Faced with a gauntlet of formidable opponents this season, the Marblehead boys soccer team met the challenge, and have come away well-positioned for a playoff berth.
Last Friday, Oct. 20, the Magicians traveled to Peabody (7-3-5) to square off against the Tanners, a Division 1 team they had defeated earlier in the season, 2-1.
Throughout the early minutes of the game, it felt very much like a chess match, with each team sizing up the other for this rematch. The visitors were very patient early on, keeping the ball on the ground. They attacked from the left side initially to split the defenders to advance the ball through. Unfortunately, they struggled to capitalize on that strategy, despite coming through with some excellent combinations across to their midfielders and forwards.
With nine minutes left in the half, Peabody launched a tremendous kick that forced goalie Rory Zampese to miraculously catch it, while his body was past the goal line. The ball, however, remained in play on the other side, averting certain disaster. But it was no surprise to the team that Zampese came through again. He has lifted them all season long with his acrobatic play and command of the field.
Peabody was extremely disciplined, while excelling by playing the ball out of the backfield. They
frequently changed direction until they saw an opening. But eventually, Marblehead caught on to
Peabody’s scheme, which focused on chipping the ball across the field to their powerful striker. He did an exemplary job getting through seams in the defense, but the visitors were still able to contain him throughout most of the game, with the likes of sophomore fullback Adam Loughlin, junior Colin White, junior Oliver Murtagh and senior Riley Schmitt dominating at that end of the pitch.
With 10 minutes remaining in the contest, Peabody took the ball to the right corner, kept it in play and crossed skillfully to the center to account for the backbreaking goal after the Magicians had managed to hold off their relentless attack for 70 minutes.
In the final few minutes, a wild play resulted in Marblehead coming within inches of tying up the game.
On that play, forward Kyle Hart surged through the middle near the goal line and struck the ball hard, only to have it blocked, before it hit the crossbar and eventually out of bounds.
Magicians settle for bitter tie against Masco on Senior Day
On Monday, Oct. 23, the Magicians honored their four seniors — captain Jack Burke, Odin Colwell, captain Riley Schmitt and Leonardo Rappone — on Senior Night prior to the game against NEC rival Masco.
The stands were filled with the town’s youth soccer players. They were there to cheer on the Magicians, who were ready to take on the always-formidable Chieftains (12-1-4). And the game did not disappoint.
Masco, a perennial Division 2 juggernaut, has learned over the years that the Magicians come prepared to play. They have entered each contest with the intensity of a playoff game, notably pushing an undefeated Masco team to the brink in 2021, before beating them in an upset, 1-0 the next year.
In the early minutes of this game, both teams moved the ball well. As the half progressed, the Magicians began anticipating the path of the ball, and had several chances to intercept it inside the 18. Hart, in particular, showed considerable stamina trying to force mistakes.
Offensively, each team had few quality chances, and when they did the shots sailed high or simply hit the side of the net. The game turned with 2:39 left in the half, when Ilan Druker was tripped up in the box that drew a penalty kick. Druker calmly stutter-stepped on the approach, before shooting low to the left side, while goalie Marco Russo dove right to account for the first goal in the game.
Midway through the second half, the game had reached a heightened pace. The fouls increased, but many were overlooked, albeit when the Magicians drew a yellow card for a slight bump.
With 16:45 left, Masco penetrated the middle, and had an advantage, but left-footed Scarpacci
overpowered the ball, and it sailed just over the frame.
In the 81st minute, Masco finally had a legitimate threat. Their captain Jack Wexler was knocked down at the 10, leading to a penalty kick. But Zampese read Wexler’s approach perfectly, and blocked the kick on his downward dive to keep his teammates ahead, 1-0.
A short time later, forward Max Dressel broke free at midfield and outpaced two Masco defenders, before seeing right-winger Jack Burke streaking down the other side. He then placed a beautiful pass at his feet, and Burke did the rest, outmaneuvering the Masco fullback, which ultimately drew a corner to put his teammates in position to break the game wide open. Burke’s well-placed ball looked as if it would drop into an opportune spot, but Masco’s Russo dove forward to punch the ball away.
The final few minutes were frenetic, with Masco stepping up the pace and Marblehead reacting quickly to clear the ball as often as possible to kill the clock. But an unfortunate series of events, which included a flop, poor clock management by the referee and a non-call on a flagrant midfield shove to the ground, left Marblehead fans incredulous. But the final five minutes somehow turned into six and then seven, giving Masco a huge and unfair advantage.
The game should have already ended, but this sequence of events was sufficient to give the visitors time to score, which they did. The goal was on target to tie up the proceedings at one, and that was the way it ended, much to the disappointment of the home team.
But as they have done all season, the Marblehead boys played a tremendously competitive game against a powerful opponent. They are battle-tested, resilient and determined. They were able to bounce back after the tie to defeat Winthrop (6-12-1), 1-0 two days later. They then faced host Melrose on Oct. 27 after press deadline to wrap up the regular season.
As of Oct. 24, the Magicians were ranked 26 th in the Division 2 power rankings.
Troy Miller supplied the content for this report.