BRISTOL - The Bristol Central boys soccer team appeared to thrust itself back into its matchup with rival Bristol Eastern on Tuesday afternoon after a second-half goal cut the deficit to just one.
Then, with one bad bounce, momentum vanished, as did the Rams’ chances of beating the Lancers for the first time since 2016.
Trailing 2-1 midway through the second half, an Eastern corner kick ricocheted off of Central senior Xavier Browne and into the back of the net for an own goal that quickly put the Lancers back up by two and sent them on their way to a 4-1 win, the most lopsided victory in the rivalry since Central’s last win four years ago.
“The third goal, there’s nothing you can do about that,” said Beckett Hennessey, the Rams’ lone goal scorer on the day. “It’s an unfortunate goal, but we don’t blame him for that. It could have happened to anybody at any time. But at that point, it was the second half and we were down by two goals, it was almost like a nail in the coffin.”
Having taken back momentum, Eastern put the game away in the final minutes of play when junior Dominik Femiak put home his second tally of the game and secured yet another win over the Lancers’ crosstown foe, who they haven’t lost to in their last seven matchups.
“I think the team did a great job today,” Femiak said. “The defense didn’t let them have anything and the forwards played really well. It wasn’t just me.”
Eastern set the tone early, with Tyler Borry putting the Lancers on the attack just minutes into the first half, when the sophomore settled a rebound off of a corner kick and banged it inside the far post and in to give Eastern an early 1-0 lead.
The Lancers had another corner kick try minutes later, but Joseph Verardi’s boot was knocked away by Central. Eastern kept up the pressure with a shot on goal by Femiak that was knocked wide by a diving Umar Malick in net and the ensuing corner kick was also turned aside by the Rams.
Central got its first good chance later in the first half, but Christopher Oren’s shot hit off the side of the net after being tipped away by a diving Nate DiLoreto in goal, who also knocked away the corner kick try immediately after.
Femiak changed field and had another chance for Eastern moments later, but his breakaway chance was smothered by Malick. But the chances kept coming for the aggressive Lancers, who had another shot on net by Dylan Piazza, and the rebound came to Verardi, who fired over the crossbar, keeping the lead at 1-0. Piazza had another open try minutes later, but his rolling shot was fallen on by Malick, who was kept busy for much of the opening half.
“I thought the first half really set the tone for the game,” Eastern head coach Bill Sweet said. “[Central] had a good run in the second half…but I think getting ahead took them out of their game.”
The Lancers added to their lead when Femiak broke downfield and fired a high-arching shot from the left side that tucked inside the far post and out of the reach of a leaping Malick to put Eastern ahead 2-0 at the break, having dominated possession for the first 40 minutes.
“The fact is we put ourselves in a massive hole in the first half because we didn’t match the energy they had,” Central head coach Nate Jandreau said. “I thought that we started off the game and played how we wanted to play, but then we give up a bad goal and all of a sudden the wind is out of our sails and everybody started feeling sorry for themselves. We just let the rest of the first half get away with us.”
Central looked to get on the board quickly in the second half, but Oren’s well-struck shot was snagged out of the air by a leaping DiLoreto, who grabbed the shot at the apex of his jump just beneath the crossbar. Later in the half, a free kick try by Ethan Crumrine failed to produce a goal, and moments later, Crumrine sent a centering pass to a wide open Hayden Caudill right in front of the net, but his point-blank shot sailed above the crossbar and out of play, ending what was the Rams’ best chance of the day.
Central finally came through midway through the second half, when a clean corner kick dropped right to Hennessey in front, who knocked in an untouched shot inside the far post to trim the deficit to one.
Disaster struck for Central just after grabbing momentum. After a pair of Eastern shots rolled wide of the net, a corner kick from Verardi curled towards Browne, who attempted to head the shot away from the net, but it instead glanced off the very top of his head and into the net, resulting in a deflating own goal to put the Lancers back in front by a pair.
“We got a goal and we were feeling good about ourselves, and we give up another one and it’s that same feeling,” Jandreau said. “We didn’t respond well to certain goals and situations.”
Eastern added on late in the half, when a pass from Piazza found Femiak wide open near the front of the net, and the junior tucked a rolling shot just off the far post and in to make it 4-1 and seal yet another rivalry win for the blue and silver.
“They play a certain style that for years we haven’t been able to get a win out of and figure out,” Jandreau said. “I’m just a little disappointed with how we responded to their style of play and how we responded to their goals. If we want to beat them or any good teams, we have to be a lot mentally tougher. I’ll take responsibility for that.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 8-1-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org
BRISTOL EASTERN 4, BRISTOL CENTRAL 1
At Bristol Eastern
Halftime: Bristol Eastern 2-0.
Goals: Dominik Femiak (BE) 2, Beckett Hennessey (BC), Tyler Borry (BE).
Assists: Joseph Verardi (BE) 2.
Records: Bristol Eastern 3-1-2, Bristol Central 2-1-1.