By Gianna Addario Staff Writer
The Salem News
---- — LYNN — It was about as even of a game as people were predicting.
Both Division 1 powerhouses, the St. John’s Prep and Masconomet soccer teams played with a tied score for nearly 76 minutes of last night’s North semifinal contest at Manning Field in Lynn.
Eagles senior captain Carter Ocko gave his team a 2-1 advantage with 4:06 remaining in regulation, which paved the way for the win over top seeded Masconomet (18-1-2).
The fourth seeded Prep got by Framingham, Acton-Boxboro and now the Chieftains to advance to the North final against Somerville on Sunday (noon).
“We came in with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder,” said Prep head coach Dave Crowell, whose team moves to 17-1-2 overall. “Because of our lack of success in the tournament that last couple of years, we weren’t getting the recognition we were hoping for. We had something to prove.”
Ocko’s goal came in the middle of the Prep’s late offensive run in the second half, which resulted in several throw-ins and corners for the Eagles. Ocko and company took advantage of what they were given and capitalized on Tommy Buonopane’s throw-in along the left side.
“I was on the back post. Nate (Schmidt) and I were both there and there wasn’t really anybody covering us, I was pretty wide open,” said Ocko. “I saw the deflection and thought the ball was actually going to go over the net. I just jumped up and tried to get my body on it and do whatever to get it through.”
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead midway through the first half after Schmidt headed in a goal past keeper Derek Grammer on a cross from Matt Chilton. Just 44 seconds later, Masco tied the game on a goal by Jack Heintzelman.
“It’s extremely frustrating in terms of taking the lead and then not protecting that lead,” Crowell said of the Masco tying goal. “You know their going to come charging at you after you score, but that was disappointing to see them come back and score so quickly.”
Masco came into the contest undefeated on the season, having won 17 straight game and only two ties. The two goals were the most the Chieftains had given up in a game and despite their strong defensive style, appeared tentative in the backfield. Demetri DeCoulos returned to the lineup at center back despite his separated shoulder, but fellow starting defender and captain Tighe VanLenten was absent from the game.
Junior Adam Grammer had an outstanding run early on in the second half for Masco. Grammer beat two defenders along the left side for a one-on-one chance with keeper Ben Alpern, but shot just over the cross bar.
Chieftains head coach Dave Mitchell moved Chip Sherman up to forward in the final minutes of the game in order to generate some more scoring opportunities, but Ocko and the Prep were solid on defense.
“Hats off to them, they’re a class act and played well,” said Masco head coach Dave Mitchell. “It was as even as everyone thought it was going to be. We knew they were going to be very strong in the air and they showed it with the two headers.”
Masco knows the feeling of frustration all too well after last year’s state final loss to Ludlow. The Chieftains capped off their undefeated regular season as Cape Ann League champions, having allowed just six goals through 21 games.
“The hardest part about losing is the fact that soccer is over,” said Grammer. “All of the seniors, we’ve been brothers for the past four years and now our Masco careers are done. It’s just tough to lose.”