Senators KO Raiders
ORANGE — The Mahar boys’ soccer team proved resilient as they overcame a two-goal deficit to eliminate rival Athol High School with a 3-2 shootout victory, Wednesday night, at the James S. Woodward Athletic Complex.
The contest was tied after 80 minutes of regulation. A pair of 10-minute overtime periods didn’t settle anything and the teams went to penalty-kicks. The best-of-five shootout still wasn’t enough to determine a winner, but Mahar senior Troy King knocked in the game-winner in the sixth round to send the Senators into the WMass Division III quarterfinals.
“This group has battled for years and they’ve stuck together,” said Mahar head coach Dan Guertin. “It’s good to see it pay off. We had proven we could come back against them twice already this year. We knew we could do it. It was an awesome game for both teams and it’s unfortunate someone has to come away with a loss. It was a lot of fun to battle out here and it’s great competition.”
The seldom used King hadn’t seen the field in 100 minutes of game play, but had earned the opportunity in practice according to Guertin. He responded by knocking his shot inside the left post and was carried off the turf on the shoulders of the student body.
“We have been practicing our PKs and charting them,” said Guertin. “We knew we could rely on Troy if we needed an extra one and he proved it to us all.”
The loss was heart-breaking for the Raiders.
“Penalty kicks are exciting, but they are what they are,” said Athol head coach David King. “When you can win them it’s that much more rewarding and Mahar’s obviously excited. We got up on them and they’ve responded. You have to admire the fact that they responded in the way they did.”
Athol drew first blood as Hayden Herk knocked in a cross from Brandon Barilone 10:06 into the contest. The Raiders made it 2-0 just 53 seconds later as Xavier Santana volleyed a failed clear attempt over Mahar goalkeeper Bryce Cleveland.
It looked as if the Raiders were going to coast to a victory, but the Senators fought back just like they did in Friday’s meeting. Senior Pedro Mattos ripped a shot inside the right post from the top of the 18 at the 20:33 mark to make it a 2-1 game.
Mahar scored the equalizer just 55 seconds into the second half as Shawn Dennis knocked in a cross for Owen Cook. Cook carried down the left sideline and into the corner as a pair of Athol defenders made poor decisions in jumping into the play. That allowed Cook to free up space and fire a cross to Dennis whose shot glanced off Athol defender Josh Herk and into the net to tie the contest at two.
From that point forward, the crowd hung on every cross, shot and corner-kick as the suspense built before the teams headed to the shootout.
Athol went first with Tyler Lajoie knocking a shot into the bottom right corner. Cook matched Lajoie with a perfectly placed roller just inside the right post which just missed the hands of a diving Lorenzo Carra.
In round two, Athol’s Brandon Barilone sailed a shot well over the net. Mahar’s Alex Barbera proceeded to fire a shot at the right post that Carra made a diving stop on.
Ryan Herk stepped to the line for the Raiders in round three and calmly rolled a shot inside the left post. The Senators sent out Jack Temple and the sophomore midfielder rolled a shot into the right corner to even the shootout at two.
Xavier Santana emerged for round four, but his shot to the bottom left corner was stopped by Mahar goalkeeper Bryce Cleveland. With a chance to take the lead, the Senators trotted out senior Eli Smith. Smith’s liner at the right post sailed wide.
Athol saved Nelson Leadbetter for the fifth round. The senior defender uncorked a missile that Cleveland never had a chance on. Senior Pedro Mattos stepped to the line needing a goal to keep his team alive. The crafty veteran proceeded to knock a shot into the bottom right corner despite the effort of a diving Carra.
Mattos’ make sent the shootout into overtime. Junior Avery Clyatt emerged for the Raiders, but his shot sailed over the net. The miss sent King to the line with a chance to be the hero and he delivered as the crowd swarmed the field.
“It was very suspenseful,” said Cleveland of the contest. “We have been practicing for it so I was ready, but it was suspenseful and exciting.”
The contest was the third time the teams have met this fall. Athol led in all three while the Senators fought back each time. The first meeting ended in a 2-2 tie. The Raiders led 3-0 last Friday before Mahar rallied to make things interesting in what ended up being a 3-2 Athol win. On Wednesday, it was Mahar’s turn to taste victory and the Senators will now visit No. 1 Belchertown on Friday at 7 p.m.
