FRANKLIN, Mass. – There weren’t any late dramatics this time out for the King Philip boys soccer team.
Instead, the fireworks came early.
After leaving it late in their win over Mansfield to finish last week, the Warriors came out firing in their first matchup with Franklin. KP scored twice in the opening quarter and once each in the second and third quarters to earn a 4-1 decision on the road over the Panthers.
“It’s a credit to how creative our midfield has been and how hard our wings are working,” said second-year King Philip head coach Mike O’Neill. “They’re all working really hard. This team is very unselfish. We had assists from an outside back, we had assists from wings, assists from midfielders so I’m just really pleased with how they are sharing the ball.”
Senior Evan McEvoy bagged a brace in the win, finding the back of the net just before halftime and shortly after the second half began. Ajae Olsen opened the scoring less than five minutes into the contest and Cole Breen doubled the visitors’ advantage before 15 minutes had expired.
The Warriors went without a goal in 80 minutes in their season opener against Mansfield last week, and then finally broke through in the 77th minute in the second meeting. This time out, King Philip wasted little time finding the back of the net.
Franklin opened the game with the early pressure as junior Terry O’Neill tested KP keeper Aidan Lindmark with a left-footed go from just outside the box in the first minute. But the Panthers didn’t sustain the pressure and the Warriors took advantage of failed clearance.
Outside back Anthony Zappala was rewarded for his venture into the attacking third, combining with senior Alex Leon to gain possession on the left side after Franklin was unable to play out of the back. Zappala split a pair of defenders with a service to the far post and Olsen found himself all alone in behind and finished off a bouncing cross for a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute.
King Philip did sustain their offensive pressure and nearly had a second just three minutes later. Leon played McEvoy on a short indirect kick on the left side, and McEvoy used a nice fake to earn some space before rifling a curling shot on frame that forced Franklin keeper Luc Boudreau to make an acrobatic one-handed save over the bar.
Franklin forayed back into the attacking third but King Philip took possession back and broke out on the counter. Leon used his speed to carry out of the back before sliding a low through ball in behind the defense. Junior Sean McCarthy timed his run perfectly, latching onto the pass entering the area. McCarthy alertly centered the ball to find senior Cole Breen for a one-touch finish from six yards out to make it 2-0 in the 12th minute.
“I think one thing that really worked for us that doesn’t get enough credit is how hard the front three and the midfielders work to make those runs,” O’Neill said. “A lot of the time they go unrewarded but you have to make them anyway and trust your teammates to find you. And we were able to find them on a couple of goals.”
The Panthers’ best chance of the opening quarter came in the 15th minute when junior Aidan Griffith played senior Ben Moccia into space in the area but his tight-angle bid at the near post was just wide.
After a spirited pep talk from head coach Fran Bositis, who is in his 50th consecutive year at the helm of the program, the Panthers came out with a little more pep in their step to start the second quarter. And that resulted in quick success.
Junior Nelson Martinez took a touch into space before unleashing a low shot from outside the area. Moccia made a run across the box and redirected the low shot leaving no chance for Lindmark, cutting the deficit to 2-1 in the 22nd minute.
Shortly before the halftime break, King Philip answered back to restore its two-goal advantage. Junior Stephen Griffin played a diagonal ball near the penalty spot and McEvoy buried his bid for a 3-1 lead in the 35th minute.
“I think that was the turning point in the game,” O’Neill said. “You know there’s the old joke about a two-goal lead being the worst lead in soccer but when you get a second two-goal lead, it makes that mountain a lot harder to climb for the other team. And we talked at halftime, it was really important to keep playing the way we were playing and to stay organized. Coach Fran’s team is always going to come out and play hard and give a tremendous effort, they have some excellent players over there so we had to keep organized.”
King Philip tacked on another insurance goal late in the third quarter. Tadhg Keller linked up with Olsen, who connected with McEvoy in the area to extend the advantage to 4-1 in the 55th minute.
Franklin pushed late but couldn’t breakthrough. Martinez found Charlie Amante in some space but the senior didn’t get a clean shot off and Lindmark covered. Minutes later, Lindmark was quick off his line to deny Amante a chance at a shot and on the next play. Keller came up with a big challenge to prevent another bid on goal.
“It’s a great comfort for a coach to have a goalie like Aidan Lindmark back there,” O’Neill said. “Not only is he a terrifically polished shot-stopper but tactically he’s very, very aware and his judgment is terrific. In a year like this now where you can’t head the ball, your goalie better be the boss of the box and he was tonight.”
