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Concord beats Manchester Central, 1-0, to claim D-I boys’ soccer title

  • Concord’s Sebastian Pardo (10) sheds tears of joy after scoring the only goal of the Division I boys’ soccer championship game at SNHU on Saturday. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Concord's Sebastian Pardo (10) scores a goal during the Division I boys' soccer championship at SNHU on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. Concord defeats Manchester Central, 1-0. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Concord's Sebastian Pardo (10) scores a goal during the Division I boys' soccer championship at SNHU on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. Concord defeats Manchester Central, 1-0. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Concord's Sebastian Pardo (10) sheds tears of joy after scoring a goal during the Division I boys' soccer championship at SNHU on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. Concord defeats Manchester Central, 1-0. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Concord defeats Manchester Central, 1-0, to win the Division I boys' soccer championship at SNHU on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Concord defeats Manchester Central, 1-0, to win the Division I boys' soccer championship at SNHU on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Concord goalie Liam Devanny makes a save during the Division I boys’ soccer championship game at SNHU on Saturday. Concord defeated Manchester Central, 1-0, for the Tide’s second state title in the last three years. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Concord defeats Manchester Central, 1-0, to win the Division I boys' soccer championship at SNHU on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Concord defeats Manchester Central, 1-0, to win the Division I boys' soccer championship at SNHU on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Sunday, November 05, 2017

HOOKSETT – The tears started after he scored. They kept coming even after the game ended and after state championship medals were hung around necks.

“It’s just really emotional for me,” Concord High sophomore Sebastian Pardo said. “My grandmother who I was really close to passed away in September, so that one was just for her.”

After Pardo scored in the 71st minute of Saturday’s Division I boys’ soccer final, he ran to the Concord crowd and then fell to the turf, kneeling and pointing to the sky in remembrance of his grandmother Diane Coll. It wasn’t the only emotional moment of the game, but it was the only goal as the seventh-seeded Crimson Tide (15-4-1) claimed a 1-0 win against No. 9 Manchester Central (14-5-1) to earn it’s second D-I title in the last three years.

The first heart-wrenching moment came in the game’s second minute when Tide senior captain Taylor Silverstein had to be carried off the field after he stepped on the ball and twisted his knee. Silverstein is one of only two players on this Concord team who started, or even saw significant time, when the Tide won the crown in 2015 (junior Liam Bennett was also a starter on that ’15 team). Silverstein is Concord’s offensive conductor and catalyst who set a school record for regular-season goals this fall with 16.

“That was the worst thing,” Silverstein said. “I thought I was done for the game.”

So did his teammates.

“It was just fright after he went down,” Pardo said. “He’s been carrying us all season. He’s scored 17 goals and we’ve scored (41), so it was just like you don’t really know how it’s going to go because he’s been so important throughout our whole year.”

The Tide looked shocked for a moment, but only a moment. Concord didn’t have the same offensive push without Silverstein, but it didn’t crack.

“It’s a testament to their character. This group of young men has tremendous character,” Concord Coach Scott Dunlop said. “We dealt with adversity at the end of the season with a lot of injuries and illness. In the last two weeks we had one varsity sub at one point. We brought some guys up from JV and then we got a little healthier and they put everything together at the right time.”

To be honest, the Tide’s game plan coming in was to defend first against a very talented Central offense and then look to strike on the counter. That game plan didn’t change after Silverstein went down.

“Against these guys you just have to mark up and stay with your man because they know how to move the ball really, really well,” Concord keeper Liam Devanny said. “I thought we did a very good job with that today.”

Devanny was, as usual, at the heart of the Tide’s defensive effort, coming off his line without hesitation or fear to grab crosses or clear balls, and stopping all four of Central’s shots on goal. He also, as usual, had plenty of help from his back line. Center backs Bennett and Josh Adams made tough, no-nonsense clears all game long. Sophomore Danny Aybar, filling in at left back for injured senior Cole Gorham, more than held his own. And right back Grant Rienstra had the game of his life.

Rienstra’s mohawk made him recognizable, but his play stood out even more than his hair. He locked down his half of the field, covered for his center backs, won headers over bigger players, pushed forward when it was time and even had Concord’s best chance before Pardo’s game-winner.

“Grant played the best game I’ve ever seen him play,” Dunlop said. “He was tremendous for us tonight. He rose to another level.”

The same can be said of subs Andrew Haggett and Sujan Gurung, who helped fill the void left by Silverstein. It was Gurung who created the chance for Rienstra late in the first half as he dribbled through a trio of Central defenders with some dazzling feet, drew out keeper Glaudi Bangasimbo (two saves) and then fed the ball into space in the Little Green box. The pass seemed headed for nothing before Rienstra appeared out of nowhere with a shot, but Manchester’s Griffin Hamel blocked it to keep things scoreless going into halftime.

Two minutes into the second half, Silverstein returned to the field.

“I had to get back in there even though it was still hurting me,” Silverstein said. “It’s my last game.”

Even though he was limping around the turf at Southern New Hampshire University’s Larkin Field, Silverstein’s presence boosted the Tide and balanced the game. And sure enough, he was involved in the game-winning score.

It started, not surprisingly, with Rienstra finding Chea Chebo in transition and Chebo feeding a ball down the line to Pardo, who earned a corner kick. Aybar played the corner short to Silverstein, who dribbled into the box and then passed it back to Aybar for service.

The cross went to the far post before getting sent back to the near post, where it found Pardo. He couldn’t get off his initial shot, and he was getting closed down by the time he did shoot it with his left, which is his weaker foot, but the ball still had enough juice to go off a Central defender and into the back of the net.

“The ball bounced into me and I tired to hit it with my right and then it bounced off a defender, so I hit it with my left and the next thing I knew I was over in the crowd celebrating. It was just so surreal,” Pardo said. “I remember last year in the semis we lost (1-0 to Manchester Memorial) and I missed one with my left, so it feels good to score this one.”

The Little Green got aggressive in the final nine minutes, but the Concord defense wasn’t about to break.

“My team, they willed that game,” Silverstein said. “It was them going as hard as they could and I was just part of it. I gave them some energy, but they just worked so hard.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341, tosullivan@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)