Ask a sports fan to name the best boys soccer team in recent memory from the North Shore, and you’re not likely to get a lot of arguments or debate.
The 2006 Division 1 state titlists from St. John’s Prep fits the bill on every level: talent, accomplishments, a lofty national ranking and a sparkling undefeated record to go with their championship hardware.
There’s one other North Shore boys soccer question that is indisputable, however. The title of best coach surely belongs to Masconomet’s Lenny Emmons, he of 576 wins, 28 Cape Ann League championships and just one losing season in 40 years.
What, then, might happen if time were no obstacle and Emmons’ Division 2 state championship team from 1996 matched up against the vaunted Eagles of a decade later?
“Lenny always had his teams prepared to play and they always had depth,” said St. John’s Prep head coach Dave Crowell. “He was a great motivator. When those kids put that Masco shirt on, it means something and he was responsible for that attitude, year in and year out.”
Emmons actually did coach against the Eagles in 2006, with the Prep winning 5-2 in the season opener. It was a fairly young Masconomet team, some of whom would go to the state final two years later in ‘08. It’s worth noting that the Chieftains were the only team to score two goals against St. John’s Prep all season.
“I don’t know much about the ‘96 team, but from knowing how Masco played against us it always seemed to be an exciting game,” said Ben Slingerland, one of St. John’s captains in ‘06. “I always remember it was a big game for our Topsfield and Middleton guys.”
The passage of time makes it easy to forget just how good Masconomet was in 1996, when they took home the only boys soccer state title by a North Shore team besides the Prep’s over the last 25 years.