NHIAA boys’ soccer: No. 7 Concord tops No. 10 Timberlane, 2-1, in D-I first round

  • Concord goalie Liam Devanny secures the ball as Timberlane forward Jacob Stewart tried to beat him to it during the second half of the Crimson Tide’s first-round Division I tournament win at Memorial Field on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Concord’€™s Chea Chebo gets caught up with Timberlane’s Cameron Ross during the second half at Memorial Field on Wednesday. Concord won the Division I tournament game, 2-1. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Concord forward Alasdair Ferrier gets shoved by Timberlane midfielder Niko Kakouris during the second half of game at Memorial Field on October 25, 2017. Concord won the game 2-1 on Ferrier’€™s goal. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord’€™s Jonathan Webberg battles Timberlane’€™s Al Barney during the second half of a game at Memorial Field on October 25, 2017. Concord won the game, 2-1. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord goalie Liam Devanny goes up for the ball with Timberlane midfielder Connor Ross during the second half of a game at Memorial Field on October 25, 2017. Concord won the game 2-1. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/26/2017 12:42:23 AM

Chea Chebo is confident he can beat just about anybody on the pitch in a foot race.

“That’s my mentality,” Chebo said. “Most teams, I see their speed and I attack their weakest defender. So I tell (my teammates) to play me the ball to the weakest defender because he can’t catch up with me.”

Concord goalkeeper Liam Devanny is very familiar with Chebo’s speed, so he’s the first teammate Devanny looks for when lining up a goal kick. Send the ball deep to the other end and let Chebo do the rest.

“He’s faster than anyone on the field,” Devanny said. “The (kicks) that usually don’t go to him are probably a mistake by me because I’m pretty much always aiming for Chea up top.”

Devanny blasted a long kick down the field leading Chebo toward the net in stride. The junior forward outran a Timberlane defender and buried the ball in the back of the net, giving No. 7 Concord an early lift on its way to a 2-1 win over No. 10 Timberlane in the Division I boys’ soccer tournament on Wednesday at Memorial Field.

Concord is moving on to the quarterfinals and will face No. 2 Londonderry on the road Saturday at 2 p.m. Concord lost to Londonderry, 2-0, back in September. The Tide hope a better result this weekend will lead them back to the semifinals, where their tournament run ended last year in a 1-0 loss to Manchester Memorial.

“I think this game definitely boosted all of our confidence,” said Devanny, who made nine saves against Timberlane. “I was pretty confident coming into today as the seventh seed. One more win and we could have been third.”

Freshman forward Alasdair Ferrier scored the game-winner for the Tide (12-4-1) in the 54th minute off a feed from Aiden Desjardins. Ferrier was in the right place near the goal line to put it away.

Timberlane (8-8-1) cut into Concord’s lead with less than 19 minutes on the clock on a one-time header into the net by Jacob Stewart.

Timberlane hit a skid in the second half of the season going 1-7-1 in its last eight games before facing Concord. The Tide cruised into the tournament while taking one loss in their last seven.

The Owls were poised to stop their slide and went to work quickly with two shots on goal in the first two minutes. Devanny handled both and made an impressive lunging save to his right later in the half to keep the game scoreless.

It was the first of several hard shots that Devanny turned away while the Tide’s offense tried to solve Timberlane goalkeeper Connor Newman (seven saves) in the other end.

“He’s by far the best keeper in the state, as far as I’m concerned,” Concord Coach Scott Dunlop said of Devanny, a junior. “He goes after everything; he makes a decision and sticks with it. That’s what I like about him.”

Timberlane’s midfielders did well to control possession in the first half and create offense in Concord’s end. But Devanny’s quick moves in the box combined with some key clears by the Tide’s back line limited the Owl’s chances at a clear look toward the net.

“We need to pressure the ball in the midfield,” Dunlop said. “They were getting a lot of time in the midfield in the first half and really splitting our backs and getting a lot of space and time to do that.”

Chebo’s goal in the 26th minute lifted some of the pressure off of Concord’s defense, and the Tide tightened up its play in the midfield in the second half.

After Ferrier pushed the Tide ahead, 2-0, in the second half, Dunlop moved his players back into a defensive set. The Owls found a lane on a through ball to the left side handled by Christian Allaire. Allaire crossed the ball through the box and Stewart redirected it into the net, cutting the Tide’s lead in half, 2-1.

Concord stayed in prevention mode as the clock ticked away with 15 minutes left while Timberlane Coach Mitch Mencis sent every player except one into the offensive end. A corner opportunity with 5:30 left gave the Owls another close chance to tie it up, but Concord’s defense go their first and cleared the ball away from the net.

“We had a couple nice opportunities (after the first goal),” Mencis said. “Credit to Concord, they have an absolute stud goalie, probably the best in the state, and a great defense in front of him.”

Devanny was pleased with his team’s defensive effort, but getting involved in the offense also put a smile on his face. Chebo was happy to help his goalkeeper gather an assist.

“Big props to Liam,” Chebo said. “Without him clearing the ball that far, I wouldn’t have gotten that goal.”

The speed factor Chebo brings to the offense will play a key role as the Tide try to string together a playoff run.

“It gives us a lot of options, like today moving him from outside-right to up front,” Dunlop said. “We recognized it was going to give us a little more going forward, and it paid off.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3339, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)

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