Seeking its program’s first state championship since 1999, the Londonderry High School boys’ soccer squad bounded into the 2015 Division I championship match last weekend aiming to rise to the top of its tough league.
But after suffering a hard-fought, 1-0 loss to the Concord High Crimson Tide in that big battle at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester last Saturday night, Nov. 7, the Lancers’ title hunt will have to go on.
The third-ranked LHS booters had entered the title match having won 10 consecutive games, including a 3-2 shootout victory over number-two Hanover in semifinal-round play in Nashua days before.
Fourth-seeded Concord stepped into the championship round with an eight-game undefeated streak rolling (7-0-1), an impressive run that included a semifinal-round upset of number one Bedford days earlier.
Londonderry and Concord played to a scoreless tie when they met up during the regular season on Sept. 11.
The Concord team, which hadn’t won a state crown since 2005, returned to the top of the Division I heap, thanks to a tally by senior midfielder Luck Ndahigwa with 16:20 remaining in the first half of the title battle with Londonderry.
The Lancers smacked four shots on Concord goalie Dylan Thompson during the first 40 minutes of play, but they wouldn’t wind up getting a blast past him on this evening despite considerable efforts to do so.
The LHS team didn’t manage to put its first shot of the second half on net until nearly 20 minutes had been played, and the locals’ best scoring set-ups finished with sizzling shots wide of the Concord cage.
During an injury time-out with 21:42 to go in regulation time, LHS assistant coach Kevin Brassard gathered players around him and said, “They’re beating us for every 50/50 ball, and that’s gotta stop right now.”
The Lancers put in an intense effort, but in the end the match score never moved from 1-0.
LHS senior goalie Tim McEachern finished the game with eight saves on a losing night.
The Lancers had advanced to the championship match with a dramatic, 3-2 edging of the second-seeded Hanover High Marauders at Nashua’s Stellos Stadium Wednesday, Nov. 4.
Two halves, followed by two 10-minute overtime periods, failed to decide this matter, and the teams were forced to penalty kicks before the Lancers overcame their tough opponent by scoring three times while only one Marauder shooter tallied.
The first half of the match was action-packed and featured 18 total shots on net by the two contingents.
The Marauders tallied a 1-0 lead less than four minutes into the contest, but the Lancers answered less than two minutes later – with 34:47 remaining in the first half – when Jayden West thumped home the rebound of teammate Griffin Cowles’ shot.
That was it on scoring during the opening 40 minutes, although Hanover hammered 10 total shots on LHS goalie McEacharn and Londonderry put eight total blasts on Marauders’ goalie Connor Edson.
“I thought Hanover started the game with a lot of energy. I was glad to see us come right back and answer their goal,” said LHS head coach Todd Ellis.
After more intense action through the first 38 minutes of the second half, the Lancers claimed a 2-1 advantage when West drilled a shot that Hanover keeper Edson stopped, but the ball bounded out in front of him and Londonderry’s Tarik Dallahi got to it and smacked the ball into the net.
However, the Marauders knotted the score back up with 30 seconds to go off a direct kick, and when time ran out it was on to overtime and the potential for a sudden victory for one side.
But neither squad was able to break the deadlock during the two extra stanzas, and the matter was left to be decided by individual shooters going face to face with keepers.
The Lancers made a goalie switch from senior McEacharn to junior Cam Wheeler for the high-pressure deadlock buster, and the move paid off.
Londonderry found success shooting to the lower-left corner of the net, with Max Hastings, Nate Gaw, and West all beating Hanover goalie Edson in the same general area.
But only one of the four Hanover shooters were able to put blasts past LHS goalie Wheeler, with one hitting the crossbar and one shooting wide entirely. And it was straight into celebration mode for Londonderry.
“Tim had a tremendous game in net for us, his best of the year, I feel. However, we had made the decision prior to the game that if we went to PK’s, Cam would get the nod,” said Ellis. “It was hard for Tim to deal with it at first, but in the end he was a team player. It was the right choice. Cam has shown a knack for them the whole time we have been practicing them.”
McEacharn was right back in net for the LHS side in the title match a few nights later, and he made eight saves as he and his teammates fell just short of the state championship they desired.