Andover Boys Soccer Ties Loomis, Pounds Holderness

The boys welcomed Loomis Chaffee with growing confidence. After thoroughly outplaying a powerful Brooks team in the second half of their opener, the same sort of brilliant play carried over to Saturday. Led by Justin Wu ’06, TJ Thompson ’06 and Callum Thomas ’04, the Blue controlled play from the opening whistle. The boys dominated play, yet could not put the first goal of the season away in the first half. Loomis, who barely had a chance to shoot, went scoreless as well. The second period was similar to the first: the ball found its way into the Loomis half and stayed there as Andover controlled the game. The scoring started in the middle of the second half as a Loomis striker beat the left side of the defense, lunged around Keeper Brendan McManus ’05 and slid a dribbling shot towards the goal. 1-0 Loomis. However, Andover answered that goal with a beauty of their own as Mike Spiak ’06 laid a flighted ball by Knef King ’04 at the top of the box back to Kirk Lepke ’04, who drilled it into the upper- right corner with a spectacular strike. Andover’s control of the game had finally paid off with their first goal of the season, but they would soon have to work even harder. For, with about fifteen minutes left in the game, a Loomis striker stole the ball on the left side and raced towards the Blue goal, this time driving a fine shot into the side netting. 2-1 Pelicans. Loomis celebrated as Andover’s chances looked bleak. But, just as last year’s horrible start turned into a spectacular finish, the boys’ roller-coaster ride with Loomis ended in dramatic and glorious fashion. After that second goal, the Pelicans had no more chances to score. Loomis fell back on their heels for the last fifteen minutes just as they had before, watching Andover dominate play. With 34 seconds left, the boys received what looked to be one last, hopeless chance when Captain Dave Sheldon ’04 drilled a long pass towards the Loomis goal. Then, as if it were a plan out of a playbook, Russell found his way beneath it and flicked it on perfectly to Thomas at the top of the Loomis box. Finding the Loomis keeper charging towards him, Thomas lofted the ball high into the air and over the keeper. When it finally came down, his “teardrop from heaven” splashed into the back of the net. Tie game. The remaining 30 seconds ended in controversy. With no time left on the clock, a Loomis defender threw Thomas to the ground right in front of his own box. Thomas, who practices shots like those every day, lined the free kick up for the possible game-winner. Nevertheless, he could only stand amazed as the referee blew the final whistle before he could take the shot. Some wondered how a referee could end the game on a penalty and not give Thomas a shot, yet it was his final decision. After that classic battle with Loomis, the team drove up on Wednesday to take on Holderness, a team that sported highly touted and heavily recruited goalkeeper Freddy Hall, one of the best high school goalies in the nation. However, no national quality keeper or any other Holderness player had a chance of stopping the Blue this day. From the start, Thomas led the team from the striker position, drilling two past Hall early in the first half. He deftly settled two balls in front of him in the Holderness box and smoked them both into the top-left corner of the net as Mr. Hall could only stand and watch. Freshman sensation AJ Charles made it 3-0 before halftime with his first varsity goal, sending a beautiful finish into the side netting and ultimately crushing the Holderness spirits. Thompson made it 4-0 in the opening minutes of the second half, slotting home a loose ball that squirted free inside the Holderness box. By then, Hall had already been pulled and Holderness had given up. The contest ended 4-0 Andover, earning the Blue their first win of the season. Not only that, but the Blue defense recorded their first shutout, and what a shutout it was. The Blue backs allowed only one legitimate shot on goal in 90 minutes, completely destroying any inkling of a Holderness attack. The keeper team of McManus and Dave Wilkinson ’05, who played his first varsity minutes in the second half, touched the ball a total of five times combined. Call it what you want, but hammering the team that kept you out of the postseason last year is nothing short of a statement game, and a strong one at that. “It was a must win for us,” said Coach Scott, “and we got the job done.”