By Gianna Addario
---- — LYNN — The Masconomet boys soccer team crossed the final goal of the 2013 season off its to-do list after last night’s Division 2 state championship victory over Walpole.
The 4-2 title win over the South champion Rebels gave the Chieftains their first state crown since 1996 as this season will be etched in program history forever.
“I don’t know if any team ever expects to win a state championship,” said Masco head coach Dave Mitchell, who led his team to its second state finals since he took over in 2011. “Did we think we were a quality team and would be in the hunt? Absolutely.
“The kids that were sophomores two years ago when we lost to Ludlow (Division 1 finals), they bonded from that experience. A lot of things have to go right for you through the whole season and throughout the tournament, so we’re very fortunate that it went that way.”
The Chieftains (23-1-1) capped off their win streak with 18 consecutive victories to close out the fall season. Never trailing once in the tournament, Masco got on the board after Stephen Pease scored six minutes into the contest. The goal, which was assisted by Edison Forbes, was the first marker the Rebels had allowed in the tournament.
Walpole, which finished its season at 13-8-2, was able to punch one by Masco keeper Willie Stewart some 10 minutes later to tie things at 1-1.
As they did in every game this tournament, the Chieftains came out flying in the second half. After senior co-captain Jeff Panella went down 30 seconds into the final frame from a collision, his team rallied around his absence and netted three goals in under five minutes.
“We were getting our shots off in the first half, but not on frame,” noted Mitchell. “We just had to keep doing what were doing.”
Forbes found Adam Grammer in front of the net and blasted it home to regain the lead. Less than four minutes later Pease carried the ball up the left side of the field into the corner and crossed a beautiful ball to a wide open P.J. Criscione, who knocked it past Walpole goalie Peter Hoegler.
Before the Rebels could regroup, Forbes earned a goal of his own 30 seconds after Criscione’s marker.
“To see your co-captain go down like that, it hurt, but it lit a fire under us,” said Grammer, a fellow senior captain. “Everything was clicking, one right after another. We were just in a great rhythm.”
The Rebels quickly responded with a goal from Anthony Chauvin to make it 4-2, but by then the Chieftains had already established their dominance in the game. Despite playing a man down for the final 31 minutes of regulation (due a red card issued to Forbes), Masco managed to hold onto the two-goal advantage.
“They were the better side,” said longtime Walpole head coach Lee Delaney. “We took it as far as we could and tried our best. They deserved this win. We had a lot of trouble with their speed and couldn’t stop them in the second half.”
The mission was made complete when the final horn sounded at Manning Field and the Chieftains rushed the field to congratulate each other and celebrate with their fans.