DANVERS — Twice during Thursday's Division 1 North soccer quarterfinal it looked like St. John's Prep was dead in the weeds — and both times the Eagles impressively responded.
The first occasion came right out of the gate when visiting Andover popped one in to immediately seize momentum. But moments later St. John's Zach Vlachos got the equalizer.
Then, with the hosts trailing by a goal for much of the second half and into stoppage time, Ethan Ambrosh finally capitalized on one of his squad's numerous scoring chances, finding the back of the net in the 79th minute to force overtime. The Eagles continued to press relentlessly from there, but it was Andover that capitalized first, netting the game-winner in double overtime off the foot of Anton Pace.
Pace's goal was far from a fluke, as the senior forward booted one home top shelf with his left foot. But that didn't take the sting away from a Prep team that had fought so hard to come out on top.
"We lost on a great goal; the kid hit the top corner, what can you do?," said Eagles head coach Dave Crowell, his team wrapping up the campaign at 13-4-3.
"It wasn't like we lost on some crappy goal and obviously (Andover) is making a run. I was so proud of the kids in the second half, we never stopped, getting a goal in literally the 79th minute. We had plenty more chances, it just didn't happen."
In tying things up early, Ambrosh found Vlachos in front and the latter calmly put it home. Owen Siewert, Gabe Najim and Ambrosh were among Eagles players to come close at the go-ahead score before halftime.
Najim opened the second half with another golden opportunity, but his shot sailed wide left. Eleven minutes later, Vlachos sent a textbook through ball to Ambrosh but the angled shot was gobbled up. The hosts would then get a trio of corner tries in succession midway through the second half, none of which resulted in a score.
That allowed Andover's Pace to score his first marker of the night, heading one home off a corner with 15 minutes to play. Ambrosh's tying score in stoppage time appeared to give the Eagles all the momentum they needed to secure a thrilling win in OT, but Andover just wouldn't quit and en route to the decisive score.
"(Andover) didn't make a substitution until one of their guys got hurt in the second overtime," said Crowell. "They just grinded; but I do think we wore them down in the second half like in the Peabody game, we just didn't finish our chances and that was the difference. Even in the overtime there were times that we could have, would have, should have put it away."
Despite the loss, it was a hell of a performance and season for the Eagles once again. Zach Davis, who was all over the field on Thursday, took home Catholic Central Player of the Year, and as a unit, the Prep had five league all-stars: Davis, Ambrosh, Najim, Andrew Behling and Garrison Jorge.
"It's hard, that's the thing about high school sports in general, the highs and the lows," said Crowell. "To go from that goal with a minute to play and then 15 minutes later you're sitting on the ground. But that's the way it goes.
"It was a great senior group, our four captains were great and some of the guys who didn't get to play a heck of a lot really stuck with the team. We didn't have any issues; it was just a great group and they're going to be missed."