Div. 4 boys soccer: Easthampton, Frontier set for 5th meeting this year in state final

  • Frontier’s Tyler Dubreuil (13) heads the ball over Easthampton’s Gabriel Rapoza (17) in the second half earlier this season in South Deerfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2021 5:05:49 PM

For the fifth time this season, the Frontier and Easthampton boys soccer teams will take the field against one another. 

Yes, you read that right. When the Redhawks and Eagles take the field on Saturday at Chicopee Comprehensive High School at 5 p.m. to battle it out for the MIAA Div. 4 state championship, it’ll be the fifth meeting of the season between the two schools. Both teams are also seeking their first-ever state title. Frontier is also in search of Franklin County’s first state title in the sport of soccer.

In the previous four matchups, there wasn’t much that separated the two teams. Frontier took the first game of the regular season, 2-0, on Sept. 22. They met again on Oct. 12 and it ended in a 2-2 tie. A third regular season game on Oct. 15 ended in a 0-0 tie. 

As if three games weren’t enough, when the seeds came out for the Western Mass. Class B tournament, the Redhawks were the No. 4 seed while the Eagles were seeded No. 5. The two squared off in the opening round, with Easthampton pulling out a 2-1 victory. 

“We know Easthampton very well and they know us very well,” Frontier coach Evan Horton said. “There’s no way of getting around that. We know who's dangerous on their team and they know who's dangerous on our team. It’s going to come down to execution and doing the things we need to do to stop their attack. Same goes for them. 

“The goal differential in the four games is one,” he continued. “We know how evenly matched these teams are. Statistically, on film, there isn’t much separating us. It's going to be one of those games that comes down to who makes a mistake and who can capitalize on a mistake. Things can go your way or go against you in a game like this. Someone will catch a break and someone won’t and that’ll be the difference." 

The Eagles (15-4-3) earned the No. 2 spot in the Div. 4 tournament while the Redhawks (16-2-4) were seeded No. 4. Even though they were on different sides of the bracket, both coaches knew a fifth meeting might be in the mix. 

Easthampton cruised through the Round of 32 and Round of 16, defeating Bellingham 3-0 before topping Blackstone Valley, 2-0. The Eagles then beat No. 10 Pope Francis 2-1 in the quarterfinals and on Wednesday, Easthampton pulled out a 3-2 victory against No. 3 Rockland to advance to the finals. 

“Playing a team five times isn’t something I’ve ever heard of before,” Eagles coach Andrew Lawrence said. “At this point we know they’re a good team and we hope we can hold our own. It’s a coin flip at this point. They know us and we know them. It’s a poetic ending; we’re 1-1-2 against each other and now we have one final game to decide the winner.” 

Easthampton enters confident after its strong stretch of play, but Lawrence said his team knows they need to bring their best on Saturday.

“Neither one of us can come up with anything too crazy in this one,” Lawrence said. “We know the players we both have so it will come down to who’s more prepared. The way this year has been, neither of us have had the advantage. The kids feel confident but they aren’t fully sure what to expect. You don’t want to be too confident in a game like this. I’m excited and looking forward to it.”

Frontier has also had an impressive run to the finals. The Redhawks began with a 4-1 win against Abington in the Round of 32 and followed it up with a 3-0 shutout against Burke. Frontier survived in its Round of 8 contest against Cohasset, winning in penalty kicks.

In the semifinals on Wednesday, a Tyler Dubreuil goal in the ninth minute proved to be the difference with the Redhawks advancing to the finals with a 1-0 win against top-seeded Hampshire Regional. 

“After beating Hampshire, I made sure to sit on the bench and watch them celebrate,” Horton said of his team. “It’s one of those moments that isn't going to be all that common. No matter how good your teams are, it’s pretty rare to get to this point. It’s not lost on me or lost on the guys. Even the underclassmen know there’s no guarantee you ever get this far again. We don’t take it for granted.” 

The game is a good look for the Moriarty League, which both Frontier and Easthampton compete in. 

“It is cool that two teams from the same league are playing in a state final," Lawrence said. “It speaks well to the league and for Western Mass. as a whole. It makes us confident that win or lose, it’s been a great season for us.”

Like the Eagles, the Redhawks are plenty confident heading into Saturday’s showdown. With both teams playing their best, it should lead to a thrilling title game. 

“The guys know what they accomplished was significant and they did it because they played together,” Horton said. “Everyone played a role in this. Having that kind of confidence going into the final, there’s not much I need to adjust. We’re in the best position we can be in. We’ve found an extra gear and Easthampton has as well. They beat a very good Rockland team on Wednesday. There’s no doubt both of us are playing at a level we didn’t see during the regular season. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.” 


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