King Philip boys soccer (2-1) will host Franklin (0-3) in a rematch on Friday.
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.”
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.
CANTON, Mass. – The field seemed to be tilted towards the far end zone all night. In the first half of Thursday night’s game at WWII Veterans Memorial Field, King Philip threatened with every attack, creating a number of chances, and putting Canton on the back foot. After the break, the hosts turned the game around and suddenly had the Warriors on their heels.
When you’re on top in the game, you have to find the back of the net. KP managed it once, junior Tadhg Keller tapping in a rebound in the 14th minute, and that turned out to be just about enough, as the back line held up against the Canton pressure and held on for a 1-0 win.
“They had a lot of momentum,” said KP coach Mike O’Neill about the pressure his team faced to preserve the lead in the second half. “I’m really happy. It’s a character win, these guys really grinded it out. It was close, it was touch-and-go for a while, but I’m proud of how my boys stuck to it.”
Canton had the game’s first shot on target, but it would end up being the only save that KP starting keeper Aidan Lindmark had to make in the first half, as the Bulldogs struggled to manufacture consistent offense in the opening 40 minutes.
KP grabbed control by exploiting the edges of the Canton defense. Junior Alex Leon had a bright start down the left and he slipped a pass into the channel for Andrew Robinson to have a shot just six minutes into the game. Five minutes later, Leon quickly turned on his defender and had a go from inside the box but hit the side netting.
In the 14th minute, KP got a free kick opportunity from about 25 yards out. Sophomore Caleb Casseta-Waxman curled a shot that seemed destined for the back of the net only for Canton keeper Alejandro Correal to fly across and get a fingertip to it and put it off the bar. The rebound fell to Keller, who took a touch to settle it before slamming the ball into the goal.
“I thought we played a relatively complete game today,” said Canton coach Danny Erickson, “but soccer comes down to moments and we fell asleep admiring our goalkeeper’s save. They didn’t fall asleep and they buried a rebound and that’s what happens.”
Just a minute later, the lead was very nearly doubled. This time KP attacked down the right. Wesley Orzell and Owen Teixeira played a one-two to get Orzell into space and he burst past the defender on the end line. The senior looked up and slid a pass to Casseta-Waxman, who was unmarked in the six-yard-box. Only a heroic intervention by freshman Carson Eagles kept the goalbound shot from hitting the back of the net.
The chances kept coming for the visitors. Evan McEvoy teed up Teixeira in the right channel and his shot flashed into the side netting, confusing some in the crowd, on the KP bench, and the scorekeeper who all thought it had gone into the top corner.
Stephen Griffin managed to hold possession against several Canton defenders and he set up McEvoy for a 20-yard strike that Correal held for one of his five first-half saves. A long cross from right back Matthew Clarke picked out Keller for a free header with just minutes to go before halftime, but the shot was easily grabbed by Correal.
Whatever was said at halftime seemed to work for the Bulldogs. Canton came out of the break inspired and instantly started to put pressure on the KP defense.
“I’d love to take massive credit for an inspirational halftime speech,” Erickson joked, “but I thought we were showing signs of really good stuff in the first half and we focused on those things. Honestly, they started winning some battles and feeling good about themselves and that results in good things.”
Just three minutes into the second half, Dylan Baird had a shot from a long way out that new KP keeper Grant Orzell had to collect at the second attempt, just in front of Jacob Crugnale. Five minutes later, Crugnale had a go from distance that took a touch off a KP boot before going over the bar. From the resulting corner, Colby Cifolillo rose highest but his goal-bound header was deflected wide of the post.
“We’re still a team that’s struggling to create chances and finish and that’s something that we’re going back to the drawing board to keep working on,” Erickson said.
Midway through the second half, freshman Jorge Sanchez set up Crugnale for a one-time hit but Orzell was able to get behind it. TJ McCabe had several shots from the edge of the box that the defense had to charge down. Despite the chances they were able to create, the Bulldogs just couldn’t find a way through and the KP back three of Clarke, Jordan Hoyle, and Jeremy White held firm.
“They are the core of this team and they are the rock, the wall we build, and we really rely on them,” said O’Neil of his defense. “In addition to be excellent defenders, they’re really skilled, composed, and they know what they’re doing.”
KP had a couple of chances on the break to try and put the game away. The best chance came for Anthony Zappala, but his curling effort from distance was collected by Canton back-up goalie Giovanni Ruggeri.
