By Gianna Addario Staff Writer
The Salem News
---- — LYNN — Very rarely does the St. John’s Prep soccer team get knocked off its game. With a strong possession style of the play the Eagles are nearly unbeatable on the field, but Somerville spotted an opportunity and capitalized on it.
An early second half goal by Felix DeBona was the difference in yesterday’s Division 1 North title game. Somerville held the lead for a 1-0 win over the Prep (17-2-2) at Manning Field. The Highlanders remain undefeated at 20-0-2 and advance to the EMass finals on Tuesday.
“We told the boys that with the wind in the first half just try and focus on getting a zero,” said Somerville head coach George Scarpelli. “If you can make it through the first half, something’s bound to happen in the second.
“Right off the bat (in the second half) we scored and it worked out. When your’re playing a team that well disciplined, that fast and that good, we should have been able to put some more chances away. St. John’s Prep is probably one of the classiest programs in high school sports, so this is very, very exciting for us.”
The Eagles didn’t give up a shot on goal the entire first half and, for the most part, held the Highlanders to only five shots in the second — but only one made the difference.
The wind played a major factor in scoring chances as the Eagles had the advantage in the first half and Somerville thrived off it in the second. Scarpelli called a timeout with just under nine minutes to play in the game, which gave the Pep a minute to regroup.
“I told them that our season was on the line,” St. John’s Prep head coach Dave Crowell said. “It was now or never. We just couldn’t get any possession. We switched our formation at the end and went with three forwards. We just couldn’t get the ball up to them, partially because of the wind.
“Somerville did a great job defensively, we couldn’t string any passes together and that was the difference. I don’t know why we were so tight. We already beat some skilled teams, but I think our guys felt some pressure during this game.”
Senior Ben Alpern played a near-perfect game in goal. Alpern, originally the backup during preseason, was called upon after starting senior Brian Keogh was injured in August. Alpern denied DeBona of a second goal from point blank range and made a sliding kick save, which kept it a one-goal game midway through the second half.
“With Brian going down, Ben has impressed me so much this season,” said senior captain Carter Ocko, who had the game-winner against Masconomet on Friday night in the semifinals. “He’s really stepped up for us. I give Ben all the credit in the world, that DeBona goal was an impossible shot to save. He had a great game.”
Matt Chilton and Levon Kazelyan had some great scoring opportunities for the Prep.
“We knew it was going to be really hard to shut them out and we almost did it,” added Crowell. “I thought our guys in the back did a phenomenal job at limiting their chances.
“We always have high expectations, but haven’t had much luck in the tournament in the last few years, so to make it this far has been great.”