The loss ended the careers of Lajoie, Barilone, Santana, Carra, Leadbetter and Owen King. It’s a group whose departure will weigh heavily on their coach.
“Our guys should be proud of the effort they gave,” said King. “These guys were a lot of my motivation for the last 15 years. This is my son’s group and we had a bunch of kids who loved to play soccer, be around each other and battle from each other. This group was the beginning of what we started with Athol soccer. It’s obviously not the final result we wanted to have, but they will always be my family.”
ORANGE — Wednesday night’s boys soccer match between Athol and Mahar featured a number of highlights that didn’t produce scores. Here’s a brief look at some of those plays:
2nd minute — Athol’s Owen King rips a shot from 20 yards out that sails just high.
5th minute — Athol’s Tyler Lajoie beats a pair of Mahar defenders, but a bad touch allows goalkeeper Bryce Cleveland to slide out and take the ball away.
15th minute — King plays a ball over the top as Lajoie chases it down. As Cleveland comes off his line, Lajoie pulls up for a shot but shanks it wide right.
20th minute — Athol’s Brandon Barilone carries up the right wing, peels back and rockets a shot off the crossbar. The rebound bounces to Lajoie, but he can’t settle the bouncing ball quickly enough and the Mahar defense clears it away.
23rd minute — Mahar’s Pedro Mattos hits a beauty from the left corner as teammate Shawn Dennis goes into a “Superman” dive and sends a header just wide of the net.
25th minute — Athol goalkeeper Lorenzo Carra sends Athol on a counter-attack with a throw to Xavier Santana. Santana gets the ball ahead to Lajoie who carries into the corner. Lajoie drives along the end line, but his cross in front goes untouched.
29th minute — Mattos fires a knuckler towards the right post from 20 yards out, but Carra sprawls to tip the shot out of bounds.
30th minute — Lajoie leads a counter-attack, but his cross in front finds no one and the Mahar defense clears it out.
34th minute — Mattos gets past the Athol defense only to be fouled from behind by Athol’s Nelson Leadbetter. No card was issued.
37th minute — Lajoie fires a cross in front of the net as teammate Hayden Herk slides onto the ball only to see his shot sail high.
55th minute — Mahar’s Matt Jenks hits a rocket from 25 yards out at the top right corner, but Carra is able to pick it off.
57th minute — Mattos hits a perfect corner-kick at the front post where teammate Jack Temple is battling Athol’s Owen King. King wins the battle in the air and heads the ball out of the danger zone.
59th minute — Mahar’s Owen Cook hits Shawn Dennis on a square-pass. Dennis’ shot is deflected wide by Athol’s Josh Herk.
62nd minute — Lajoie races onto a through ball, but his roller from 25 yards out is handled by Cleveland.
67th minute — Lajoie’s pass to Xavier Santana gives him an open look, but he’s too slow to pull the trigger and the Mahar defense deflects the shot.
71st minute — Athol’s Brandon Barilone chips ahead to Lajoie who turns and fires a left-footed rocket at the far post. The shot skips just wide.
75th minute — Mattos fields a square-pass from Cook and fires a low squirmer that is deflected wide by Carra.
79th minute — Santana’s corner-kick gives Athol three hacks inside the box, but a wall of Mahar defenders prevents all three kicks from getting anywhere near Cleveland.
80th minute — Mattos leads a late counter-attack and fires a shot from the left wing that Carra slides down on.
87th minute — Dennis gets past Barilone, but Carra comes sliding out to take the ball away.
90th minute — Mahar’s Eli Smith wins the fight along the sideline and knocks a pass to Mattos whose shot from 25 yards out sails just high as the first overtime period expires.
93rd minute — Lajoie gets fouled from behind by Mahar’s Levi Baruch who receives a yellow card. The foul allows Leadbetter a free-kick from 30 yards out, but his shot bends wide left.
95th minute — Barilone’s short corner-kick finds King who drops it right back. Barilone’s one-timer rolls wide right.
97th minute — Cook’s free-kick from 25 out sails just high.
100th minute — Final whistle blows as several players crumbled to the ground with cramps and other injuries as the teams head to a shootout.