By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Any time you get two city rivals together for a crosstown showdown, the stars always seem to come out and shine their brightest.
And for the Bristol Central boys soccer squad, there certainly was some shine against the Lancers on Thursday, Oct. 24 from Muzzy Field in Bristol.
Tied at 1-1, Central’s C.J. Dabkowski slammed in a game winning shot just 24:58 into the contest as the Rams racked up a 2-1 victory to move to finish its campaign at 9-7.
Tournament bound Eastern fell to 7-9 in the losing effort but hung around in the fray until the final horn sounded.
Late in the game fray, Eastern took some late shots at Central’s goal but that tying shot never fell in.
“They gave us chances,” said Eastern coach Bill Sweet. “They pulled up (late in the game) without pressuring the ball but they won the game. They got the win. Whatever they did worked.”
Only five minutes into the fray, Central got itself into the scoring column in a big way.
Off a direct kick by Dabkowski, Chris Martin got the ball, flipped it off the back of his foot to Colby MacDonald, slamming it in past Eastern keeper Josh Unkrich as Central led 1-0.
“I think Colby McDonald in the middle played phenomenal,” said Bristol Central coach Larry Covino. “He played the best game I’ve seen him play.”
But just over three minutes later, Eastern knotted things at one as Plasczynski started a drive and then finished it off a head’s up play.
Plasczynski booted the ball about 40 feet up the field, sprinting up the field, and Sam Suchinski took it on the right side as he had hustled to track down the ball.
Suchinski unleashed a cross into Plasczynski, who tried to tap it in the net.
Off a block by goalie Evan Tavera, the ball skipped backwards towards the Central net and Plasczyski smacked it in as the game became a 1-1 stalemate with 32:17 left in the frame.
“Brendan comes through for us,” said Sweet of Plasczynski. “He doesn’t have the foot-speed of some people. But boy, he works hard.”
Covino knows all too well what happens when his team eases up a bit and Eastern made the Rams pay.
“I thought we slacked off for one second and they scored that counter goal,” said Covino. “Then I thought we came back and we dominated.”
From there, both teams traded attempts as the scoring slowed down a bit.
At 20:12, Dabkowski took his stab at the Eastern goal but Unkrich made his first save of the affair and with 19:07 left in the first, the keeper made a diving save to keep things at 1-1.
Central’s Xhulian Ndoja had a bit of a breakaway and booted the ball at the Eastern goal. The quick Unkrich used his body to block the attempt as the game stayed tied at 1-1.
The Rams continued to litter the Eastern box with traffic. Off Central’s fifth corner kick of the half, Dabkowski found pay dirt.
Off the failed corner attempt, the ball found Dabkowski in the middle of the field and he blasted the thing nearly 20 yards out over the Eastern goalie. With 15:02 left in the first half, the Rams recaptured a 2-1 advantage.
“He’s everywhere and he’s been that way all season,” said Covino of Dabkowski. “People don’t always see it because he’s the littlest guy out there on the field. But he plays with more heart, more skill, and he is tough. He will take on the biggest player and never back down.”
Two more Central attempts came Unkrich’s way – one which he glove-saved over the Eastern goal – while he stopped another Dabkowski shot and kept the thing a 2-1 game.
With just over 10 minutes to play in the half, Tavera made a kick save on a Clayton Caggiano attempted punch in and Central’s one goal lead stayed intact.
Off an Eastern corner with 4:10 left, Austin Dias took in a corner kick. Again, Tavera made a stop and the 2-1 edge still belonged to the Rams.
“We had two good shots in the first half that we kicked right at Evan,” said Sweet. “And Evan held them. But we kicked it right to him and he did a good job.”
Central kept the ball in Eastern’s half the field to end the first half and the Rams were in charge by a tight 2-1 tilt.
With 36:07 left in the game, Plasczynski found Suchinski for an open attempt. However, the ball was blasted wide right as Eastern’s shot failed to fall in.
“I thought we played better especially in the first half,” said Central coach Larry Covino said. “(But) I told them at halftime don’t expect Eastern to come and back off. The big thing was prevent them from scoring in the first 10 minutes.”
“And we did.”
The Lancers evened things out in the second half offensively but that one tying score remained elusive.
Off a Central direct kick, the Lancers countered quickly down the field with 26:45 remaining but the drive was snuffed out as the play continued to go back and forth.
“I thought we were a little too passive in the first half and Central took advantage of it,” said Sweet. “I thought they moved the ball well. I thought we came out in the second half and disrupted them and they weren’t quite as effective.”
The game got somewhat physical halfway through the second frame. The officials allowed the play to continue and that had an impact on the contest as well.
With 18:05 left, Central had a wide open attempt on the Eastern goal. Defender Rob Skrzypek booted it out of bounds as the Lancers were hanging in there but still down 2-1.
Jeremy Pineda later crossed it into the Central box . Mitch Roy‘s header went the wrong way with 16:07 left to play.
Central didn’t help its cause offensively late but the time simply trickled down in the contest. The Lancers’ backs were against the wall.
With 6:15 left, Dias dropped in a beautiful ball to Suchinski but his attempt went wide right.
And with 5:27 remaining, Suchinski made a cross that could have led to something big.
It didn’t and that 2-1 Central lead was looking bigger and bigger.
Every chance could have produced something for the Lancers. Credit to Central’s keeper and defense that one, tying goal never came.
“Evan came up with a couple big saves,” Covino said.
Eastern simply couldn’t tie it up late as the horn sounded. Central had it first sweep over the Lancers since the 2005 campaign.
“I mean, the last 10 minutes got very hairy,” said Covino. “They had us on our heels. But they didn’t push us out of our game. We were able to use the wings and take advantage of the width of the field.”
“Eastern played well, they don’t give up…I hate to sound redundant but it was another Eastern/Central battle.”
The contest marked the final games for Central seniors Chris Dabkowski, Parker Soltis, Evan Tavera, Max Orlando, Jake Kochin, and Xhulian Ndoja.
For Eastern, seniors Clayton Caggiano, Josh Unkrich, Brendan Placzynski, Paul Chabot, Brandon Maghini, Jack Englehart, Ryan Gallagher, Sam Suchinski, Tim Plourde, Martone, Gavin Johnson, and Wyatt Hilbrand all participated in their final regular season game.