King Philip (3-1-2, 2-1-2) will get nearly a week off before traveling to division rival Attleboro on Wednesday. Canton (1-3-2, 1-3-1) will try to end its three-game losing streak when it hosts Sharon on Monday.
2018 Record: 5-10-3 2018 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Peter Pereira
The Bombardiers have put last year’s season in the rearview mirror and are aiming to get back to the state tournament in 2019.
Attleboro will rely on its eight returners from last year’s squad plus a good amount of new faces to try and make a push for the playoffs. Senior captains Mike Russo, Nathan LaPlume, and Josh Smith will provide leadership both on and off of the field for the Bombardiers. All three have a good amount of varsity experience with LaPlume and Smith tasked with anchoring the Bombardiers’ defensive unit. Both started a season ago so the defense should be a strength to start the season. Russo started in the midfield a year ago and will be in charge of leading that unit. Attleboro will have to fill the shoes left by leading scorer Will Halben (seven goals, five assists) but there is a strong group of forwards that includes Joey Soucy, Justin Lurssen, and Hugo Henriquez — all of whom have varsity experience — that is ready to pace the offense. Patrick Raczkowski and Kevin Raczkowski should give Attleboro help defensively, junior Jackson Singer bolted academy and should give the Bombardiers a boost in the midfield while junior Zackary Brown takes over in goal.
“I am looking to get some leadership and good play from my tri-captains and I’m hoping for a better season [than last year],” said longtime head coach Peter Pereira. “The team’s attitude has been great and we are working hard.”
2018 Record: 10-7-2 2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Fran Bositis
Franklin was one of the hottest teams in the league over the second half of the season last year and the Panthers are hoping to carry that momentum into 2019.
When the calendar turned to October, the Panthers finished the regular season 7-1-1. Longtime head coach Fran Bositis has the pieces to continue that success to begin this year and contend for a league title. A strong suit for the 2019 squad will be the defensive unit, featuring returning keeper Jack Rudolph and center backs Sam Stowell and Jacob Cummings. Anytime a team returns two center backs and its keeper, especially a unit that allowed just three goals in its final nine regular seasons, it’s a big positive. Matt Szczepanowski and Trevor O’Neill, both seniors, will factor in defensively as well. Sophomore Terry O’Neill anchors the midfield from the center of the pitch after a successful freshman campaign while the addition of junior Ethan Cain should give Franklin one of the top midfielder duos, and sophomore Tyler Powderly will likely play in a variety of roles. The challenge for Franklin this season will be finding a consistent offense but there is experience up top with Donny Tappin and Lucas Moura back.
“I think we have the potential to be pretty good, but it all comes one game at a time,” Bositis said. “I think if we can score some goals consistently, we can be pretty dangerous this year.”
2018 Record: 4-12-2 2018 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Mike O’Neill
King Philip begins a new chapter in program history as Mike O’Neill takes over after Nick Gale stepped down following a successful stint with the Warriors.
O’Neill will be looking to help the Warriors bounce back from a four-win season, the first time the squad missed the state tournament in over a decade. King Philip graduated nearly a dozen seniors from last year’s squad but have some key players back in key positions. Senior captain Brian McCarthy has a lot of varsity experience and O’Neill will lean on him to organize the midfield. Senior captains Wes Orzell and Matt Clarke anchor the back line and will be tasked with helping the Warriors keep possession by playing out of the back. Behind the defense, senior Grant Orzell and junior Aidan Lindmark are both strong options in goal. Juniors Evan McEvoy and Camron Lawrence both begin their third season on varsity and are poised to have big years at midfield.
“The team is eager to get started, the seniors want to make their mark after a tough season last year, and the juniors and sophomores are hungry to prove themselves,” O’Neill said. “We will need to stay organized and committed to team defending if we are going to be able to compete in the difficult Hockomock League.”
2018 Record: 13-3-5 (Kelley-Rex Division Champions) 2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Steve Sheridan
The Hornets have won two division titles in the past four years and took second place in the other two seasons, so it’s safe to assume Mansfield will be in the mix once again this year.
