By Dan Harrison
---- — HAMILTON — The Hamilton-Wenham boys soccer team leaned on senior captain Russell Grigorian for offense late in the second half yesterday while deadlocked in a scoreless tie with Cape Ann League rival Newburyport.
Grigorian made a number of impressive individual runs, even getting a clean breakaway on Clippers keeper Shudee Wu in the final five minutes, to no avail. The senior striker wasn’t able to find the back of the net in the match, but it was his foot that led to the winning goal.
The Generals were awarded a corner kick during injury time and Grigorian placed the ball perfectly in the middle of the box where Aidan Prior headed it past Wu to lift H-W to a 1-0 win.
“It was a good, clean game that was back and forth. You could feel the pressure building. We both had our chances,” said H-W (2-0) head coach Matt Gauron. “Russell’s been our main guy up front and he got through a few times. He was able to finally put the ball in the perfect spot. It was a great ending to win off a hard-working header.”
Prior was rewarded for his hard work on the defensive end throughout the contest. Newburyport’s (1-1) Adam Traxler and Tom Graham are both speedy, dangerous threats and Prior along with senior captain Frank Bucco contained both Clipper stars.
Bucco in particular was extremely effective in the first half containing Graham on outside rushes. Newburyport controlled stretches of play and both teams used their speed to push the offensive initiative.
“It turned into a track race and I like that. I thought we were going to get one (goal),” said Newburyport skipper Shawn Blue. “We were carrying play early in the second half and I thought it was only a matter of time. But give Hamilton-Wenham credit, they settled down defensively.”
H-W keeper Henry Eager played a big role in the Generals second shutout of the season. A basketball player in the winter, Eager uses his height and vertical ability to come out and grab the ball on dangerous corners or crosses into the box.
Newburyport’s first corner kick early in the game was its best, but Eager sold out to punch the ball out of danger. Then, the Clippers had their best scoring chance later in the half when a throw in from the sideline made it into the box and found its way past the entire Generals defense. Traxler was waiting for it and placed a nifty, short side shot past Eagar but the Generals keeper was able to catch his footing, dive backwards and grab the ball just before it crossed the line.
Eager and the rest of the Generals have been as good as Gauron could have hoped in the early goings of the season.
“They’ve played with heart and determination but more importantly, they’ve played with smarts,” Gauron said of his team so far. “We’ve been working hard on how to move the ball up the field and to involve our teammates. It’s nice to see them do it this early in the season.”