By Jean DePlacido
---- — TOPSFIELD — Henry Eager made several spectacular saves in the Hamilton-Wenham net, but simply couldn’t stop everything Masconomet fired at him yesterday afternoon.
Host Masconomet scored two first-half goals and kept the Generals off the board to win its seventh straight Cape Ann League contest, 2-0.
The Chieftains (now 7-1-1 overall) played ball control throughout the contest, won the majority of 50/50 balls and used the whole field to create scoring chances. All of that pressure paid off when Kevin Gilbert drilled a low shot into the left corner of the Hamilton-Wenham net midway through the first half, giving Masco a 1-0. Jack Heintzelman was the playmaker on the tally, making a perfect pass to Gilbert off a corner kick.
“Their keeper (Eager) made some great saves, and we know he’s particularly good on balls in the air,” said Masconomet coach David Mitchell, whose team’s only two blemishes have been a tie with St. John’s Prep and a loss to Somerville, both Division 1 state powerhouses. “We worked hard to get balls at his feet because he’s so good on the high stuff.”
The Chieftains made run after run. For example, midfielder P.J. Criscione used his speed to race up the left sideline and cross the ball in front. Eager made a couple of clutch saves to deny Criscione, but with 10 minutes left in the half he set up captain Adam Grammer, who drilled a shot into the left corner.
“Getting off to such a great start is awesome,” said Grammer. “As a senior I live in every last moment. I want to keep playing soccer in college, but I’m not sure where.
“Henry (Eager) is so good with balls in the air; he made 3-4 tremendous saves to keep them in the game. We had good possessions; I’m always looking to distribute the ball and get everybody involved. Our outside mids do a great job creating opportunities.”
The Generals had their best chance to get on the board before the half ended, but Masconomet senior goalkeeper Willie Stewart grabbed H-W captain Russell Grigorian’s hard shot.
“Hamilton-Wenham (now 2-2-4) is not a one-guy team, but Grigorian is excellent and we had to mark him closely,” said Mitchell. “We also had to know where their center back, Nick Loeper, was all the time.
“This is a big win for us. Grammer is a great two-way player, and defensively all 11 players got the job done. Jeff Panella wins a ton of balls in the air and sets the stage for Adam, Heintzelman and Criscione.”
The second half was scoreless, but the Generals did a much better job making runs. Midway through Stewart was injured in a collision and Steve Heintzelman took over for a while. Stewart was able to return late in the game, and Mitchell said he should be fine for today’s match with Lynnfield.
Regan Charie had Masconomet’s best chance midway through the second half, but once again Eager came up big. Grigorian made several runs for Hamilton-Wenham, but the tough Masco defense did a good job containing him.
“They marked him very closely,” said Hamilton-Wenham coach Matt Gauron of Grigorian. “Masco made sure they had a guy on him all the time. Going down 2-0 in the first half was tough, but we put together a much better second half. Eager was outstanding once again, and I’m very pleased with the effort I saw from the whole team. We’ll build on that second half against a quality team.”