DANVERS — Consolation prizes are not part of the Division 2 North boys soccer tournament, but Danvers shouldn’t have gone home carrying the empty feeling of a losing team last night.
A nightmare start cost the Falcons dearly, falling behind by two goals to a dangerous Concord-Carlisle team. But they battled hard through the final 20 minutes of the first half and all of the second half before dropping a 5-3 decision in a quarterfinal game at Dr. Deering Stadium.
“Awful,” Danvers (15-4-1) coach Mike Chase said about the Falcons’ start. “We spotted them the first goal, which was just a mental error. You can’t spot teams (goals) like this. We didn’t show up in the first 15 minutes; it was apparent. Anybody here, even if they didn’t know soccer, knew that we were getting our butts kicked early and often.”
Less than a minute into the game, a Concord-Carlisle (13-2-2) cross was mishandled in a crowd and Stowe Simonton tucked the ball away for the Patriots and a 1-0 lead.
Play settled down for the next 19 minutes, but then a scoring flurry left the Falcons staring at a three-goal deficit with 16 minutes to go in the first half.
Simonton struck again for the Patriots with 20 minutes left in the half for a 2-0 advantage. But Danvers’ Eric Martin made a fantastic individual play by beating a pair of defenders to the middle of the field, then drilling a low shot into the lower left corner of the net to cut the deficit in half.
Concord-Carlisle fired right back when Gregoire Fauchet converted on a penalty kick. Two minutes after that, Leo Fondriest found the net and the Patriots led 4-1 with 16 minutes to go in the first half.
“Obviously, (scoring early) takes a little pressure off,” Concord-Carlisle coach Ray Pavlik said. “It was like a dream start and that put some pressure on them to respond, and maybe it stretched them out a little bit going forward.”
Trailing by three goals to a powerful team like Concord-Carlisle would have been enough for most teams to just pack away their cleats and shin guards and head for home.
The Falcons refused to lay down, however.
“We had a conversation in the huddle when we were down 4-1. It got a little heated and we were getting on them about the want and desire to win balls and play hard,” Chase said. “We started playing and the kids started coming together.”
Martin knocked in a header off a corner kick with three minutes to play in the first half to draw the Falcons closer.
Concord-Carlisle’s Wyatt Powell pushed his team’s lead back to three goals, 5-2, early in the second half, but Danvers kept the heat on their guests the rest of the way.
Several good chances resulted in a Drew Piazza goal off a ball that was sent into the box by Martin.
Danvers had more chances down the stretch, including Nick Lebel hitting the right post with a shot in the final 10 minutes.
“We just couldn’t get it back to one goal,” Chase said. “They had a hand ball that was missed in the box and with the shot off the post, that was two opportunities right there.
“I’m just proud of the way we finished, not the way we started.”
Even though Concord-Carlisle faced a lot of pressure in the final minutes, the Patriots knew how to close it out.
“We’re tournament tested. These guys have had big tournament runs the last couple years, so they have experience,” Pavlik said. “It’s about composure and execution at the right time. It’s about doing the right thing and being smart and not giving things away. We wanted to make sure if they were going to score, they were going to earn it.”
The Concord-Carlisle victory ended what was a record-setting career for Martin. He ended his time with the Falcons as the program’s all-time leading scorer for boys soccer.
His final game in Falcon blue was impressive with two goals and one assist.
“He brought us back. We couldn’t possess because of their ability. We played a better team tonight and when you can’t possess it puts you in a very difficult spot. You can’t get the looks you want, but a kid like Eric will create for himself. He’ll take a ball over the top and beat two or three guys and set up a left-footed shot to the far post,” Chase said.
“Every ball in the box is very dangerous with a kid with his athletic ability. Even with your back against the wall, if you’ve got him on your team you have a chance. It’s tough to let him go.”