BURLINGTON -- A successful season for the Essex High School (EHS) boys’ soccer team didn’t achieve the ultimate goal as the Hornets fell 1-0 in overtime Saturday to Burlington High in the 2020 Vermont D1 Championship.
- Saturday was a rematch of the 2016 championship, the being the last time Essex was in the title game and a contest in which the Hornets also fell 1-0 to the Seahorses.
- Since the start of the 2016 season, the two teams have played each other 10 times; Burlington has a 7-1-2 edge in that stretch, but six of those Seahorse wins were by just one goal.
- Essex finishes 2020 with an overall record of 9-2.
- Of their 11 games this season, seven of the Hornets’ matches were decided by a single score.
- Saturday was the only time EHS was shut out all year, the team’s only other loss being a 3-2 defeat by Burlington on Oct. 12.
How it Happened
First Half: Essex dominated play through the opening 10 minutes of the match and was knocking on the door right away. Three extremely-dangerous chances couldn’t be finished, however, while Burlington went on to have the upper hand in opportunities through the next 10 minutes.
The rest of the period went back-and-forth until the Seahorses nearly got on the board with just under two minutes before the break, but the shot glanced off the outside of the left post for the game to be 0-0 at the intermission.
Second Half: Burlington had some good looks and well-hit shots once play resumed, only to see Essex junior keeper Andrew Seavers come up with a stop each time. Midway through the stanza, the Seahorses had a golden opportunity when there was a scramble on the doorstop, but the EHS defense was just able to clear it away to the relief of the Hornets and their fans.
The visitors came ever-so-close to pulling ahead with about 18 minutes left in regulation when a bouncing ball sent into the box found its way towards the goal line; the Burlington defense cleaned it up, however, as the scoreless stalemate ensued.
Overtime: With neither team being able to finally beat the other’s netminder, the match went to an extra 15-minute period. Essex would celebrate and have its bench flood the field when a throw-in from the left side ended up in the back of the cage with just over nine minutes on the clock. The assistant referee, however, flagged an EHS push in the box for the goal to be called off.
About three minutes later at the other end, the hosts got a solid cross sent in from the left side of the pitch; the ball took a slight deflection and carried on through the air, allowing a Seahorse to run on and volley it in for the game winner.
Thoughts from Essex High Head Coach Jake Orr
What are your overall thoughts about that close championship game?
“It was a really good game, back-and-forth, both teams had their chances. There were parts of the game where we were dominant, parts of the game where they were dominant; I think it was two very-even teams. We played really well for, whatever it ended up being, 90 minutes or so.”
How did you and the team feel after that first 10 minutes of the match?
“We came out absolutely buzzing, which was great to see. In retrospect, if one of those early ones goes in, we're talking about a completely different game. So it was great to come out and start fast, but you almost in the back of your mind thought: ‘Man, we just got three chances. Who knows how many we're going to get today?’ And all three of them, not for lack of effort, but a foot here, a foot there, we had a crossbar… I don't know. If one of those goes in, it's obviously a different game.”
How did your players feel coming into today?
“Burlington was the only team that beat us this season; [they] still are the only team that beat us this season. We had an absolutely great team, and our guys were excited to get another shot at them. I'm heartbroken for our kids.”
What are your thoughts about the season over, especially considering the pandemic, and your playoff run?
“It was an awesome experience. We were thankful just to get to play in the first place, and then having such an amazing season result-wise. But also, we had a great group of kids, great group of seniors, and going from not even [being] sure if we were going to play to having this incredible season, is awesome. It's hard to feel that way right now, and our kids won't feel that way for a long time; but someday they will, and they'll realize how incredible this run was and how much fun and the time they got to spend with their friends, even amidst a pandemic where so much has been taken away from them.”
Do you want to elaborate on your seniors and what kind of impact they've made on the program that might last into the coming years?
“This is my sixth year coaching the varsity team. We've tried to create a really fun, positive, successful culture, and these guys have been part of that for four of those six years. Guys like Stefan [DiGangi] and Tyler [Santaniello] who were two of our senior captains this year; every day they came, they were ready to play, they were ready to bring the team together, welcome others, and make sure everyone was smiling and having a good time. Patrick Herrin was an incredible workhorse for us on the outside of the field. Kevin Lyon on defense made so many stops today; he played such a good game. So there are some seniors that we are absolutely, very-much going to miss.”