PHOTOS by TAMMI NAUDUS
By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern boys soccer team was amped up, playing their first ever crosstown rival match against Bristol Central under the permanent lights from the campus of Bristol Eastern High School on Tuesday, Sept. 30.
And after a scoreless first half of action, the Lancers turned to its senior core to ramp up a few pressure packed goals as Eastern nabbed a big 3-1 victory to move to 3-5 on the season.
It was the Lancers’ third straight victory while the Rams fell to 2-6 overall and have dropped five straight games.
And off a 0-0 stalemate over the first forty minutes of action, it was the actions of the Eastern seniors that ultimately turned tide of the game.
Goals by Jared Stinney, Austin Dias, and an insurance tally by Justin Belli propelled the Lancers to a huge rivalry win.
“A tale of three seniors, that’s what it really was,” said Eastern coach Bill Sweet. “Who scored, let’s see: Austin (Dias), Stinney and Belli.”
But over the first 40 minutes of play, the Central defense was in full effect and both teams had no goals on the scoreboard.
Stops by Central’s Jacob Kreciglowa, Brett Adams, Andrew Marcantonio, and Nick Savino kept the affair even but when Eastern turned on the offensive pressure – and the speed – the Rams paid the ultimate price.
“Defensively, we’re just patching things together right now,” said Central coach Bruce Mazzochi. “I just don’t have the right personnel. We’re extremely slow on the outside definitely.”
Eastern took nearly a-half-dozen shots on the Central goal but keeper Nick Sassu made four big stops on his way to five saves for the game. “I thought we actually had more of the play, most of the game,” said Sweet. “But Central (showed) strong defense in the first half and we couldn’t break them. We also couldn’t put in a shot we might have and (Central) didn’t put in theirs.”
There were no goals on the board when the halftime buzzer sounded and Central didn’t even make any attempts on the Eastern goal and freshman keeper Tom Tefoe over the first 40.
So, with the score at 0-0, there was one of Eastern assistant coach’s Bunty Ray halftime “talks” that sparked the squad a bit.
The intensity was certainly turned up a few notches and the Lancers went on the attack to open the second frame.
“Coach Ray especially challenged them at halftime,” said Sweet. “I’ve got to say he really challenged them. And as you saw, we took the full 9 1/2 minutes or whatever we were allowed (at halftime) and he put it right to them, not just to the seniors, but to the other players.
“We weren’t stepping in when we should, we weren’t, on give and go, staying with the man necessarily and Central has some dangerous players.”
And with almost two minutes gone in the second period of play, Eastern’s Jeremy Pineda showed a lit- tle ruthless aggression, stealing the ball from a Central offender with zest and attacked the Central goal box.
Eventually, the ball was zipped over to Stinney and he jammed in the first goal of the contest as Eastern led 1-0 with 37:55 left in the game.
But less than five minutes later, Central had the affair all tied up off an unlikely goal.
With 32:07 remaining in the contest, sophomore Steven Behmke made an attempt straight on from the center of the field and his blast flew past Tefoe as the match was tied up at 1-1 with the game now up for grabs.
“That blast came from at least 25 yards,” said Sweet of the Bemke blast. “I’ve seen it happen before and I’ll tell you the truth, it wasn’t Hoxha who hit it. I’ve seen Hoxha hit shots like that. It was Bemke and I’ve haven’t seen him hit one like that. But now, I’ve seen it so he worries me too.”
But that was all Tefoe allowed in the game and with a stingy Eastern defense led by Jared Rokosa and Luke Winiarski, the Behmke goal was the last one for the Rams.
“He’s playing U-19 now, he was probably playing U-14 this past spring,” said Sweet of his keeper. “The speed of play (is) much faster, the shots are much better and he was surprised as everyone was (with the Behmke goal).”
And while the goal certainly lifted Central, the squad burned some serious energy in trying to tally a second score, Eastern was setting up to more goals that would put the game away.
“We had the momentum and that goal kind of shifted it to Central. At least we held them enough and thwarted them,” said Sweet. “They had some drives down to the baseline, this and that, and we were just able to get in their way or just flick it away.”
“But I thought we just asserted ourselves especially over the last 20 minutes.”
Eastern’s second goal came with 25:15 to play as Dias – all alone on the left side of the Central goal – simply jammed in the ball with ease as the game became a 2-1 push in the Lancers’ favor.
And that goal was all Roy as his slick throw-in started it all in motion and Dias was in the right place at the right place.
“Mitch Roy on the outside, he was taking people,” said Sweet. “(Jeremy) Mosieur was hurting. I think he was a little sick. So Mitch kind of took over that (role).”
And then as Central couldn’t find the net again, Belli – like his goal a few weeks earlier back in Plainville – seemingly came out of nowhere and simply blasted a ball from far on the left side, finding the far end of the Rams’ net to make it 3-1.
“Did we contain them the first half, yeah, it was an equal 40 minutes,” said Mazzochi. “In the second half, it was the same mental mistakes we make. We can’t allow somebody to get a ball and just walk the ball in the goal.
With 9:36, the third goal of the game by Eastern ended any type of Central comeback bid.
Sweet credited assistant coach Mike Greene for Eastern’s superior conditioning while Sweet subbed freely over that stretch as those fresh bodies got to the ball faster than Central could towards the end of the match.
“During the game, we probably subbed 16, 17 and I don’t know if (Central) was that deep,” said Sweet. “You know, he’s got a few kids injured so we took advantage of it.”
Central played much better offensively in the second half, taking six shots at the Eastern net but Tefoe didn’t sweat too much off those attempts.
“We’re not getting shots off,” said Mazzochi. “We had, what, one legitimate shot tonight, maybe two. When you’re getting out-shot seven, eight, nine, 10-to-one or 15-to-one, guess what? The advantage is not going to be (for) us, it’s going to be for them.”
Injuries have slowed the develop of Central’s squad this season but the team has more than a couple studs, a.k.a dangerous players out on the field like Hoxha, Zach Aldieri and Colby MacDonald that can get the job done.
But the mix just isn’t right yet.
“We’re missing in some key spots,” said Mazzochi. “I don’t know what to do with it right now.”
And when the final horn sounded, Eastern celebrated under the lights and – led by its senior contingent – nabbed a big 3-1 win from its own campus.
“I would call it the three senior night,” said Sweet. “Other players filled in but they were around most of our attack. We were quick, I thought we had quick feet. We were forward on our feet, moving the ball (the whole game).”