WAKEFIELD – It was a loss that sat with Prout boys soccer coach Tim Ryan all offseason, fuel for the upcoming year.
Heavily favored, his Crusaders were upset by a sixth seeded Davies team, 3-0, in the 2012 quarterfinals.
There was no looking past them this time, but history still nearly repeated itself on Saturday as the 11th seeded Patriots pushed Prout to the brink in the Division III quarterfinals, before the Crusaders pulled out the 2-1 win in penalty kicks.
“I thought we played a really good first half,” said Ryan. “I thought our goal was well taken. We had good spells. I thought going into the second half it looked like we came out a little flat.
“…Not that we were sitting on the one goal, but we weren’t as comfortable as we were. We weren’t too assertive in getting that second goal to kind of close the game out. We let them kind of get back in it and they did.”
As to be expected from a third ranked team with the division’s third best offense and top ranked defense, the opening 40 minutes belonged to the Crusaders. Both teams saw their chances and had some success moving the ball, but it was Prout that got on the board as freshman Jared Covell put away the first playoff goal of his young career, setup by Andrew Mace, for a 1-0 lead that carried through until the half.
The Patriots, however, did not let the more talented Crusaders run away with the contest in the second half and kept their season alive as Andony Anez put away the equalizer for a 1-1 score.
As time wore on the field began to tilt in favor of the Patriots in the latter half of the second and through both overtime sessions. Yet, while the offense’s ability to move the ball up field began to wane, Prout’s defense was as good as it had been all season, as was goalkeeper Bryan McCormack. The senior keeper came up big a number of times in the latter half of the contest, including a leaping save in the 98th minute where he got a hand on a free kick, sending the ball over the crossbar to save the Crusaders’ season.
“That might have been the save of the year,” Ryan said. “He’s capable of doing that.
“…He knows the position and works hard. He’s a senior, he’s had a great career, he’s having a great season, I hope it carries over to next week. I rely on him.”
With 100 minutes of game play not enough to decide the contest, Prout and Davies went to penalty kicks to decide which would advance to Tuesday’s semifinals.
McCormack continued his stellar play with a diving save on Davies’ first attempt, but Patriot goalkeeper Christian Lanuza responded in kind with a diving stop of his own to thwart Prout’s first attempt.
Mauricio Agudelo, who made the free kick that McCormack stopped late in the second overtime, this time froze the Prout keeper to give the Patriots the lead, which held through the round as Kevin Brew put his attempt over the crossbar.
Davies then went up 2-0 as Cesar Fajardo went right while McCormack went left, but Mace got the deficit right back to one, getting Prout on the board with a low roller off his left foot.
The shootout was then tied 2-2 after four rounds as Josue Mota hit the post on his attempt, while Jake Covell went top right to even things for Prout.
Jose Hernandez beat a diving McCormack with a ball to the right corner to put Davies back on top. With Prout facing elimination, Nathan Chofay froze Lanuza and put it away to extend the shootout to a sixth round.
McCormack came through again when he stoned Jorge Castro and then Josh Moniz found the most appropriate of times to score his first goal of the season, burying it straight in to give Prout the win.
“You practice PK’s every now and then,” Ryan said. “When you do it on the field at practice it can get kind of goofy. You never know. You hope the kids focus, but it becomes backyard stuff. Fortunately, we have a very, very talented goalie in Bryan. Made a couple big saves. Josh Moniz has been itching for a goal all year. …It was nice to see him stay composed and drill that and seal it for us.”
“We don’t want to make in that close,” McCormack said, “but when we have to, we get the job done.
“…Last year we were so highly ranked and we blew it at the end, we didn’t work hard enough. Back of my mind, we just couldn’t give up. We had to keep fighting.”
Finally over the hurdle of the quarterfinals, the Crusaders advanced to Tuesday’s semifinal at Cranston Stadium (results unavailable at time of press) to face a seventh seeded Scituate team that enters off a 2-1 upset of second seeded North Smithfield.
“We showed spells today where we can make it happen,” Ryan said, “but then again we’re capable of letting a team right back in it. Going into today I was telling the kids that it’s the playoffs. It’s one and done. If you don’t make it happen on that day, there’s no tomorrow.”