SOUTH HAMILTON — The Hamilton-Wenham boys soccer team completed an incredible comeback last Friday, scoring four unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes of action to down rival Manchester Essex by a single tally.
On Monday at home against Ipswich, the Generals were back on that rally train.
This time, the visiting Tigers scored the contest's first two goals, both in the opening half, before Hamilton-Wenham picked up the pace and not only kept their opponent off the scoreboard for the remainder of the afternoon, but scored two timely markers of their own to earn the 2-2 draw.
"It's not where we want to be, but it seems like that's where we're at for the first two games for sure," Generals' head coach Matt Gauron said of his team's slow start and frantic finish.
"We need a better start; we need to come out with a sense of urgency and start the game with the same energy that we came out with (in that second half). I feel like we finally just got into our game there, we were playing a little sloppy at the beginning."
Sloppy or not out of the gate for the hosts, Ipswich deserves a lot of credit for the way they came out to open the clash. They played with energy, urgency and composure en route to a quick two-goal lead.
The first marker came less than two minutes in, as Thatch Phypers found the back of the net on a cross from Beckett Devoe. Then, with 9:20 remaining in the first half, freshman Spencer McDavitt streaked up the right wing and launched a shot across the playing surface that dinged off the far post. Fellow classmate Darwin Ramirez was in the perfect spot to get a quick foot on it and boot it home with emphasis.
Ipswich may not have a particularly deep bench, but the underclassmen like McDavitt and Ramirez have come to play early on this season for an added boost.
"Those guys are working really hard," said Ipswich head coach Greg Scruton, his team now 1-1-1. "Darwin has a great engine, he never stops working and was able to put that one in. And then Nate (Buletza), another freshman, had the goal the other day against Georgetown (a 1-0 Tigers' win), so it's exciting that those guys are coming together and just as a team, everybody's talking, hanging out and creating a great culture for us right now."
Nursing the 2-0 lead from there, Ipswich took more of a conservative approach, emphasizing defense and doing their best to keep the hosts off the scoreboard. Overall, the Tigers did a tremendous job of doing just that, marking their mans and limiting the shots in close while clearing the ball effectively.
It wasn't until midway through the second half that Hamilton-Wenham finally broke through, as sophomore Finn Tratnyek fired a low shot from the left side that reached the far post, well out of the reach of Tigers' keeper Nate Kobuszewski. The Generals continued to press from there, relentlessly attacking and keeping the ball in their attacking zone for the majority of the final 20 minutes.
It seemed it was only a matter of time that they'd record the equalizer. It wasn't until stoppage time, however, that they finally did.
Will Gern was the beneficiary, punching home a rebound after an initial shot attempt was thwarted by Kobouszewski. Ipswich had one last chance down the other end to snare the game-winner in the waning seconds, but a scrum in front of the net ultimately amounted to nothing as the two teams walked away even.
"There were definitely a lot of white jerseys in the box there late in the game," Gauron said. "They definitely pulled one guy back at least to try to make sure they could preserve the win, and rightfully so. It's hard to find a good shot selection during that time but our guys did a good job of keeping the fight up; they kept working and eventually finally got two shots off that found the back of the net."
For Ipswich, Scruton was satisfied with his team's defensive effort, especially considering the amount of pressure they faced. While they would've loved to hang on for the win, a draw is still better than a loss. Every point counts when you're hoping to advance to the state tournament and after just three games, Ipswich is in good shape to do just that later this fall.
"I was very pleased with the defense," said Scruton. "We've been working on defense for quite some time and our two center backs are seniors so they've been playing together for a while now. Our two outside backs are juniors and they've been playing together, too, so just them coming together and communication and being able to read off each other and just dig deep and back each other up, it's been great."