By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Getting a little inspiration at halftime of its match against cross-town rival Bristol Central, the Bristol Eastern boys soccer team ramped up the intensity – leading to three second half goals – to defeat the Rams by a 3-2 final from the campus of Bristol Eastern high school on Monday, Nov. 2.
Trailing 1-0 at the half, assistant coach Bunty Ray – a former standout player of the Bristol Eastern program from 1990-93 – implored his squad on at the half and that added motivation helped to fuel the Lancers to a big second half effort.
“I’ve got to tell you, the halftime speech [assistant coach Bunty] Ray gave rivaled what [assistant] coach [Mike] Green gave to Ray probably 20 years earlier,” said Eastern coach Bill Sweet. “It was, shall we say, dynamic. He really got into it.”
And maybe there was a little rust as Eastern hadn’t played since the previous Thursday (Oct. 22), making it 11 days since the Lancers got out and played a competitive match.
“We didn’t play at all” the previous week said Sweet. “I really don’t blame that. I think Central came out hard and I don’t think we came out as hard as we’d like to. [At halftime], coach Ray addressed that and the players listened…things they’ve been taught, I think coach Ray reminded them of .”
“You could tell them everything at the half, but [Ray] certainly told them enough.”
But this was a war, from the first goal tallied by Central’s Josh Cardero when the Rams’ Mike Lemke snuck a quick head shot into the Eastern net with less than two minutes to play, cutting it to a one goal game.
“The boys never gave up,” said Central coach Brian Ness. “It’s a testament to the senior leadership we have on this team.”
The Lancers finished out the season at 8-5-3 overall, 4-2-2 in CCC Blue Division play while Central fell to 6-8-2 overall and 3-4-1 off the losing effort.
However, it was all Central to start off the competitive affair.
Central needed just one attempt on the Eastern goal to claim a 1-0 edge when Josh Cordero found himself set-up brilliantly and quickly headed the ball away from Tefoe, sinking the shot cleanly in the goal just 8:37 into things.
“Their goal was a nice goal,” said Sweet. “They did a quick 1-2 and a cross and that’s the goal I would like to put in.”
Mitch Roy and Luke Winarski were active from the get-go, putting the pressure on the Rams’ stingy defense and taking multiple shots at the Central goal.
“He played well,” said Sweet of Roy. “To be honest with you, the kid that probably was the steadiest the whole game was Lyle Winiarski. I thought he was the steadiest and he’s only a sophomore.”
Sweet also gave credit to Greg Lozier as well and he – streaking down the field from his usual defensive position – nearly threw a header into the Central goal that would have made it a two-goal lead for the Lancers late in the contest.
Early on, Shane Caggiano dropped a slick set up to Jeremie LaChance but his shot went wide and Central maintained its 1-0 push midway through the first frame.
The Lancers continued to make runs at the goal but, again, the Rams’ “D” was solid to keep the shutout intact midway through the first frame.
“Andrew Marcantonio is our field general back there,” said Ness about Central’s defense. “He really kind of paces us and without him, we wouldn’t be in a lot of games, that’s for sure.”
Eastern also showed grit defensively with Darin Mar and company refusing to yield but just a couple shots over the first twenty-five minutes of the game.
With 15 minutes to go in the first half, a foul gave Luke Winiarski a great spot about 25 yards out and his ball just sailed over Sassu’s head but it was the Lancers’ best attempt in the game to that point.
And the action was furious at the 10 minute mark when Tefoe came out of the goal and Cordero had a couple shots at it but the defense kept it out of the net and the contest remained a one-goal affair.
Eastern had one heck of attempt out of its third corner kick of the match when Caggiano eventually received the ball, turned and fired a rocket- right at Sassu as he made the biggest save of the half and the Rams’ 1-0 lead was the score at intermission.
Out of the half, Central took three shots at the Lancers’ goal but Eastern remained pesky as the game remained a back-and-forth affair.
But soon after, Central committed a foul in the Eastern box and Luke Winiarski was awarded a penalty shot.
Winiarski steadied himself and nailed it passed Sassu and a 1-1 game ensued with 32:35 left to play.
And from that point on, the tempo reached a fever pitch in the match.
Again, Luke Winiarski launched a shot that was deflected by Sassu as the stalemate continued with 25:40 remaining.
“Sassu was under duress in the second half,” said Sweet of Central’s outstanding keeper.
Central’s Zachary Aldieri flicked a shot in the middle of the BE goal that Tefoe snuffed out and blocked at the net before Eastern’s offense went on the attack.
Quickly, Caggiano gave the Lancers the lead for good, firing a daring shot in the net to post the Lancers to a 2-1 tilt with 22:30 to play.
Those two Eastern goals helped swing the momentum as Central continued to battle but couldn’t truly recover from that offensive surge from the Lancers.
Lozier and Mir’s defense were big in the second half of the fray but Lozier gave himself a chance to tally a goal midway through the second frame.
Eastern went for a two-goal cushion with 17:41 to play when – off a Lancers corner kick – Jeremy Mosieur found Lozier in front of the goal and the senior nearly lofted a slick header over Sassu.
But the crafty Central goalie, like a young Dennis Rodman rebounding a basketball, tapped the ball up, quickly snatching it and kept it a 2-1 game.
“He’s a warrior,” said Ness of Sassu. “No matter what I ask him, he’s always going to go all out all game.”
Yellow cards came flowing out over the final 20 minutes of the game or so as the collar was getting tighter and Ness was imploring his squad to get every 50-50 ball.
Cordero made an attempt in a crowd but Luke Winiarski deflected it out with 11:45 to go as the Rams were still one goal away from tying up the contest.
And then Roy smashed the ball right at Sassu seconds later but the Rams’ keeper deflected and controlled ball.
With 9:42 left, Eastern netted its insurance score as Jared Rokosa smoked the ball into Central’s goal and Eastern had its insurance goal tallied at 3-1.
Quickly, Caggiano made a steal and, off a little scrum, Mir lofted the ball over the Central goal as the home team was pressuring to close the thing out.
The Rams earned a corner kick with less than seven minutes to play but Tefoe raced out to snare the ball out of the pack as Central was still looking for offensive answers.
Central kept fighting but that two-goal edge by Eastern was a formidable tally to overcome, let alone tie up.
Jeremmy Pineda’s header with 4:40 remaining just missed getting past Sassu as Eastern made late subs to burn time on the clock.
The Lancers were wary of late counters but with just under two minutes to play, the Rams made it a one goal match.
Central’s Mike Lemke header cut the deficit to one as Tefoe, who had come out of the goal to meet the action, was caught out of position and the game became a 3-2 affair with 1:59 left to play.
“[Tefoe] got caught out of the box, we couldn’t cover up and they capitalized,” said Sweet of the Rams’ goal. “It’s Bristol Eastern [versus] Bristol Central so you usually get one of those a game.”
But the Lancers made late substitutions, continued to use the clock and made it academic when Central never got a good shot off over the final two minutes, winning the affair by a 3-2 final.
“We came out sluggishly, but I don’t want to look at the time off as the reason,” said Sweet. “Central came out hard and we just didn’t come out as hard.”
Central did everything it could to take the match and certainly looked poised to steal the contest out from under Eastern late in the event.
“I couldn’t have been prouder of the way they preformed on senior night,” said Ness of his squad. “It’s just unfortunate the outcome for us.”