Walpole Beats Canton in Election Day Thriller


Junior Sean Perkins and Senior Joe Delaney sprint toward the ball in Wednesday’s game against Canton.

Ben Brownsword

Junior Sean Perkins and Senior Joe Delaney sprint toward the ball in Wednesday's game against Canton.
Senior Joe Delaney and Junior Sean Perkins sprint toward the ball in Tuesday’s game against Canton.

Soccer fans at Turco Field missed the Election-night drama of the Coakley-Baker Gubernatorial Race on November 4.  They missed the national coverage of the Republican takeover of the Senate.  They did not track the local drama of the failed override in Walpole.  However, their evening was not without excitement.  For fans who were uninterested with the bipartisan gridlock of D.C. politics, the first round matchup between #7 seed Walpole and #10 seed Canton provided fans with more satisfying excitement than NECN and CNN combined.

In a game that went to penalty shots after two scoreless overtimes, Walpole ultimately defeated Canton 5-4 on penalties.

After the game, a relieved Coach Lee Delaney said, “We didn’t make five [consecutive penalty kicks] in practice ever!”

In the first half, both teams were cautious while they were feeling out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Junior Ben Lucas created the best chance for the Rebels in the first half-hour, but he was rejected by the Canton goalie from a close range.  Late in the first half though, Canton scored a goal when a Canton player, who was left unmarked at the far post, tapped in a cross from a teammate.

Walpole rallied early in the second half with a good stretch of play that culminated in a goal from sophomore Justin Burns. Burns took advantage of a scrum in the box to equalize with a shot that scooted under the crossbar. With the score gridlocked at 1-1, Walpole had opportunities to take the lead, but they failed to convert.

As the final whistle blew, the game remained as tied up as Congress trying to pass a bill.

In the state tournament for boys soccer, overtime consists of two 10 minute periods in a golden goal format.  Hence, if either team scores in either overtime period, that team is automatically the winner.

The first overtime period was mostly quiet, besides a controversial call where the ref waved off a possible Noyes winner. The second overtime period saw little more action, with the best chance coming from an intricate free kick play that ended with sophomore John Egan’s shot blocked by a diving save from the Canton keeper. After the ten minutes of the second overtime period ended, both teams prepared for the dreaded shootout. 

Critics often malign shootouts for marginalizing the game into a simple 12-yard shot, where even the best of goalies are hard-pressed to stop even one shot of the five. But for the time being, it was going to be the decider of this matchup. After the shootout lineups were set, both teams lined up side by side at the half line to sweat out each shot.

“We were confident, but you never know with penalty kicks,” said junior captain Ian Fair, who was out nursing a fracture in his hip, “You might as well flip a coin, but it was our night and we deserved it.”

Through the first two shots, both teams had a 100 percent conversion rate and were tied, 2-2, with Walpole’s senior captains Chris Gallivan and PJ Fuller converting their shots.  On the third Canton penalty, junior goalie Dillon Knight denied Canton’s Liam Collins, with his 6-1 frame getting down to stop the low shot.

“After missing the first two, I knew I had to save the third to have a chance of winning,” said Knight. “I just got set set, guessed quickly, jumped off my line, and made the save.”

With the advantage in penalties, Walpole were clinical with their finishes. Senior Captain Joe Delaney and senior Nabil Chamoun each scored, and Canton scored their last two as well. The fate of the game rested on the shoulders of Burns, who was selected by Coach Lee Delaney to take the final kick. Burns calmly slotted the ball past the keeper’s right side with his left foot, sealing a gritty win for the Rebels.

Burns’ reliability during the game factored into the choice to pick him, according to players, and the decision certainly paid off for the Rebels.

As candidates and their staffs were poring over exit polls and the latest numbers from CNN, Coach Delaney was poring over the stats of their next opponent, Hingham. The game will be played on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Turco Field.