LYNN — You didn’t really think Masconomet and North Andover could go an entire season without playing each other in boys soccer, did you?
It seemed impossible that for the first time in about 40 years the Chieftains and Scarlet Knights weren’t scheduled to meet on the pitch this season. The soccer gods thought it was strange, too, and saw to it that they met in the Division 2 North final here at Manning Field yesterday.
Neither team was here thanks only to whimsical soccer gods. Given the talent on both sides and the season the Chieftains and Knights were enjoying, futbol afficianados were looking forward to this matchup for most of the season.
Getting the Chieftains and Scarlet Knights on the pitch, in a game for all the marbles in the North, seemed destined to happen.
“I certainly don’t believe in destiny, but I do believe North Andover is a quality club,” said Masco coach Dave Mitchell. “My guys were looking forward to it, as I’m sure they were.”
Masconomet prevailed, 2-1, to win their fourth North championship in a game that was befitting of the rich soccer tradition of both programs. The winning goal, a 52-yard free kick by Kevin Gilbert in the 69th minute, was a thing of beauty, and there were plenty of other plays that made the crowd, and the hairs on your neck, rise.
There was a tangible respect between Masconomet (now 22-1-1) and North Andover (which suffered its first loss and ends the year 21-1). Neither team was prone to diving or looking for fouls, insteading carrying the ball with steely intensity. It was the sort of thing that gets built up over time, since the seniors on both teams have been going at each other since they were seven years old.
“I’ve seen these guys a ton in town soccer and I’ve played some of their guys in club matches,” said Masco senior Jeff Panella, who screened North Andover’s keeper on Gilbert’s winning goal.