By Gianna Addario
---- — LYNN — Masconomet boys soccer head coach Dave Mitchell knew that it was going to take more than one goal to get by top seeded North Andover in yesterday’s Division 2 North final contest at Manning Field.
It took two, in fact.
A wild second half goal by defender Kevin Gilbert from 52-yards out gave the Chieftains a 2-1 lead and ultimately the win over the previously unbeaten Scarlet Knights.
“We knew that one goal wasn’t going to hold it in this game,” said Mitchell. “We got a little out of sync in the second part of that first half and they had us on our heels a little bit. That’s why I took that timeout, but boy did we respond well in the second half. I’m so proud of each of these guys.”
Masco (22-1-1) wears the Div. 2 North championship crown proudly for the first time since 2008. It’s their second sectional championship in three season including a D1 North title in 2011.
“It was a fantastic game by both teams. We carried the first 20 minutes of the game, I thought they carried the second 20 and then it was a dog fight the rest of the way,” Mitchell said.
The victory sends the Chieftains to the state final for the second time in three years. They’ll face off against D2 South champion Walpole on Thursday (7 p.m.) back at Manning.
The Chieftains jumped out to a surprising early lead in the first two minutes of the opening half. Edison Forbes managed to get a head on a throw in after North Andover failed to clear the ball. Kevin Gilbert threw the ball in along the left side and Jeff Panella got a touch on it before Forbes hit it home to go up 1-0.
Up until that point, the Scarlet Knights (21-1) hadn’t let up a goal in the tournament.
“I think that the goal definitely set the tone, but right after we scored they were killing us,” said senior co-captain Adam Grammer. “I think we were lucky to get out of that first half without conceding a goal.”
North Andover regrouped at the break and scored the tying goal a minute into the second half. Mike Skarbelis’ shot trickled in after a bobble by Masco keeper Willie Stewart. Stewart has allowed three goals in four games through the tournament and made six saves in yesterday’s win.
Masco held the advantage in corners 4-0, but couldn’t punch anything by North Andover keeper Marc Patnaude on those scoring chances.
Gilbert’s game-winner was executed perfectly. He was awarded a free kick, and the ball was placed on marker for the gridiron 42-yard line. His boot managed to find the back of the net after Panella did an excellent job setting the screen in front.
“My intention was to get a tip on it and I knew as long as I was in front of the goalie something good was going to happen,” noted Panella. “I went for the ball and missed, but knew something happened because the crowd was cheering.”
Both teams entered the game with the same number of goals against — 11 and it was the only second time all season that North Andover let in more than one goal.
“It’s a testimony to the rivalry we’ve had over all these years,” added Mitchell. “We couldn’t have asked for better matchup in that sense. Both teams really emphasize the finer points of the game and you really need to to get to this level.”