NHIAA boys’ soccer: No. 2 Hopkinton falls to No. 1 Derryfield, 2-1, in D-III championship

  • Derryfield’€™s Jeff Pratt (7) looks down at his own rebound moments before knocking in the game-winning goal past Hopkinton goalie Sam Crawford. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton’s Zach Berliner (left), Derryfield’s Nate Kelsey and goalie Oliver Sattier all converge on the ball in front of the net on Saturday at SNHU. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton’s Max Rossignol (19) walks off the field as Derryfield players begin to celebrate their 2-1 championship victory at SNHU on Saturday. Hopkinton finished the season 17-3-0. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 11/5/2017 12:09:54 AM

HOOKSETT – When they played in the regular season, Derryfield overwhelmed Hopkinton and rolled to a four-goal win. When the two met again in Saturday’s Division III boys’ soccer final, the Hawks refused to be rolled again.

“We were worried about them too much the first game, we sat back. This time we wanted to play higher pressure, make them play backwards and not let them turn and run at us,” Hopkinton Coach Scott Zipke said. “And I thought we played with that higher pressure, we didn’t play off them and we got some offensive chances, we just didn’t manage to put in enough of them.”

No. 2 Hopkinton converted a first-half chance, took a lead into halftime and was even with top-ranked and undefeated Derryfield until the 76th minute. That’s when Nate Kelsey, who lives in Hopkinton and scored the Cougars first goal, headed a pass to Jeff Pratt, who scored off his own rebound to give Derryfield a 2-1 lead it would see to the end to claim the title.

The Cougars (18-0) were also considered the top team in D-III last year ... until they lost to Hopkinton in the semifinals during the Hawks march to the 2016 crown. But last year was a distant memory to this Derryfield team.

“We were motivated for a championship,” Kelsey said. “That’s all the motivation we need.”

The Hawks (17-3-0) made it clear from the start that they weren’t going to play scared against Derryfield this time around. Hopkinton came out attacking, recorded the game’s first shot (a flicked header from midfielder Max Rossignol, who was at the heart of his team’s offensive thrust) and kept the ball in Derryfield’s end for most of the opening 10 minutes.

The Cougars answered by controlling play for the next 10 minutes, and nearly tied the game in the 11th minute after an Andrew Dubreuil cross caused havoc in the box and nearly caromed into the Hopkinton goal multiple times.

The Hawks survived that initial onslaught from the Cougars – thanks in large part to the back line of Derek West, Dustin Rose and Zach Signor – and responded with the game’s first goal. Rose started the sequence with a great step to the ball to stop a Derryfield attack and start a counter for his team. That led to a foul at midfield, and West lofted the free kick into Derryfield’s 18-yard box.

The ball banged around in a scrum and was headed for the Cougars goal when it hit the hand of Derryfield defender Chris Van Natta, and the referee awarded Hopkinton the penalty kick. Rose stepped up to the spot and slotted the shot just inside the right post to give his team a 1-0 lead with 14:30 left in the first half.

“We’ve been practicing PKs for a while and Dustin can always ping the PK off the post, so I don’t think that was anything special,” Zipke said. “They just realized that as we practiced PKs getting ready for the playoffs, he’s pretty darn good at them.”

The goal pushed Hopkinton forward. Rossignol just missed on a long-range bid a few minutes later and Rose nearly scored a second, but his flying header in the 31st minute went wide. The Cougars had their own flurry in the final two minutes of the half, but the Hawks took their 1-0 lead to the break. They did not, however, think it would be enough.

“We were talking at halftime that one goal wasn’t going to win it,” Zipke said. “We didn’t expect to win this game 1-0.”

The team on the other bench didn’t expect that either.

“We’ve been down at other times this year,” Kelsey said. “We fought back before and it was the same thing today. We knew we still had half the game to go and you just got to keep grinding.”

It was a short grind to the equalizer for Kelsey and the Cougars. In the first minute of the second half Dubreuil sent a cross into the box and Kelsey rose above Hopkinton keeper Sam Crawford and Rose to head the ball into an empty net and tie the match.

The Hawks nearly regained the lead in the 47th minute, but a blasted volley from Paul Molnar, who had scored six goals in Hopkinton’s first three playoff games, was stopped by Derryfield keeper Oliver Sattler.

After that, the Hopkinton defense was put to the test. Midfielder Benny Madden dropped into the box to help Rose and West against the rampaging Cougars. West took the ball from Pratt with an open net in front of him. Signor toe-poked a ball out of the 6-yard box with Derryfield swarming. West went to ground inside the 18 and won the ball. Rose blocked a shot from Kelsey.

But with 5:20 left, the pressure turned into a goal. Dubreuil sent another cross into the box with eyes for Kelsey, who flicked a header to Pratt. His first shot was stopped by Crawford, but Pratt didn’t miss on the rebound and the Cougars had their first lead of the game.

“I saw a long ball from Andrew coming in and I just saw Jeff open on the top of the six,” Kelsey said. “I was just trying to get it back across to him so he could put it in the net.”

The Hawks sent players forward for the final five minutes, but they couldn’t derail Derryfield this time.

“They really came together and gave it their all in the last game,” Zipke said of his team. “Watching those guys up top, Max (Rossignol) and Gerry (Donahue), and (Rose) and Zach Signor in the back, those four senior captains really dominated the game today and showed a lot of leadership on the field. It was great to watch.

“And we got a big goal in the last game from (senior) Azarius Meister, so we got a lot out of our seniors and they really stepped up filling the vacuum from last year. You’re disappointed any time you don’t win the last game, but they played well today.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 36-3341, tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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