- Senior Matt Moss-Hawkins dribbles against Brookline Saturday, Nov. 5, in the preliminary round of the State Tournament. The Warriors edged the Tigers 1-0.
by Kristian Lundberg
“It’s a game of chess. We’re going to beat them at a game of chess,” Brookline coach Jeff Katz said in his pregame speech. “They’re playing without their best players. They’re not happy to be here.”
Renewing its rivalry with the 12th-seeded Warriors Saturday, Nov. 5, 21st-seeded boys’ soccer, 7-6-5, was indeed missing a key player for its preliminary round match-up in junior Matt Callahan, who had received too many yellow cards to be allowed to play.
However, their strong back line, led by senior Tim Stanton, a captain with senior Luke Westman, and their experience made the Tigers still a difficult team to face in postseason play.
The shorthanded Tigers faced a Brookline team thirsting to avenge its defeat in last year’s Sectional Finals, in order to come from behind to stun the Warriors 2-1 in penalty kicks. But unlike last season, to advance in the State Tournament, the Tigers had to steal a win on the Warriors’ home turf.
With last year’s battle royal fresh in both teams’ minds, a physical, intense match ensued, and, just as Katz had predicted, the two rivals squared off in a chess match, with neither side giving an inch to its opponent.
This contest became violent about 20 minutes in, when a fight broke out next to the far sideline, along which most of the spectators had congregated.
As the fans began to enter the fray, the scuffle broke out into a bench-clearing brawl, and, when the dust had cleared, a player on each team was given a red card. The match was paused for about 15 minutes while security arrived to restore order and move fans off the sideline.
According to coach Roy Dow, the brawl marred what was otherwise a high-quality match.
“The fight is going to grab people’s attention, but it distracts from the fact that it was a well-played soccer game,” he said. “It was a tough, hard-fought, physical match.”
After 70 minutes back-and-forth action, Brookline finally found a breakthrough. In the 75th minute, senior Eric Buck collected a partial clear at the top of the box and hammered a volley past the dive of senior goalkeeper Nick Knaian, scoring the eventual game-winner.
In the dying moments of the game, the Tigers could not come up with an equalizer to save their season, and Brookline escaped with a 1-0 victory.
But, even in a statement win for his program, Katz looked emotionally drained following the game. “Obviously, they’re a great team, but it’s tough because we work with each other in the summer,” he said.
Meanwhile, finding himself on the losing end of the proverbial chess match, Dow still struggled to reconcile the fight with what was otherwise a clean, well-played game.
“It’s a pity that it happened,” Dow said. “Coach Katz and I have a good relationship outside of the soccer field, and both teams have classy people.”
After the Tigers headed towards their buses for the short ride home, Katz gathered his players by the bench and told them, “Practice Sunday at 2:30.”
It didn’t matter that it would be the last practice of the Warriors’ season. The announcement still received one of the loudest cheers of the day.