By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Sophomore keeper Brendan Matracia was playing JV for most of the season, but had to be called up when senior captain Rob Heaney went down with a concussion. On Thursday afternoon, in the fourth round of the penalty shootout, he became the hero when he guessed right and stayed still to save Justin Andrade’s shot down the middle.
North Attleboro’s other co-captain Matt Coscarella put the ball down on the spot with a chance to beat Attleboro and win the Leach and Garner Cup. He stepped up, buried his shot, and wheeled towards the visiting bench to celebrate North’s fifth cup win in the past six years.
“Being able to win, even in PKs, anytime that you beat Attleboro it’s great,” said North Attleboro coach Geoff Burgess.
“I think we had more to play for. Only one win on the season and not really finding our way until the end…this was our championship game really.”
The game had little drama in regulation with both teams struggling to create clear-cut scoring opportunities. Attleboro had the first real chance in the eighth minute when junior Nick Lawrence struck the crossbar with a shot from 20 yards out. Two minutes later Harry Lancaster had a shot that ricocheted off the football crossbar.
Lancaster had another chance at the half-hour mark when he danced through a sea of Rocketeers but his shot was easily saved. Just two minutes before the break, North had its first real chance when Leo Charlebois turned the corner on the left back and fired a shot that Tyler Stowe held at his near post.
Early in the second half and Coscarella had a go from 20 yards following an interception in the attacking third, but his curling effort was saved by a diving Stowe.
“That’s really a synopsis of our season,” said Burgess. “We’ve been this close in a bunch of games.”
In the 58th minute, Junior Coca had his second good chance of the second half when he got on the end of a clearing header by Noah Barney from Khaled Hantash’s cross from the right. Coca took a touch but his shot was off target.
“Even though we dominated the game 90 percent,” said Attleboro coach Peter Pereira, “we couldn’t finish and if you don’t finish then you can’t win.”
“It came down to penalty kicks and then it’s anyone’s game.”
North’s defense was solid, limiting the Bombardiers mostly to chances from distance, Barney, who moved up from outside back to play stopper, and sweeper John Brennan, who played football for the past two season, were rocks at the back and Burgess credited the duo for helping to improve North’s defensive record.
“We’ve stopped giving up as many goals,” he said. “We gave up 39 in the first 15 or however many games and we’ve given up three in the last five.”
“We’ve improved dramatically and I’m really proud of the guys for not quitting on the season. I think this is payback for all of that.”
The game headed to penalties immediately after the final whistle. Charlebois opened it with a goal for North followed by Zach Rodrigues for Attleboro. The game went back and forth until North took a 4-3 lead.
The following shot was saved by Matracia, who stood his ground in the middle of the goal, and Coscarella had the chance to close out his season, and his North career, with silverware.
The winning goal was an experience that Coscarella shares with several North captains in the recent past.
“I always do that every year that we’ve won,” said Burgess. “I always put my senior captain at the end because they’ve earned that moment.”
Pereira remarked, “This year neither of us is going to the playoffs, so it’s a good end of the year game. That’s why I started the cup 30 years ago.”
He added, “It’s a big rivalry game and winner takes it all…and today they took it all. They stayed in the game and they did what they had to do.”
Coscarella and Rodrigues were named the game’s MVPs.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.