Magicians pick up the pace with the playoffs right around the corner

The Marblehead High boys soccer team (4-6-3) fell to longtime rival Beverly (5-3-2), 2-0 on Oct. 9 after battling to a draw earlier in the season. The Panthers scored both goals early on. The Marblehead boys, however, were able to regain their composure to even the playing field. The defense, led by senior captain Riley Schmitt, clamped down on Beverly’s attacking front, played a compact formation that offered little room for the Panthers to maneuver freely.

Marblehead High boys soccer player Stefan Shepard (3) fired a shot on net in a game against visiting Danvers on Oct 11. Shepard scored twice in the game to help lead his teammates to a 4-0 triumph. COURTESY PHOTO / RICH BIBBINS

Late in the first half, the Magicians were able to muster a legitimate threat after goalkeeper Rory

Zampese reacted quickly to a failed Beverly corner kick. He trapped the ball, before rolling it to Jared Halpern, who drove it downfield to forward Stefan Shepard. Shepard then won the footrace along the right touchline, only to see the Beverly defender knock the ball out of bounds.

In the second half, Shepard threatened again on a brilliant attack after a failed direct kick by Beverly. He and left midfielder Ilan Druker created several scoring combinations that kept Beverly’s defense honest, and at times off balance. In one sequence, Druker came up with a sweet backcheck, before firing a clean shot that went just over the crossbar.

Overall, the intensity and discipline were in full display for the Magicians, even though they were held scoreless. The offense was effective in getting the ball into Beverly’s defensive third, but to no avail after that.

The Danvers Falcons came to town two days later, and the home team was eager to hand the Falcons a loss after an earlier game, played in the rain, resulted in a draw. The tie did not sit well with the Marblehead boys, who knew they had squandered chances to put that game away early.

From the opening kickoff in the rematch, the Magicians played with focus, moving the ball well through midfield with patience, while maintaining proper spacing. They were also looking for weaknesses to exploit.

Though the game was close early on, Marblehead broke it open on a score by Yuri Volkov. Just before halftime, Miles Fontela-Tuttle fired a missile from the left side that had no business doing anything other than hitting the back of the net, but yet somehow the Danvers goalie pulled out an acrobatic Spiderman vault to come down with the ball in his grasp. Danger averted for Danvers, albeit only temporarily.

In the second half, the Marblehead offense came alive, starting with captain Jack Burke. Bringing the ball down the right side, Burke sent a nifty cross to Kyle Hart near the six. He then placed the ball expertly in the left corner of the net to give his teammates a 2-0 lead.

Marblehead High boys soccer coach Elmer Magana praises his team after a solid 4-0 win over Danvers on Oct. 11. COURTESY PHOTO / TROY MILLER

Marblehead nearly put up another score on a direct kick by Luke Miller, who sent a long ball near the goal line that was for the taking. Two teammates leaped for the header, but the Danvers goalie fought through the pressure to grab the ball in midair.

Shepard struck gold twice in the waning minutes. His first goal followed an excellent sequence with Burke, and the second tally came on a breakaway through the middle.

Marblehead had gained a head of steam, using outstanding ball control and tenacious defense to build up momentum as the game progressed. The team’s depth has been a newfound strength this season after sustaining several injuries to starting players. It has helped them maintain stability, and not falter.

After shutting down Danvers, 4-0, the Magicians went back to work to get ready for host Gloucester on Oct. 17, followed by a game at Peabody two days later, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Troy Miller, father of player Luke, submitted this report.

Joe McConnell | + posts

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