TAUNTON, Mass. – There always seems to be one more chance. A team trailing by a goal late in an important match inevitably gets one more attempt at the tying goal.
In Tuesday night’s Division 1 state semifinal at Taunton High, the chance fell to Silver Lake sophomore midfielder Adam Crawford and he struck it sweetly. Unfortunately for the Lakers and their traveling contingent, Somerville keeper Luis Guerra was equal to the task and able to tip it over the bar.
It would be the last of countless chances for both teams in an entertaining, end-to-end contest between the top two teams in the ESPNBoston.com statewide rankings. Julio Salguero’s second half goal proved the difference as Somerville took a further step than last season by reaching the state title game with a 2-1 victory over the Lakers.
Highlanders head coach George Scarpelli credited that experience of being in the 2012 state semifinal (a 2-1 loss to Needham at Manning Field) for giving his team the extra motivation and confidence to beat Silver Lake.
“I think having the understanding…they knew that they had been here before,” explained Scarpelli. “I think our kids came out firing from the first minute. They knew that they had something to prove and they wanted to finish it off.”
He also referenced the turmoil that faced the program at the beginning of the season and how tough his team was to overcome it and have a successful season.
“They believe they’re the best team in the state and from the stuff that we dealt with at the beginning of the season – these kids have persevered.”
This was a battle of two attack-minded teams and the chances came thick and fast right from the opening whistle. Somerville star Thayrone Miranda headed just wide from a corner in the first 30 seconds. Then Silver Lake senior Sean Hurlburt’s long throw caused problems in the Highlanders box before the ball was deflected just over the bar.
A few minutes later, Paul Beatty nearly intercepted a slow back pass, but Guerra was out quickly to block it away with his feet. Almost immediately after, Miranda had a shot inside the six rebound off the post.
That was just the opening eight minutes.
It was only a matter of time until the first goal arrived. In the 15th minute, Somerville broke quickly off another Hurlburt long throw. The ball was cleared out to Francisco Neto who drove at the last Silver Lake defender before flicking a pass to Miranda. The senior coolly slotted home to make it 1-0, despite Lakers protests that he was offsides.
Scarpelli praised his diminutive central midfielder for his contribution to the opening goal and to the Highlanders possession-based attack.
“People don’t realize that Thayrone is the All-American, but the heartbeat is Francisco,” said Scarpelli. “On the field, he plays like he’s seven-feet tall.”
The long throw was a primary weapon for Silver Lake throughout the game and it was no surprise when one of the throws paid off in a goal. Hurlburt picked up an assist when Somerville failed to clear from the center of the box and senior defender Tim Barrow was on hand to prod the ball home, seven minutes before the break.
Inside the first five minutes of the second half, Somerville had the eventual winning goal. A corner was not cleared and Salguero played it off his chest and hit an unstoppable shot on the half-volley.
Somerville nearly added the important insurance goal, but Miranda’s curling effort was stopped by Lakers keeper Stephen MacSwain. The keeper also stepped up to make a diving save on Salguero, who also saw a shot from the edge of the 18 skim the bar on its way over.
The Lakers upped the pressure in the search for a late equalizer, like the one scored by Beatty in the sectional final against Needham. Hurlburt and fellow senior Brendan Nemes pushed Silver Lake forward, but every time the Lakers put the ball in the box Guerra was there to match.
Silver Lake head coach Dan Correia was proud of the way his team attacked but rued the missed opportunities to get on the board.
“They got the better of the chances; they finished more than we did,” he said. “I was proud of our guys. We generated a lot of offense and just didn’t get the breaks. Their keeper stepped up big in a couple of spots and…that’s the game.”
Scarpelli also heaped praise on his senior goalie.
“I tell the kids that there is always one game that the goalie has to save you. That game with the long throw-in and that save off the 18, he’s probably the best goalkeeper in the state that no one has heard of; he’s amazing. He carried us today.”
Somerville will face West Springfield in the state championship game on Friday night at Worcester State at 7:30 p.m.