By Jim Sullivan Correspondent
Newburyport Daily News
---- — NEWBURYPORT — The biggest local regular-season soccer event was downsized this year due to the field restrictions at World War Memorial Stadium, but that was just about the only difference in the ALS Cup, an annual rivalry matchup in which Pentucket has dominated Newburyport in recent seasons.
Pentucket (12-2-2) took home the Cup for the seventh year in a row on the backs of goalkeepers Logan Sherwood and Cody Sedler, 3-2, at World War Memorial Stadium. It was the first year since the ALS Cup’s inception in which the teams played an afternoon game rather than play under the lights. The field restrictions have yet to be lifted in Newburyport, meaning all local sports teams must exit the fields by 5 p.m. each night.
Sherwood manned the Pentucket net in the first half, and Sedler was the goalkeeper in the second half.
“I like to start, and take that responsibility, get the team going, get everyone pumped up,” said Sherwood. “And I thought that’s what I did. I started yelling, got the energy going. And that’s what happens.”
The Sachems had that energy going exclusively for the first nine minutes of play. Three minutes in, Pentucket’s Matt Farrell, the league’s leading scorer, took hold of a cross from Zack Bartula and sent a header soaring over Port goalkeeper Matt Canning to put Pentucket on the board. Just six minutes later, Farrell passed to Zack Chapman, who turned it into a one-on-one with Canning, and sent the ball past the senior co-captain’s left ribs.
“Once we scored those two goals, we really let up the pressure and allowed them to pressure us, and really let them into the game,” said Sachems coach Christian Langlois. “But Logan had all those stops. Logan was just awesome.”
Twelve stops in all, in fact as the Clippers (9-5-2) completely dominated the rest of the first half. But Sherwood came up big, turning away every single shot.
“Last year, I played a half, and Cody took the other half,” Sherwood said of last year’s Cup. “I let in two goals in one half. And with that in mind, I came back and took that animosity and wanted to keep the zero on the guest’s spot. That was the goal.”
With Sherwood’s half out of the way, Sedler stepped in next, only to be greeted rudely by Clipper Tom Graham, who took a pass from co-captain Adam Traxler and buried it past Sedler’s left side.
Farrell would turn the momentum back in the Sachems’ favor five minutes later when he started a breakaway from 50 yards out. With seemingly all the time in the world, Farrell nailed his shot past Canning’s right side to jump Pentucket up, 3-1.
“His speed is just unbelievable,” Langlois said of Farrell. “That third goal, he just took the ball with a kid in front of him and just pushed it past him. He can turn something into nothing.”
With the wind out of the Clippers’ sails, Sedler kept things under control until the last minute when senior co-captain Jordy Steelman broke through three defenders to score unassisted, shaving the Sachems’ lead to 3-2, but the time drifted away.
“I don’t know how we do it every year, because it’s a home game for Newburyport,” said Langlois, whose team has taken home seven out of 10 ALS Cups. “But the boys always come to play this game. It’s the biggest game of the regular season for us every year. It’s a shame that we couldn’t have had it at night this year. The attendance is probably 1/10 of what it normally is. But the boys just love this game so much.”
Clippers coach Shawn Bleau said that he was happy to see his team bringing the heat in the first half, but sometimes a hot keeper is all you can handle.
“We definitely put pressure on them,” said Bleau. “In my opinion, (Sedler and Sherwood) are the two best keepers in the league, and that certainly helped them turn back the shots we had.”
Bleau did find something positive to take away from this game.
“I’m proud of the guys for fighting to the end,” continued Bleau. “That showed some character for our team. To score a goal in the last minute, it shows that we can do it and will push us into the state tournament.”