WAKEFIELD – Throughout the regular season scoring had been a bane for the South Kingstown boys soccer team.
Though the Rebels were near the top of the Division I standings, that was mostly because of a defense that ranked second, giving up less than a goal a game, rather than their middle of the pack offense.
The playoffs, however, are like a new season and it was a new team that took to the pitch at Curtis Corner Middle School on Saturday night as the South Kingstown offense sparked for four goals as they ran Central Falls 4-1 in the RIIL Division I quarterfinals.
“That’s a good team, we just played very well tonight,” said South coach Scott Rollins. “We executed exactly what we wanted to do, so that’s nice to see.
“…We had a really good week of practice and we had a definite set-in-stone game plan and when you start to execute and you start to see it work, everybody feels more comfortable.”
Just eight days after the two teams met in their regular season finale – a 2-0 SK win – the Rebels and Warriors were back at Curtis Corner and with how the Rebels played from the start, it was as though there would be no denying them a trip to the semifinals. Oliver Lucier capitalized on an error by the Central Falls defense for an early 1-0 lead and the route was on in just the third minute.
Every time down the field the Rebels managed go get a good opportunity towards the Warriors’ net, while they themselves struggled to penetrate too far past midfield. Lucier, Steve Pepe and Matthew Roberts all had opportunities as the half rolled along, but it was not until the 20th minute South extended their lead when Pepe sprung Joe Toomey off a throw in, and the Rebel midfielder slipped through the Warrior defense and went low far side for a 2-0 advantage.
“We run different variations of it,” said Rollins of the set throw in play. “We have a kid that can really throw the ball, we have a lot of kids that are really hungry in the box and Joe has learned to start shooting far post. When he does, he scores.”
The South offense cooled late in the half, but the defense remained suffocating and the Warriors were reeling, still behind 2-0 when the whistle blew for intermission. If the game was not over by halftime, it was shortly thereafter as the Rebel offense struck quickly again to start the second.
“I wanted one more,” Rollins said. “I knew the third one was pretty much the backbreaker. You know, 2-0 they come in and score an early goal, it’s going to be a problem.”
The Rebels struck even quicker in the second, extending their lead to 3-0 less than 90 seconds in as a shot by Toomey hit the post and found its way to Colan Gulla.
Then sophomore midfielder then got enough on the ball to send it to Pepe, who tipped it in.
Pepe then put away his second of the game in the 48th minute, working the ball low and then burying it from just outside the six-yard box for a 4-0 Rebel lead.
“We know that we have such a good defense if we can get two, then it’s a pretty good chance the worst we’re going to do is tie. Everyone has that in the back of their heads, ‘Let’s get to one, two, then let’s get to three’ and know that we can walk away.”
Central Falls made a goalkeeper change shortly thereafter, relieving starter Jonathan Ortiz, signaling their surrender. The Warriors did manage to breakup the shutout in the 70th minute against the SK reserves, but Pepe’s second was the dagger that ended their season. The game ended 4-1 and the Rebels had punched their ticket for a semifinal match against top-seeded La Salle on Wednesday night, 5 p.m. at East Greenwich High School.
“Semifinals is good, but we have La Salle now and we’ll start thinking about that,” Rollins said. “They’re very technical, they’re good on turf. We’re playing at East Greenwich and we’ve played there about four times this year, so it shouldn’t be that big of an advantage for them, but they’re La Salle. They’re all technical, they’re all very skilled, they’re all good one-touch passers and [coach Mario Pereira] can go 20 deep on his bench, but I like our chances.”
The Rebels and Rams met once during the regular season, a 1-0 home win for La Salle back on Sep. 16, the third game of South’s season.