DANVERS – On paper an 11th seed taking on No. 3 should be no contest, but Lexington gave St. John’s Prep all it could handle in the Division 1 North quarterfinals. The visitors owned the first half, outplaying the higher seeded Eagles all over the field, but goalie Zach Rowell came up big when he had to.
The second half belonged to the Eagles, who came out on fire and dominated. The game was scoreless until senior captain Matt Chilton hustled up the right sideline and somehow managing to keep the ball in play before crossing it out front. Junior Paul Magazzu booted it into the lower left corner for the winning goal in the 54th minute of play, and the Eagles went on to win, 1-0.
“What a goal,” said Prep coach Dave Crowell. “This was a great game, and Lexington is a very good team. We weathered the storm early and turned things around in the second half. That was pure hustle by Chilton, who never quit on the ball and managed to keep it in bounds despite being pressured all the way. Magazzu ran to the back post to bury it.”
St. John’s made some key adjustments at halftime that paid off. They limited scoring opportunities by the Minutemen after intermission and created more chances offensively with three corners in the first four minutes and seven for the game.
Michael Lanza had the first real threat for the Eagles when he blasted a high shot that goalie Carter Hochman got his fingers on, and tipped it over the net for a corner kick. Stephen Heintz had a header in front of the net that nearly got past Hochman.
The Eagles kept winning 50/50 balls, something they hadn’t been able to do in the first 40 minutes, and that led to the only goal of the game.
“That was a great cross by Chilton,” said Magazzu. “He did all the work, and I just put it in the net. We knew what we had to do, but it took us a while to get going. We didn’t want this to be our last 40 minutes, especially on our field. Now we’re going to the semifinals.”
Chilton had faith that one of his teammates would be in position to put his cross away. He had a defender draped all over him, but managed to keep possession and make a perfect cross.
“I just tried to poke it across,” said Chilton. “I knew someone would be there, and Magazzu was in the right spot. Lexington came out so hard it was a wake up call for us, and at halftime we talked about the need to pick it up and come out harder.”
The Minutemen liked to attack through the middle, and senior center midfielder Matt Edmonds used his speed and skill to feed striker Shant Mahokian, who made several good runs especially in the first half.
“At halftime we changed formations,” said Crowell. “They were really controlling the midfield so we had to do something different. Early on they had it all over us, but were not getting many quality chances. That No. 8 (Edmonds) and 6 (Mahokian) are both players. We had Lanza and Peter Kilcommons covering them in the second half which limited their opportunities.”
Rowell finished with five saves, and came up big when he had to. Lexington’s best scoring chance came with 12 minutes left when Jake Douvas got by the defense to break in alone on Rowell, but his shot just missed the left corner.
“Zach didn’t give him anything,” said Crowell. “He made himself big and got the forward to push it wide.”
The Eagles are now 15-2-3 and will travel to Lynn’s Manning Field to take on No. 2 seed Madison Park (14-1-3) tomorrow.
“We were able to create chances, but when you do you have to take advantage,” said Lexington coach Sami Eladhari after his team finished the season with a 10-4-6 record. “It was a great game, and give all the credit to the Prep.
“We knew the formation they played and tried to take advantage. Edmonds has carried our team all season and had another strong game. We’ve been able to score all along so we kept playing our game but one mistake cost us.”