By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – What would the encore be between the Bristol Eastern and Bristol Central boys soccer teams on Monday, Nov. 4?
How about more overtime?
And while the teams couldn’t settle their differences after 80 minutes in the rematch between the squads, two five minute periods were added to the scoreboard.
But in the end of the excellent bout, the Lancers needed just one of those extra frames to finally shake the Rams.
In the end, Eastern’s Brandon Greger found Luke Hammer in the center of the Central goal box and when the senior blasted home the game winning tally, the Lancers wrapped up a 3-2 victory from Alumni Field on the campus of Bristol Eastern high school.
“The guy who played [the ball] in, Brandon Greger, I thought was so-so during the game but he’s played so well for us at other times and he came through,” said Eastern coach Bill Sweet. “He really sent a nice ball in there. We’ve working with getting the ball into Luke, trying to get him up [the field]. He’s a back and he had his hands full covering [David] Bowes and [others].”
“I mean, these are the fastest feet we’ve seen all year.”
Eastern (14-0-2) ended up undefeated in the regular season for the third time in program history, the first time since 1994.
Central (8-5-4) had another excellent campaign and will have a home match for the upcoming Class L tournament.
Jake Woznicki, who entered the postseason with an outstanding 37 goals this season, punched in two for the Lancers.
“Your big horse gets you two goals and works like crazy,” said Sweet. “Jake was just too much opening the game. He was just so energized but everybody was.”
Central’s Carson Rivoira, who was everywhere on the field that night, and captain Adam Jones tallied one score apiece for Central with both of the Rams’ goals coming over the second half of the event.
It was an excellent battle between the two keepers as Central’s Danny Gaudoin (eight saves) and Eastern’s Nate DiLoreto (six saves) showed plenty of tenacity, grit, and guts in leading their respective backline troops.
It was a tale of two halves as Central was on its heels over the first 40 minutes of action before turning it on over the second half – leading the offensive charge.
“I thought in the first half we just, for whatever reason, didn’t show up. Maybe that was on me,” said Central coach Nate Jandreau. “But in the second half, we came out in the first eight to 10 minutes a completely different team. I was glad they responded like that and I think it was the seniors, the older guys – Jones and David – that really put a lot of pressure on Nate [DiLoreto] and we ended up getting that goal [from Rivoira].”
Rivoira and the defense did one heck of a job on the high-scoring Woznicki – as much as any team could have – and early in the match, the senior had to navigate through plenty of traffic to even get shots off.
“I think there were a couple of defenders that real dug in and fought,” said Jandreau. “And it wasn’t just all the defense because we moved them around a lot and dropped them a little bit deeper. I thought Umar Malick played really well, knocking [Woznicki] around. You have to go up every single 50-50 ball with Woznicki because he does not stop moving.”
“If you fall asleep, he runs through on you and [he scores].”
That’s exactly what happened with 13:54 left in the first period when Woznicki got his squad on the board.
From the left of the Central goal, Woznicki charged into the middle and jammed the ball home into the right side of the net and quickly, it was a 1-0 game.
And that’s the way the first period went with Eastern dominating and holding the ball while Central, trailing 1-0, was looking for a fast start to the second half.
The Rams were on another level over the final forty, extremely aggressive from the start.
It took Central just 30 seconds to attack the Eastern goal, earning a corner kick in the process.
“Central’s feet were tremendously fast,” said Sweet. “They were energized and they didn’t run out of gas this time. They were in good shape.”
And just over three minutes in, Carson tied it up with a physical play at the Eastern goal.
Off a Central shot attempt, DiLoreto looked to have secured the ball but in a bit of a scrum, the ball fell loose and Carson – one of the biggest athletes on the field – was there to kick in the tying goal and with 36:54 left in regulation, it was a 1-1 game.
“He started that run at the 18 [yard line] and that ball was just a yard or two off of the end line,” said Jandreau of the Rivoira score. “When the ball goes up, he thinks he’s going to win it every time and that’s one of the things we like.”
From there, Central just missed on a corner kick and Woznicki had a great set-up for Dominik Femiak that was intercepted by Gaudoin with 24:40 left in the second half.
“I though from the second half on, it was a 50-50 fight and [Eastern] was able to punch in one goal in the first half,” said Jandreau. “That was the difference.”
Bowes had a sweet cross into the goal with 23:20 left but Rivoira eventually got the rebound and nearly had a second score and Eastern defender Drew Dauphinee blocked to prevent a go-ahead score by Central.
But less than a minute later, Woznicki was at it again.
Adam Borry sliced a ball into Eastern’s all-time leader goal scorer as he beat his defender.
The keeper fell on the play and Woznicki flipped in his second goal with 22:18 left to make it 2-1 contest in Eastern’s favor.
That score looked like it could stick except Central remained aggressive on off another attack of the Lancers’ net, the match was quickly tied at 2-2.
Off the scraps of a free kick, DiLoreto deflected the attempt but Jones got the ball and kicked it in for a 2-2 stalemate with 6:48 left in regulation.
“It was great delivery and Jones is running from the 18 and just was able to put home a rebound,” said Jandreau. “That’s an effort goal right there that maybe we don’t put something together that’s pretty but they are able to keep fighting and made sure it was punched in and not given up.”
There were late chances by both squads over the final five minutes in the second half but when the final whistle of regulation blew, the 2-2 contest was forced into overtime.
In the overtime, Central’s Diego Naranjo made one heck of an attempt with 3:09 remaining in the first OT but DiLoreto made a huge save.
Central continued to fire in shots but with 29 seconds left in the session, Hammer drove in the match winning score to make it 3-2 – the final goal of the night.
“For us to battle after giving up two goals, going to overtime, winning in overtime, eh, what’s new?” said Sweet. “So now we will see what we’ll get for seeding. We’ll probably get a bye [and] we’ll see.”
Central certainly had chances to steal the match late but just couldn’t get its game jumpstarted early enough over the first half.
“They had that heart,” said Jandreau of his team in the second half. “We just didn’t have eighty minutes of it. We had fifty.”
NOTES…The match was the final regular season home contests for Eastern seniors Jonathan Loja, Kyle Cyr, Patrick Regan, Adam Ponitowski, Drew Dauphinee, and captains Dante Constantiello and Jake Woznicki.