WAKEFIELD – It played out like any good rivalry game should, where the only thing disappointing part about last Thursday’s North versus South Kingstown boys soccer matchup at Curtis Corner Middle School was the fact it is the only time it will happen in regular season.
After a defensive battle through the first half and deep into the second, the offenses for both sides came alive in the closing minutes, with North Kingstown going home with the 2-1 win.
“Anytime you play NK it’s always battle,” said South Kingstown coach Scott Rollins. “It’s a tough game. I thought both teams played really well. We knew it was going to come down to a mistake and unfortunately we made it.”
Not surprisingly with North coming into the contest having posted three straight shutouts and South giving up less than one goal a game, defense dominated the contest’s first 40 minutes, with much of that time spent being played between the 18’s.
The game went to the half tied 0-0, but both offenses showed a little more life when they came back for the second 40 minutes. Each side had opportunities off of free kicks, while Joe Toomey had one of the game’s best chances for South in the 60th minute, taking possession after North’s Austin Lind was hit with a yellow card and carrying the ball through several Skipper defenders into the six, but he could not get off a clean shot.
Though each side had their chances, the only thing either team proved was that the contest was going to come down to which team blinked first.
“It was funny,” said North Kingstown coach Kyle Froberg, “the referee said in the second half, ‘it’s going to take one mistake for one of you guys to win. It’s that’s close of a game.’
“It took two mistakes really.”
In the 69th minute, goalkeeper Nate Eastman came way out of his net to the top left corner of the 18 for a loose ball. The keeper could not get a clean clearing attempt on the ball, which found its way to nearby Skipper Matt Delgreco.
The NK midfielder got just enough on the ball to send it in the direction of the unguarded net and just get over the line before the South defense could recover.
“Probably one of the best goals I have ever seen,” Froberg said. “Keeper comes way off his line and then Matt hits a half volley – I don’t know how he hit it – and we were just watching it track and track and track and go in the net. I would say we got lucky.”
“That’s a tough shot that kid made,” Rollins said. “That’s a far out distance. I’m not sure how many times out of 10 somebody makes that shot.”
Undeterred by the goal, South recovered quickly and got the game back to even just four minutes later.
After being taken down just outside the 18-yard box, South’s Steve Pepe played his first attempt off the free kick right into the wall of defenders, but the rebound came right back to the Rebel captain who put a strike right through to the back of the net for a 1-1 tie in the 73rd minute.
“These kids are tough,” Rollins said of his team. “They’re resilient, they want to fight back and they’re not going to let anything really bother them and that’s a good sign for a team.”
With the Rebels starting to reclaim the game’s momentum following Pepe’s tally, North and South traded shots over the game’s remaining eight minutes. As time wore thin and the Rebels pressed forward looking for the go-ahead goal, the Skippers took advantage of a high defensive line, getting the ball up to Evan Gaudreau, who carried it past the South defense and beat a sprawling Eastman in the 88th minute to bring the game to its final 2-1 score.
“[South’s] back four were really high on our second goal and we were just able to slot it through,” Froberg said. “We were trying to do that all game.
“I didn’t know if we were going to be able to crack their defense and their goalkeeper is very good. To score two goals against these guys is pretty big because they haven’t given up many goals this year.”
Though the loss was their second straight and dropped them to 2-2-0, leaving the Rebels mired in the middle of the pack in Division I, with such a young team so early in the season, there was plenty to be gained from the hard fought losses just four games into their 14-game schedule.
“We’ve had a very tough week with LaSalle and North Kingstown, so I’m happy,” Rollins said. “I’m not a big moral victory kind of fan, but if you’re going to play some of the best teams in the state and you’re going to play them this tough, that’s a good sign for the end, especially being young.”
South returned to the pitch on Tuesday afternoon when they travelled to Portsmouth High School looking to snap their two-game skid (results unavailable at time of press).
The Rebels will wrap up this week of play when they return to Curtis Corner on Friday evening for a 6 p.m. match against Shea.