Photo: Belmont junior Alex Rokosz goes up for a loose ball vs. Billerica.
There is one thing about the upcoming Division 2 North Sectional semifinal matchup between Belmont and Concord-Carlisle Regional that spectators can already count on.
It will be entertaining.
The game scheduled for Friday, Nov. 10 at 4 p.m. at Woburn High School have enough back stories to fill a book, the first being the Patriots’ sense of vengeance to what the Marauders did to Concord who last year was favorited for the D2 state championship. In the opening round sectional match, Belmont shocked Concord, 2-1, in overtime to knock the one-loss Patriots out of the tourney.
And if revenge is best served cold, Concord can take to heart that Friday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the 30s.
But then, one would have a hint that Friday’s game will be a must-see collision as the teams have a history of playoff clashes.
In 2014, the teams met in the Sectional semifinals when the Patriots came away with a solid 1-0 victory on its way to the Eastern Mass title. And in 2012, the two squads came together in another first rounder where the overmatched Marauders held a 2-0 lead over their hosts late only to fall 3-2 in overtime in a game where bad manners between participants were on display.
And with both teams having something of a history of playing with a chip on their shoulders, it’s expected for the match to mirror the spirited nature of a “Classico,” with the necessary number of stiff challenges and frantic pleas to the referees typical in post-season elimination games between good teams.
The teams arrive at the semis in good form. Belmont is on an eight-game winning streak while Concord Carlisle lost to one team (Acton/Boxborough, twice) this season. And each has two playoff wins under their belts; the Patriots bumped off number-one seed North Andover, 4-1, on Tuesday after defeating Central Catholic, 3-1, in its opener on Saturday.
Belmont began its postseason with a strong 2-1 win over league rival Winchester on Friday and a convincing 4-0 thumping of Billerica Tuesday.
“This is where we expected to be after two very good wins,” said Belmont Head Coach Brian Bisceglia-Kane, who lead the team to an 11-3-2 regular season mark and the fifth-seed in the sectionals.
Belmont secured the opening win through a second-half penalty goal by senior forward Jake Carson after senior Andrew Karalis gave Belmont the first half lead.
Tuesday’s game was somewhat of a mismatch as the Marauders were able to combine precise passing with speed down the wings to launch dangerous attacks that Billerica’s back line had difficulty handling.
“We came out the same way as we do every game which speaks for how hard we are working to beat a playoff team like that,” said senior goalkeeper and co-captain Nate “The Professor” Espelin.
But it was Belmont’s last line of defense that provided the offensive spark that resulted in the Marauders’ first tally. Espelin launched a 60-meter goal kick that bounced past a pair of Indian defenders onto the feet of speeding junior midfielder Seamus Dullaghan who put the breakaway by Billerica goalie Kyle Canario at the 19-minute mark.
Before the Belmont fans had time to sit down, the Marauders struck again at 20 minutes as Karalis headed a Laurent Brabo free kick by Canario.
Belmont could’ve piled on the goals if not of a series of outstanding saves by Canario. But the Marauders struck one last time in the half at 36 minutes as sophomore Ross Taylor quick-footed a Karalis pass into the net.
Billerica had its chances early in the second half including an indirect freekick inside the penalty box after a less than professorial play by Espelin. Yet a lack of execution on the kick and during the game doomed the Indians. Espelin would end the night with his second assist of the game as another bullet of a goal kick founding senior co-captain Brabo who slotted the insurance goal into the back of the net.
The game had its moments of chippiness that unfortunately devolved into a few particularly nasty challenges – a pair of yellow cards were held aloft by the refs – with the archetypical chirping that accompanies the boys’ game.
“Disappointed how the game finished. We lost mental fortitude at the end of the game, and we need to discuss that,” said Bisceglia-Kane.
“Everyone on the team has a little bit of an attitude and can be a problem at times. But obviously in the playoffs having the confidence that we can win every game is important,” said Espelin.
“But as I always say, motivation doesn’t win games. Hard work and doing the right things does,” he said.