Memorial boys suffer gut-wrenching loss to Concord, 2-1

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MANCHESTER, NH – In a season filled with disappointment and frustration, the Memorial High boys soccer team found a new level of heartbreak in a 2-1 loss to Concord High, Tuesday night at Chabot-McDonough Field.

Memorial (4-7-4) trailed for nearly the entire game, despite dominating play and outshooting the visitors, 14-6.

The Crusaders were finally able to tie the game, 1-1, with just 2:43 remaining in regulation on a goal by Braden Merchant. The senior forward took a chip pass from Mohammed Alazzawi, fought off a defender and easily beat Concord keeper Festo Bahininwa.

Memorial seemed destined for yet another overtime game, when disaster struck in the 80th minute. Concord’s Jonah Gaby lofted a long lead pass down the middle of the field, in the direction of striker Benjamin Hughes. The ball bounced high off the turf and the Memorial defense deferred to keeper Thomas Stamoulis, who came well out into the box to make the play.

But with Hughes charging hard toward him, Stamoulis misplayed the ball and it skipped by him. Hughes raced past and was able to easily tap the ball into the empty net for the game-winner with just 26 seconds left on the clock.

For Memorial, the disheartening loss was just the latest chapter in what has been an exasperating season and left Head Coach Jerold White at a loss for answers.

“That’s just been the way it’s been all year for us,” said White. “I’m sorry. I’ve got nothing for you.”

Concord (5-10-0), lacking the depth of talent enjoyed by Memorial and other teams in Division I, executed a highly conservative strategy. The Crimson Tide used Hughes as their sole forward, largely conceded the midfield area and packed the defensive zone.

As a result, throughout the game, Memorial was able to maintain possession for huge chunks of time, working the ball from sideline-to-sideline and advancing into the attack zone, almost at will. Where the Crusaders ran into trouble was finding a way to work the ball into the box for high-quality scoring chances. Instead, they often settled for shots from the perimeter, many of which sailed harmlessly over the net.

Bahininwah finished with just seven saves.

Meanwhile, the blazing-fast Hughes was lurking near the mid-field stripe and Central looked for chances to send him sprinting after long lead passes.

It was a simplistic strategy but one that paid early dividends for the Crimson Tide. In the 4th minute, the Memorial defense got sloppy with the ball and turned it over deep in its own end. Hughes was quick to take advantage, slipping behind the defenders and easily beating Stamoulis for a 1-0 lead.

Concord nearly doubled its lead a few minutes later when Hughes chased down a lead pass from Jonah Gaby and tried to break clean. Memorial back Michael Brisson was able to recover and disrupt the play enough to force Hughes to shoot wide.

The rest of the half was dominated by Memorial, keeping Concord back on its heels. The Crusaders’ best scoring chance came in the 13th minute. Senior Vinnie Santos was unmarked in front of the net when he tried to convert a perfect crossing pass from Vianney Irumva. But Santos got under the ball and chipped it over the net.

Later, in the 26th minute, Bahininwah made beautiful back-to-back saves on Rudi Fricker.

Memorial has one more game before the start of the Division I State Tournament. The Crusaders will visit Exeter (6-8-1) Friday at 6:15.

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About this Author

Bill Gilman

Bill Gilman is a veteran journalist with 35 years of experience covering community news and sports in New England. He and his wife have two grown sons and two perfect granddaughters.

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