In that span of success, Mansfield has been one of the best defensive teams year in and year out, average under a goal against in each of those seasons, including just 0.67 goals against in 2018. The big challenge this season will be replicating that stingy defense because the Hornets graduated their entire back four. The good news is that Mansfield has Anthony Salisbury back in net after he set the program record for shutouts while Cam Bovey serves as the backup keeper, though he is pushing for minutes this season. The strength of the 2019 squad will be in the midfield where senior captains Peter Oldow and Colin Caridi will be. Both have a good amount of varsity experience and will be joined by fellow returners Robbie Healey, Raffi Marzella, Tommy Lanzillo, Colin True, and Evan Eames. Sophomore Dylan Buchanan made a strong impression during his freshman season and will be joined up front by senior Owen Mullahy, who also picked up some valuable minutes a year ago.
“Our biggest question will be, ‘Who’s going to take over our defense that graduated?”, said head coach Steve Sheridan. “That is what I’m trying to figure out and hopefully it will iron itself out during the preseason.”
2018 Record: 8-4-5 2018 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: John Barata
A lot of people learned last year what we already knew: Under head coach John Barata, Oliver Ames doesn’t rebuild, it reloads. The Tigers had to replace their entire starting lineup last season but still had a shot at the division title heading into the final week.
Oliver Ames has a healthy amount of returning players that either started or saw valuable minutes at the varsity level last year starting with seniors Jon Freeman and Matthew Nosalek, who will be key pieces along the back line for the Tigers. Senior Harry Ahearn is another experienced player that will factor in defensively, senior Josh LaBrosse could see time in the midfield or defense, and seniors Nick Farley and Andrew Hanna could get minutes up top. OA has a strong junior class that learned a lot during last season. Colin Milliken, last year’s HockomockSports Underclassman of the Year, will organize the Tigers from the midfield while Anthony DaCosta, Kevin Louhis, and Jimmy Keane are all strong attacking options. Drew Nickla will take over as the starting keeper this year.
“It is too early to tell what we will look like but I’m looking forward to a great season with the boys,” Barata said. “We are excited for the opportunity to compete this season in the Hock. There are lots of talented teams coming back, from the defending champions to the schools with new coaches ready to make a mark. It’s going to be one of the toughest seasons in my tenure and we hope to be competitive.”
2018 Record: 3-12-4 2018 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Taylor Whitters
While the record might not reflect it, it felt like Taunton took a step in the right direction last year, and the Tigers are expecting to take another one this season.
One area of improvement that head coach Taylor Whitters is excited about is the defensive group. The Tigers had the most goals allowed in the Kelley-Rex division but have a reinforced back line ready to fend off the top offenses the Hockomock League has to offer. Senior Colton Medeiros, who had a terrific freshman year before missing time to academy and injury, will anchor the defense in the middle alongside freshman Riley Rebelo. Khalil Ba, a transfer in from Tolman, gives Taunton an outside back that can join in on the attack, while Nolan Melo returns as the starting keeper. Alec Nunes and Colby Fernandes are two dynamic, experienced players that can play both in the midfield or up front. Junior Travis Nunes returns from injury and classmate Hunter Cabral is a versatile player that will play in various roles.
“We have a lot of versatility this year, we’re going to be able to move guys around based on each game,” Whitters said. “No one is locked into a position, we’re going to take it game by game this season.”
“Coaching at Fitchburg over the last three years was a great experience and I learned a lot from it,” Nagle said. “High school has always been a great fit and King Philip with its proximity and its tradition made it a really attractive job when I saw it open up.”
Nagle went 27-50 with Fitchburg State, winning nine games in each of his three seasons. He previously coached at Worcester Academy and at Bellingham High. With Bellingham, Nagle proved successful at the high school level, leading the Blackhawks to the 2014 Div. 3 Central title and a 20-4 overall record.
The Norton native will take over a team that had success last winter and has the potential to be one of the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division, bringing back a number of key pieces, including HockomockSports.com first teamerFaye Veilleux. Nagle introduced himself to the Warriors following a recent summer league game and he believes that the players will fit right into his up-tempo style.
“The good thing is that I knew a lot of them already from AAU and just from being at the facility all the time,” Nagle said. “It’s good to know there are good players. Sometimes when you take over a program you have to start over but the program is in a good spot right now.”
He added, “I think the expectations are really high and that’s exciting for me. I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge, but at the same time it’s nice to go where the ball is already rolling and I have to keep it moving in the right direction.”
In addition to the announcement of Nagle as the new basketball coach, King Philip announced that former Franklin and Dean College coach Lisa Cropper will be its new field hockey coach. Cropper won four league titles in eight seasons as head coach of the Panthers and will take over the two-time defending league champions.
Also, this summer KP announced that former JV coach Mike O’Neill will be the new varsity coach for the boys soccer team.