By Steve Rogers
WEST BRIDGEWATER —Top-seeded West Bridgewater High School broke open a close game with two goals in less than a minute to start the second half en route to a 5-0 win over Westport in a boys’ soccer Division 4 South Sectional quarterfinal match at Howard School Monday.
Reed Crowley scored the first goal of the second half, and his second of three goals in the game, when he maneuvered through the Westport defense on the left side and fired a shot inside the far post at the 42:25 mark. Just 56 seconds later teammate Jared Sharkey also made a solo rush with the same result, a goal from in close to make it 3-0.
“Having three guys up front, all of whom can, to one degree or another, control the ball, really helps,” West Bridgewatercoach Jeremy Winchell said. “Often times you rely on Reed to take the ball through and score those goals. But Jared and Derek (O’Brien) both have been working very hard all season on their footwork and they’ve both come a long way.”
No. 9 seed Westport, which tied West Bridgewater 3-3 and lost 4-3 during the Mayflower League regular season, was down just 1-0 at the break. But when Crowley and Sharkey scored, it really knocked Westport on its heels.
“It was definitely not the way we wanted to start the second half that’s for sure,” Westport coach Mark Nardelli said. “Anytime you give up two quick goals like that it changes the mentality of the game. We were playing catch-up the rest of the way. Usually when you get up 3-0, that pretty much seals the game.”
It was the eleventh straight win for West Bridgewater since the regular-season tie with Westport and improved its record to 17-1-2 overall. West Bridgewater will take on No. 5 seeded Cohasset in the semifinals.“They’re one of the best teams in the history of West Bridgewater, at least in my 12 years of coaching,” Winchell said. “They’re on a high and it’s just amazing to experience. It’s been a phenomenal run.”
The host Wildcats, who have the same nickname as Westport, were wary of playing the visiting Wildcats for a third time, especially since the first two games were so close. But just like happened during the game in Westport, West Bridgewater came out fast in the second half to turn the game around.
“When we went down there at their field we were losing 2-0 at the half,” Winchell said. “I took them to the side and talked a little while and they came out and they scored two quick goals. That’s exactly what they did again today.
“We had two previous very tough games against this team. They’re very physical, a very aggressive team. I’ve enjoyed it because it’s good competition. But we were nervous this could go either way as both other games did.
“But we came out in the second half all ready and I think it showed. They wanted to win and I just helped them focus on that.”
Crowley scored the only goal of the first half with just about 10 minutes left. O’Brien crossed the ball from the right wing to the middle of the penalty area where Crowley gathered it. He stopped the ball dead at his feet and disrupted the flow of the play as a Westport defender ran a step past him. The senior striker took the opening and calmly shot the ball into the net for the 103rd goal of his career.
Westport’s Alex Machairas and Nick Hansen each had scoring opportunities early in the game but one shot was tipped over the crossbar and the other was right at the keeper. Westport keeper Ryan Martel made a nice kick save on O’Brien from in close and had six of his 11 total saves in the first half.
But the home team owned the second half and after Crowley and Sharkey scored early, Crowley got his hat trick on a penalty kick 10 minutes after Sharkey had scored. Martel dove and stopped the original shot but couldn’t control the ball as it rolled loose and was poked in by Crowley. Tyler Taccini scored the last goal with 10 minutes left.
“The first half we stood with their runs a little bit better,” Nardelli said. “The second half, you mix their speed and their skills with our guys being a step slow and mismarking, you get the score we got.
“My defense definitely was a step slower than it was a few days ago. It seemed like as the game went on it just kept getting slower. You lunge, you mismark against a skillful front line like that, and West Bridgewater is certainly a skillful team, they’re going to make you pay for it.
“There’s a reason why they only lost one game this year. Obviously we would have liked to have played them a little bit closer like we thought we could have. But it didn’t work out that way.”
Westport advanced to face the top-seeded team thanks to a 3-1 win over Pope John Paul II Saturday in Hyannis. Elijah DaSilva scored two second-half goals, his first two scores of the season. Machairas scored Westport’s first goal off a corner kick from Hansen.
Westport finished the season with an overall record of 9-6-3. Not bad for a team which had eight players show up for the first day of tryouts and a squad which played a few games with the minimum 11 players.
“They progressed a ton from the beginning of the season,” Nardelli said. “I know today’s score didn’t show it but skill-wise and playing together as a team, they definitely improved a lot. I’m proud of them as a team. I’m not happy or proud of the score today, but as a team, I’m proud of their effort all season long. We were beaten by a better team today.”