TOPSFIELD — The Danvers boys soccer team was well aware of what it was up against heading into yesterday’s Divison 2 North quarterfinals contest against third seeded Masconomet.
The sixth seeded Falcons established a legitimate game plan early on and aimed to keep Masco off the board for as long as possible.
They executed the plan perfectly in the first half, but couldn’t contain the explosive Chieftain offense for the full 80 minutes. Behind three second half goals, Masco topped the visiting Falcons 3-0.
“I was a realist with my guys,” said Danvers head coach Mike Chase, whose team finished out its season at 12-2-6. “Masco just has bigger horses than we do. We came in with a defensive minded scheme and it held them. Defense and keeping people off the board has been our strength all year, but once they got the first one we knew we were in trouble.
“The first half I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from all of my guys. Even guys coming off the bench, there was no let down. The game plan worked until they put one in.”
The Chieftains (20-1-1) extended their win streak to 15 and head back to the North semis for the third time in as many seasons. They’ll play No. 2 seeded Tech Boston at Woburn on Friday (4 p.m.).
Senior captain Adam Grammer broke the scoreless tie four minutes into the second half. Jack Heintzelam found Grammer on a through ball and managed to get it by Danvers keeper Cam Bornstein.
“We had to make some adjustments at the half,” explained Grammer. “We didn’t play our game in the first half and it was pretty evident that we were frustrated.
“Danvers was playing physical and went 100 percent to every ball. It was frustrating for us, because we didn’t have time to do what we normally do. I give all the credit to them, they were working their tails off.”
Masco senior striker P.J. Criscione found the back of the net through traffic from inside the box with six minutes to play in the game to go up 2-0. The score was Criscione’s second of the tournament, the other a double overtime game winner on Sunday.
“I used to play hockey and was good at getting in front of the net and put away the rebounds. I like to do the same thing in soccer and it’s really carried over,” noted Criscione. “I like to be in front of the net, because that’s where the goals are scored in the playoffs.”
Stephen Pease sealed the win for Masco with seconds left on the clock after he rifled off a shot from 30 yards out.
Bornstein made 11 saves in net for the Falcons and played far beyond his years. Only a sophomore, Bornstein was aggressive when he needed to be and kept Danvers in the game.
“He played tremendous,” Chase said. “For a sophomore to come out and look as good as he did, that’s the first thing (Masco coach) Dave Mitchell said to me was that our goalie played outstanding. So he really stepped up.”
The shutout was Masco’s 17th of the season as keeper Willie Stewart made nine saves.
Danvers defenders Matt Kidney and Kyle Cahill looked sharp in front of Bornstein, while Caio Silva, Nikolay Sakhin and Jackson McPherson helped neutralize things in the midfield.
“This has probably been, in all my years coaching, the biggest team effort I’ve been a part of,” added Chase. “There’s five or six guys that come off the bench regularly and I typically never sub. I’ve been coaching for 10 years now and this is the best group of guys I’ve worked with.”