Rangers rally past Hampden to win Class A crown
(Ed. Note: This story originally appeared in the Nov. 11, 2004 edition of The Forecaster)
BATH—Two years ago, the Greely boys' soccer team dropped the Class A state championship, 1-0, to upstart Lawrence.
The 2004 Rangers were bound and determined to avoid a similar heartbreak.
Even when they fell behind 2-0 in the first half on a fluke goal to the Hampden Academy Broncos Saturday at McMann Field, Greely did not waver.
Instead, the Rangers got some life on a goal late in the first half, then tied and won the game with a pair of late second-half strikes to return to the Class A pinnacle for the first time in six seasons with an exciting 3-2 victory.
"In 2002, we lost to Lawrence and outshot them, 17-3," Greely senior Kevin Burke said. "To get this one is great. It wasn't easy."
"This group learned the lessons of 2002," Rangers coach Mike Andreasen added. "A lot of these kids saw how bad it felt to be on that end. They have a lot of heart and a lot of guts and they refused to quit."
The 2004 Rangers followed a successful recent script and peaked at the right time. Greely lost four times during the regular season, leaving it with the No. 3 seed, but once the postseason began, the Rangers' flair for the dramatic made the difference.
Junior Iain Eldredge beat Portland with a late goal in the quarterfinals. Senior Tim Foran's late goal was the difference in a 1-0 win at Cheverus in the semifinal round. A three-goal second half flurry led to a 3-1 win at top-seeded Scarborough in the regional final.
That led to Saturday and destiny.
Hampden Academy entered the Class A state final with a sparkling 16-0-1 record. The Broncos had upset defending state champion Mt. Ararat in the Eastern A Final and rode that momentum in the state game.
Greely actually had the first good scoring opportunity, but Eldredge was denied by Broncos goalkeeper Max Silver on a shot in close just 35 seconds into the contest.
In the 31st minute, Hampden Academy went up 1-0. Andre Cushing sent the ball in on a corner kick and Alex Reynolds was there to bang the rebound home past Rangers senior goalkeeper Joe Monthey to break the ice.
Just 2:07 later, Hampden Academy appeared to deliver a fatal blow.
More accurately, Greely did it to themselves.
Hampden Academy's Nattapong Kongsuriya lofted a ball toward the Rangers' goal. Greely senior defender Bobby Burgess got his head on the ball, but sent it past a stunned Monthey into the net, making the score 2-0 Broncos.
"I just went up for the header and it deflected off," Burgess said. "I guess it just went too far to the right. Joe couldn't get back to the left in time. I have no idea what I would have done if that had cost us the game."
Even after they dodged a potential 3-0 deficit (Hampden Academy's Andre Cushing had a breakaway, but shot just wide) moments later, Greely appeared doomed.
"Giving up that second goal in such a backbreaking way, never did I think we'd come back," Andreasen said. "The kids have been resilient all year. It wasn't a shock to their egos to go down, 2-0. It was a shock to our playoff run since we haven't been down the whole time."
When all seemed lost, however, a gorgeous Greely goal turned the tide.
With just 38.4 seconds remaining in the half, senior Sam Burrell sent a pass into the Hampden zone where Eldredge dove, got his head on the ball and sent it past Silver to cut the deficit to 2-1 and give his teammates life.
"When Eldredge put that in, it just turned the whole game," Burke said.
"I think that Iain Eldredge's goal was the biggest goal of the game," Greely junior and hero-in-waiting Greg Frost said. "It really gave us momentum to come back in the second half."
"Sam Burrell's play to Iain Eldredge, I thought that was the play of the game," he said. "If it's 2-0 at halftime, we're done."
Instead of 2-0, it was 2-1 and the Rangers were about to dominate the second half.
"We needed momentum going into the half," Eldredge said. "They fell back a little in the second half. We got momentum."
Greely would set up shop in the Hampden Academy zone in the second half and pepper Silver with shots. In the 57th minute, senior Alex Burnham missed high on a shot in close. Several more shots failed to produce the equalizer and time was winding down.
"I do think we really carried the play in the second half," Andreasen said. "It was very similar to 2002, wondering if it was going to happen again."
With 11:53 to play, senior Jake Dawson took a pass, turned and fired a shot past Silver just inside the far post to tie the contest.
You want drama?
It was Dawson's first goal of the season.
"We changed our formation and took Joe out of goal," Andreasen said. "I asked my assistant coach, Bob Wood, who has been tremendous, after we tied it and he said, 'If we're going to lose this game, let's lose it with Joe in goal.' We put him back. Clearly the momentum was in our favor by that point in time."
With overtime on the minds of many, Frost put Greely ahead with 6:14 to go. On a direct kick, the talented junior unleashed a rocket that just eluded Silver's outstretched hands and found the net for a 3-2 lead.
"I saw the goalie lining up in the middle, pretty much covering everything," Frost said. "I just figured if I curved it around with the wind, it could sneak in the near post. It was slippery near the goal mouth."
The valiant Broncos pushed for the equalizer. In the 77th minute, Hampden Academy twice earned direct kicks, but the Greely defense rose to the occasion and blocked the shots.
"I was nervous," Frost said. "We were just trying to clear it out at the end."
The Rangers were finally able to run out the clock and celebrate their unthinkable championship win.
"This is awesome," a relieved Burgess said.
"It feels great to come back from 2-0 behind," said Frost, who was mobbed with hugs and kisses from at least a half-dozen members of the Greely girls' team after the win. "Everyone thinks of us as a postseason team. We proved it this year. Our record was 4-0 against undefeated teams."
"Good for them," Andreasen added. "They're a wacky bunch. I can't control them most of the time, but they find a way to win. They're as wacky as their hairdos. They did it. We knew we'd have a competitive team coming in and that we'd have a shot for states, but it doesn't sink in until you finally do it."
The Rangers wind up 13-4-1 and have now won four Class A titles (to go with a pair in Class B). Greely loses Burgess, Burke, Burnham, Burrell, Dawson, Foran, Goranites, defensive stalwart Paris Mansmann, and Monthey to graduation.
"Losing Joe is a killer," Andreasen said. "He's been as good as anybody in goal. Kevin Burke gave us a lot of heart. Sam Burrell and Paris Mansmann have been solid on defense."
A talented core returns, however, and the Rangers will be on the short list to contend for another Gold Ball.
"We have to rebuild our defense a little bit," Andreasen said. "Our offense, with Greg and Iain back, we're solid there."