(Durham NH) Sometimes a small strategy change can make a big difference.
It certainly did for Oyster River this afternoon.
The tweak in approach starting the 2nd overtime resulted in the only goal and a Division 2 title for the Bobcats over the Bow Falcons, 1-0, on Saturday.
“That winning goal was planned out,” explained OR head coach Akan Ekanem afterwards. “Both teams sat back in the first OT, so we said, ‘Let’s go at them, they’re tired.’”
Enter Caden Leader.
The talented senior turned teammate Noah O’Hern’s long free kick into a header on net that ended things just twenty-seven seconds into the second OT.
“I wanted to settle Noah’s long kick, but I misjudged it,” recalled Caden. “I turned and saw the goalie coming and decided to try and head it over him. Luckily, it went in.”
“Caden has been our goal guy all year,” said OR goalkeeper John Kell. “He’s amazing.”
Tough loss for Bow.
“It’s one play,” lamented Bow coach George Pinkham post-game.
“I’ve been in too many of these,” he added. “I’ve won some and lost some. Fourteen-fifteen years ago, we beat them the same way.”
“We knew that we couldn’t let (Caden) Leader get going,” said Coach Pinkham. “He such a great athletic player.
The victory gave Oyster River (10-3-1) their thirteenth state title.
It was the first for 3rd year coach Akan Ekanem. “We got the trophy, finally,” he said. “It took a while.”
OR’s last championship was in 2015.
The Falcons finish 7-1-3. They won consecutive titles in 2011-12 while in Division 3.
The Bobcats had a 13-3 advantage in shots.
“One of the reasons we changed our strategy going into the second overtime was that we didn’t want to go to penalties,” said Coach Ekanem. “As you saw, their goalie (Kyle Martin) was amazing.”
Sophomore Hunter Perry had excellent scoring chances for Oyster River in the second half and in the first overtime.
The win was payback for Oyster River. “Two years ago, we thought we were going all the way,” recalled Caden Leader, “but they knocked us out in the tournament. We got revenge back on them today.”
The weather (for November 7th) was truly amazing. Seventies with a pleasant breeze! Nice change for me. I covered a Monday night game that “featured” temperatures in the mid-30’s with a strong wind. Who can figure out New England weather??
The spectators were kept outside the fence that surrounded the field. Everyone except the teams wore masks.
Unlike Massachusetts, there were no rules’ alterations just regular soccer.
John Kell: “We didn’t find out if we were playing until August. We had no control over what would happen. It could have gone anywhere from playing a full season to playing intramural games. We were really fortunate to have a season.”
Caden Leader: “It’s a wonderful feeling to win at home. I had only one other shot before the goal. It was nice that it was the one that counted the most.”
Caden told me that he hopes to play soccer in college. He hasn’t committed anywhere but is interested in Roger Williams, St. Anselm’s, Bentley, and Babson.
This story, with pictures, will appear on my McClelland Miscellanea blog. The link to the coverage will be included on my Twitter account (@McClellandPeter). Later I will post pictures on Instagram (McClellandMiscellanea).
All the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.