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The Harwood soccer team had to face St. Johnsbury Academy in the first round of the State Division 1 soccer play down. Harwood was ranked eighth with a record of 10-4-0 and St. Johnsbury number nine with a record of 8-6-0. St Johnsbury had ended the Highlanders 10-game unbeaten streak last week with a 2-1 overtime win.
St. Johnsbury is a low scoring team that features a defense that crowds its opponents passing lanes and depends on a lot of two-man coverage of the offensive ball handlers. This type of scheme turned out to be ideal for handling a passing and quick striking offense such as Harwood’s.
The first half looked much like these two teams’ first meeting with lots of movement up and down the field and the possession time clearly in Harwood’s favor. Despite constant offensive pressure by Harwood the first half ended 0-0.
As the second half started St.Johnsbury looked a bit tired and Harwood continued to press. Defender Sam Greshin had a bullet of a shot from the 18-yard line that was turned away by the St. Johnsbury goalkeeper. Sam Boylan had a number of crossing shots that the Harwood offense was unable to convert and a hard shot that hit the upper corner of the net and glanced out.
With 12 minutes remaining in the second half St. Johnsbury forward Natzu Friedel had a rare breakaway, got through the Harwood defense and scored for the Hilltoppers.
The last 10 minutes of the game were marked by an intense Harwood offensive effort that finally ended with a corner kick by Boylan that saw Harwood goalie Mat Fischer coming all the way down the field to join Harwood’s offensive push in front of the St. J. goal. The kick was deflected by the St. Johnsbury goalie as the time ran out on Harwood’s season.
The game ended with St. Johnsbury winning 1-0 and moving on in the play downs.
Harwood defenders PierreCompere, SethMason, SamGreshin and DylanBialy all played an outstanding game. The Harwood trio of forwards, Sam Boylan, Teagan Drake and Win Parker, put up a barrage of shots but were not able to penetrate a stout Hilltopper defense. St. Johnsbury goalkeeper Soloman Zaga had 16 saves which did not include the shots that were deflected by defenders or that hit the bar.