DANVERS — Danvers High boys soccer coach Mike Chase knew that spotting a team like St. John’s Prep two goals off of penalty kicks could be costly.
So while the previously undefeated Falcons made a strong push in the second half, it wasn’t enough as their crosstown rivals handed them a 3-1 loss, snapping the hosts’ 8-game winning streak to begin the season.
“You’re putting yourself on your heels to begin with when you allow those two goals,” said Chase, his team now 8-1. “That was unfortunate the way it happened. I think we really brought it to them in the second half with some scoring opportunities; one bounce here or there and we would’ve been right back in the game.
“I don’t think we were ever really out of it. I was very happy with the team’s ability to stay in it. When you (allow) two penalty kicks like that, you can see kids check out, but we didn’t and stuck with it. I’m not happy with the outcome, but I’m real happy with our performance.”
Just two minutes into the game, St. John’s Prep’s Brooks Clark was awarded a penalty kick and beat keeper Drew Larsen on the left side to give the Eagles (10-1) their first marker of the contest.
The Prep stressed the importance of ball possession in the opening half, and it showed with numerous scoring opportunities. Junior striker Matt Chilton notched the second score of the game as the Eagles took 2-0 lead into halftime.
“We like put teams under pressure and that’s what happens,” said Prep head coach Dave Crowell of his team’s two early scores. “That’s our game; to possess that ball as much as we can. If we have the ball, then they don’t. No matter who the other team is, if they don’t have the ball they can’t do anything.”
Danvers came out firing in the second half with a difference offensive look. Chase moved Martin up to the forward line, which allowed his team to get him the ball up top in order to create some chances in front of the goal.
Captain Matt Hogan saw some space up field and made an indirect pass to Martin. The senior captain blasted a shot past Prep goalie Ben Alpern to put the Falcons on the board, 2-1.
“As soon as the ball got up top, I felt like we losing possession,” explained Chase. “Eric was getting bogged down in the middle, so I just thought that if we could get him up on a 1-on-1 situation, we’d get that offensive push. I thought he played fantastic considering the strength of their defenders.”
Martin created space up the left side of the field for himself, where previously there was no space to be had. Even with three Eagle defenders on him, he was able to make the push and somehow get a shot on goal.
But Clark put the contest away for the Prep on another penalty kick, this time beating Larsen on the far right side.
The Prep’s Alpern has allowed just four goals through the first 11 games and has recorded eight shutouts.
“This wasn’t just a big game for them, it was a big game for us,” said Crowell, whose team qualified for the state tournament after last Saturday’s 2-0 win over Andover.
“That’s a good team. We have a lot respect for Martin and the whole team, and they showed what they’re capable of. So this was a big game for us. It’s bragging rights.”