By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
NORFOLK, Mass. – King Philip first year head coach Nick Gale strived for continuity through the program’s first six games this season and the team went 3-3.
On Tuesday afternoon, Gale decided to switch it up and it paid off in a big way as the Warriors picked up their biggest win of the season, a 4-0 win over divisional rival Taunton.
“You try to have some continuity in what you do and we’ve kind of kept things the same the last five or six games,” Gale said. “And I thought this would be a good game to switch things up, spice things up.”
KP senior captain Joe Kellett has seen time at center back and in the center midfield but was pushed higher up in a more attacking role against the Tigers. The switch paid off as he put a shot on frame inside the first 30 seconds as the Warriors set their attacking tone early.
“We’ve struggled to score goals so we had to try set a tone early,” Gale said. “Even right off the opening play we wanted to be offensive. I think Joe was a good adjustment up there and he took advantage of his opportunities. You can put him anywhere and he’s going to be a threat.”
Kellett had the first serious scoring chance for the Warriors in the 10th minute. Sophomore Tyler Mann cut a pass back to Clayton Geuss and he centered to Kellett but a sprawling effort from Taunton sophomore goalie Marc DeSousa pushed the shot wide.
But it didn’t take long for the Warriors to create another chance and this one found the back of the net. A short free kick from Taunton in the defensive third turned into turnover when Kellett pressed high and came away with the ball. Kellett took control of possession and found Mann wide open in the middle of the area and the sophomore buried his chance.
Junior Sean Crowley had a chance to level the game for Taunton in the 14th minute. Crowley gathered the ball with his back to goal along the left flank and cut into the middle. He was about to get around his defender and ripped a low shot from outside the 18 but KP goalie Brandon Ziolkowski.
Four minutes later, Mansfield was able to double their lead, this time Mann returning the favor to Kellett. On a corner kick, Mann put his service towards the back post and Kellett came sliding in to connect and find the back of the net.
The Warriors were able to make it 3-0 just over the half hour mark. Will Weir picked up a loss ball and lifted a shot that just went through the finger tips of DeSousa and found the back of the net.
““We set a tone very early,” Gale said. “We wanted to be very offensive today and very direct and we got that result early, which is the first time we’ve really gotten an early lead and held onto it. And I think that really sucks the wind out of your opponent. They challenged a lot, especially in the second half, but we set the tone early and that was awesome.”
Though the three lead felt comfortable heading into the second half, King Philip was able to tack one more on inside the first five minutes of the second half. Taunton was whistled for a foul about 30 yards from its own net. The ref whistled for King Philip to push the ball back and as DeSousa hugged the near post to try and set up a wall, King Philip’s Cam Mullins ripped a shot that floated into the back of the open net. Despite the lack of a restart whistle, the ref allowed the goal to count.
“You can try to set things up [on a free kick] but he’s an offensive minded defender I guess you can say,” Gale said. “He has a nose for goal even as a center back. He took advantage of the open goal and it was a good heads up play.”
Both teams pushed to try and find the back of the net for the rest of the half but neither was able to create a serious scoring threat.
With the win, King Philip improved to 4-3 overall and 4-3 in the division, which puts them in second at the time. The Warriors will be back in action on Friday when they host Franklin. Taunton drops to 1-4-2 overall and in division play and will look to bounce back with a trip to division leading Mansfield.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
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