Mascenic survives Conant comeback

  • The Conant boys' soccer team hosted Mascenic for homecoming on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic’s Noah Caballero and Conant’s Ryan Smith do battle at Saturday’s homecoming game. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The Conant boys' soccer team hosted Mascenic for homecoming on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic goalie Chris Wilkins dives for the ball as Conant’s Anthony Gauthier, right, and Mascenic’s Matt Wilkins, left, and Drew Rines converge. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, September 25, 2017 5:58PM

What looked like an easy Mascenic victory over Conant turned into a hard-fought, chippy rivalry game, but in the end, the Vikings still came out on top for the season sweep.

Mascenic was on the offensive early Saturday afternoon as they looked to spoil Conant’s homecoming with a win. The Vikings scored three times in the first half to take a commanding lead. First, Noah Caballero’s corner kick was slapped away by Conant keeper Matt Chamberlain, but Zach Barthel was there to clean it up with a knee. Then, Dylan Vaillancourt emerged from a goal mouth scrum to punch in another one. And by the time Nathan Wilkins had slid one in with his left, it was all Mascenic.

That all changed after the half. Mascenic’s defensive anchor, Micah Howard, went down hard and left the game with a back injury. With him out of the middle, Conant finally got their game plan to work, sending a deep ball over the defense but in front of Mascenic’s keeper, where only Gavin Motuzas could track it down.

“They were finding a seam and exploiting it,” said Mascenic head coach Zach Stephenson. “They have some speedsters up there and they put it in.”

Howard hopped back up and returned to the game, but Conant struck on the same play, as Motuzas overtook Howard and put in his second of the day to cut the lead to 3-2.

“I was really proud of the way they came back in the second half,” said Conant coach Dan Bemis. “They didn’t get down.”

When Mascenic and Conant square off, anything can happen, and second-year coach Stephenson was on edge as Conant made their comeback.

“I'm new to the rivalry, and I feel it now,” Stephenson said. “I was getting nervous when they got that second one. I could see they were clawing back and if we let up they were going to win the game.”

But, Mascenic was able to stop the bleeding, responding with an insurance goal to ice the game. Caballero put the ball into the goal mouth, where Drew Rines played it, sending it skittering along the goal line behind Chamberlain, where Matt Wilkins was able to finish for a 4-2 lead.

“I'm proud of the team for digging their heels in, defending the ball and getting that extra goal in,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson pointed to the stellar play of keeper Chris Wilkins as a crucial factor in the victory.

“Chris is a heck of a goalie,” Stephenson said. “He's been playing really hard, training really hard - he trains harder than any player on our team, and he's hard on himself, which is why he's been successful. I mean, he's really upset right now with two goals.”