Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Gary Hawkins email@example.com
JAY -- The cast of players has changed for the most part but results remain the same for the Hall-Dale High School boys soccer team.
Thursday, the Bulldogs defeated Spruce Mountain 2-0 to run their Mountain Valley Conference record to 9-0-0 as they prepare for next week's showdown against unbeaten St. Dominic.
Konnor Longfellow notched his 15th goal of the season in the first half, then assisted on Nat Crocker's 12th early in the second half. Longfellow and Crocker are the two returning starters from last season's Western Maine Class C championship team.
"We're proving a lot of people wrong," Longfellow said. "We graduated 16 seniors last year and so I'm just happy we're 9-0 now."
The Bulldogs controlled most of the game, registering 15 shots on goal to three for Spruce Mountain (6-2-1) which started three freshmen and has 14 in its program.
"Between them and St. Dom's these are the kind of games we need," Spruce Mountain coach Bill Acritelli said. "Both teams are very similar. That's good for us."
Longfellow played defense last season but Hall-Dale coach Andy Haskell moved him to striker this year, a position at which he's thrived.
"I like it a lot more," Longfellow said. "I'm pretty fast so I can use that to my advantage."
Crocker's long through pass sent Longfellow in alone on Phoenix keeper Dustin Jones, who came way out to make a save. But the ball bounced back to Longfellow who kicked it into an open net.
"Last year I was basically on the scoring end with (Colin) Lush being the playmaker," Crocker said. "Now my role is the playmaker and getting it to Konnor. He's really fast."
Jones (12 saves) kept the Phoenix in the game with a number of outstanding stops, including another where he came way out on Longfellow to smother a chance late in the half. There was little Jones could do to prevent the second Hall-Dale goal in the first 30 seconds of the second half. A defensive mistake allowed Longfellow to slip free and forced Jones wide to retrieve the ball. Longfellow won the race and crossed to Crocker for an easy score.
"He just passed it to me and I one-timed it bottom right," Crocker said.
The Bulldogs got solid play from front to back with a group that gained some experience last season, but wasn't counted upon to win games. Tuesday, the defense -- Ryan Sinclair, Nick and Alex Guiou -- did a nice job protecting goalie Brian Allen (three saves).
"This is probably the best group of defenders I've coached in terms of distributing the ball to the midfielders," Haskell said.
And the midfielders did their job, winning most of the 50/50 balls and feeding Corker and Longfellow up front.
"They've created their own identity," Haskell said of this year's group. "They're a very cohesive group and there's a lot of good chemistry."
Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638