possession and driving towards the right side of the box. He hit a perfect cross to the back post where it was met by Kevin Louhis, but somehow Oliveira managed to get across and deny the shot in the bottom corner.
Five minutes later, Milford led 2-0. Araujo swung in a line drive corner to the near post and Dan Santos got across his marker to flick in the header, his second goal in as many games.
The Hawks seemed in control, but the Tigers took advantage of a defensive lapse to get right back into the game. Milliken sent in a corner and deVos was wide open in the middle of the box for a simple, close-range header.
“They kept working hard. They’re learning,” said Oliver Ames coach John Barata about his team’s ability to fight back after falling behind. “We gave up some really soft goals on set pieces, really poorly defended, so we have to learn, but it was good to see them come back. It was a good test and good to see them come back again and again.”
Leading by one, Milford had a series of chances to try and put the game away. Borges looped a cross into the box that landed directly on top of the crossbar and then he sprung Araujo on a break that was only stopped when Matthew Nosalek somehow got back in front and blocked the shot with a sliding tackle.
A minute after that chance, Borges whipped a free kick into the top corner from 30 yards, only to have it wiped away because the call had been for an indirect kick. With 10 minutes remaining, Araujo again cut in on his left foot and again was denied a goal, this time by the post. The rebound was put back on frame but Harrison Ahearn cleared it off the line.
The missed chances proved costly, as the Tigers kept going and managed to find an equalizer with nine minutes left to play. Mathias Taylor found himself in acres of space on the right and he hit a low cross to Milliken, who coolly finished over the onrushing keeper.
After letting the Tigers come back from two goals down, Milford could have settled for a draw, but instead fought back to find a winner and extend its lead in the Davenport title race to five points.