Belmont’s Tom Kuntz looks to shield off Gilford’s Keaton Quigley during the Raiders’ 3-0 win during Homecoming on Sept. 29. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
October 01, 2012BELMONT – On the strength of two first half goals and a strong defensive effort, the Belmont High School boys' soccer team made it a perfect season sweep of rival Gilford High School on Sept. 29.
Senior forward Jeremy D'Amour scored a goal and added an assist to lead the host Red Raiders to a 3-0 win in Division III action on Homecoming.
"It was definitely one of the better games we've played," said D'Amour, who also scored when Belmont defeated Gilford, 3-1, a week prior on Sept. 22. "In the first half we focused more offensively to get that first goal. You obviously want to get it on (Gilford) because if you don't, you can get in a hole very quickly. In the second half, we just tried to limit their opportunities. We talked in practice about limiting their corner kicks because last time we played they had many opportunities off that."
The Golden Eagles (8-3) came out flying in this one, with Matt Saulnier finding Dan Dormody for a scoring chance in front on a free kick in the seventh minute.
Sophomore Keaton Quigley had his shot on the Belmont goal go just over in the 18th minute, and Gilford was coming closer and closer to getting one past Raiders goalkeeper Kaleb Brace.
"In that first half, they had two or three balls roll across our six (yard box)," admitted Belmont coach Mike Foley. "That's a credit to them, they put a lot of pressure on us the entire first half."
With the field clearly tilted towards the Belmont goal, disaster struck for the Eagles in the 20th minute. Gilford's Jackson Hillsgrove played the ball back to goalkeeper Nolan Dwyer with D'Amour right on him, but the ball managed to get past Dwyer. D'Amour scooted after it, burying it into the now wide open net to put Belmont on top 1-0.
"I was right on that defender," recalled D'Amour. "He decided to kick it back to his goalie and I was close enough so when he whiffed on it, I ran through and finished it. Right place, right time."
Belmont (11-0) used that momentum to double its lead less than a minute later, as Pedro Perez made it 2-0 when he scored off a great feed from Tom Kuntz. Despite holding the better of the play early on, the Eagles found themselves in a tough early hole.
"I just feel so bad for the kids to fall behind in the first half, playing so well and having opportunities," said Gilford coach Dave Pinkham. "We're snake-bitten this year. We've given up goals this year that I've never had teams in the past give up. And teams are taking advantage of it."
Dormody made all sorts of things happen in the first half, and his pass across to Caleb Orton in the 29th minute nearly resulted in a goal. Belmont would get to halftime still holding a 2-0 advantage, however.
"I think the fact that that second goal came so quickly took the sails out of them," said Foley. "But, to Gilford's credit, they kept coming the rest of that half and put some great opportunities on net. It took us awhile to handle the pressure but once we settled in, we played very well."
Gilford also got some looks on net early in the second half, as Anthony Diamantoplos and Chris Medlin got free on a few chances down the right sideline. But the Red Raiders were up to the task, led by senior Bret Spaulding's play in the middle. Brace was also strong en route to his 10th shutout in 11 games.
"Kaleb Brace played fantastic," said Foley of his goalkeeper. "And Bret Spaulding…he probably played his best game this year for us. That defensive core just worked their tails off."
The Raiders closed out the scoring in the 70th minute, as D'Amour beat a man off the dribble and fed Kevin King right in front of the Gilford goal. King did the rest, pushing the ball into the open net for a commanding 3-0 advantage.
"We love the hard games during the season," D'Amour said. "It's nice to see where we are with a team like Gilford. To come out with two wins against them is awesome. I played on varsity for three years and we hadn't come close to that. We tied them once last year (at Gilford Homecoming) so to come out with the wins this year, it's a great feeling."
Despite the loss, Pinkham was very pleased with the effort put in by his club. The Eagles had plenty of scoring chances, especially in the first half, but just didn't capitalize.
"I'm ecstatic," the veteran coach said. "As I told the kids, I'm ecstatic at the effort we put out and the way we played the game. I still know in my mind where we were today and how we played. With a break, it could've been a totally different game.
"Now we really start pushing it," he continued. "I needed to see us play against really good teams. I'm not worried about the winning and losing right now. Our goal at the end of the season is to be playing towards our full potential. I think today, we took a big step."
Beating Gilford twice in one season is certainly an impressive accomplishment for the Belmont seniors, especially with this one coming during Homecoming.
"We've chatted about it for the last couple of nights saying this is your last Homecoming," began Foley. "As the kids that graduated before you all like to say, I'd love to play one more game. This is it. You don't get a chance to play in this type of crowd, this type of setting as Homecoming again. There are a lot of former players standing on the other side wishing they could play so I think they understood the magnitude of the game. The last time we beat Gilford twice in a season, we made a run at a state championship."