WILBRAHAM – With 10 minutes left in the scoreless men’s football season opener between Minnechaug and East Longmeadow, the Falcons appeared to deserve a penalty when a ball jumped out and struck a Spartan defender in the hand.
He was not called, however, as the referee stirred play and both teams continued to try to break the deadlock.
As the clock continued to go down with less than two minutes left, Minnechaug took the break he hadn’t been given eight minutes before when he received a penalty for an East Longmeadow foul in the box.
Falcons main captain Cam Rigney stepped in and buried the PK in the lower right corner of the net in front of Spartan goalkeeper Colin Waltsak, securing the 1-0 victory for Minnechaug.
“First game there from a new rules perspective, it was different,” Rigney said. “A lot less contact, but towards the end of the game, when you’re fighting for the end and leading the players to goal and someone goes down into the box, you have to step up.
“It was a tough game, it could have gone both ways.”
In his post-match team speech, Minnechaug head coach John O’Keefe told his players they stole a result in a game where both teams took time to s ‘adapt to the changes made this year to the sport.
“With all the rules changed, it was interesting,” said O’Keefe. “I think we struggled to adjust and were worried about the nature of the fouls, but our guys hung on and we did some good things.
“We dodged a lot of attempts by (East Longmeadow), they really attacked us and had more quality chances than us,” he added. very responsive today and that’s kind of expected for the first game with these changed rules.
Two of East Longmeadow’s best chances came in the second half, including an indirect free kick just outside the Falcons penalty bench with 4:16 left in the fourth quarter which sailed over the Minnechaug net. . The previous quarter, Spartans junior Patrick Stevens had a nice layoff that sent teammate Sonny Mazza on a breakaway for his team, but Falcons goaltender David Noel sprinted out of the box and slipped to perform. stop to maintain the white sheet.
Noel finished with six saves, while Ben Wilson replaced him in the fourth quarter and stopped three shots.
“Our goalie was exceptional, we played two goalies today,” said O’Keefe. “Our four full backs kept us with the goalies, we were able to take the pressure off and just tried to stay and play within ourselves.
“The goalies played well today, I have to give them that,” added Rigney. “They bailed us out several times.”
Minnechaug didn’t go without generating his own chances throughout, as Rigney had a shot saved by Waltsak in the first quarter while Jack Pszeniczny had a parried shot over the bar in the third.
As this shortened season draws near, Rigney acknowledged that her team were playing with a chip on their shoulders as they sought to gain the recognition they desired.
“I feel like we as a team have been here for four years and I feel we haven’t gotten the recognition we deserve and I feel we have worked until the end and it showed, ”he said. “We have shown that a late goal can win a game, a 1-0 result can win a game. You don’t need six goals to win the game, it’s who can win in the end.