BOW – Falcons, apparently, do not forget.
“I was pretty pumped for this game because we had lost to Stark earlier, the only team we lost to other than Pembroke, who we’re playing next, and we’re ready for revenge against them, too,” Bow’s Max Elsasser said.
Elsasser scored twice as the No. 3 Falcons claimed a 5-1 Division II boys’ soccer quarterfinal win to get their revenge against No. 6 John Stark on Saturday. Now, like Elsasser said, Bow will get a third crack at No. 2 Pembroke when the two teams meet in Wednesday’s 4 p.m. semifinal at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter.
When the Generals (11-6-1) downed the Falcons (15-3-0) on Oct. 13, 1-0, Stark won the physical battle. Bow made sure that didn’t happen a second time.
“We had to meet them bump for bump, and that got them a little feisty because we weren’t backing down,” Bow Coach George Pinkham said. “Stark is the most physical team we play and we had to match their physicality with our own.”
It was clear from the opening whistle that neither team was backing down. Hard challenges and tackles were everywhere as fans from both sides groaned for calls.
“It was definitely extra physical,” Elsasser said, “but we’re built for it.”
Bow was the more dangerous team from the start and just missed out on an early lead when a sliding one-time attempt from Chris Besho off a cross by Matt Ferland went off the crossbar. While the Falcons were unlucky there, they were on the right side of luck in the 14th minute when a long throw from Elsasser bounced into the box and trickled over the line after an errant header from a Stark defender to give Bow a 1-0 lead.
The physical play led directly to the next goal after Bow’s Brian Bushnell drew a foul in the box on a corner kick. Elsasser stepped up to take the penalty kick and pounded it inside the right post. Asked about his PK routine, Elsasser wouldn’t bite.
“I’m not letting any secrets out,” he said with a grin.
Jake Reynolds, Stark’s star midfielder, had a couple of interesting bids over the next 10 minutes. Reynolds let one fly from 50 yards out that was probably too optimistic, and he had a header off a nice free kick from Lawson Murphy, but it was the Falcons who would find the game’s third goal.
Chris Gallier, Bow’s leading man in midfield who battled with Reynolds all game, started the play when he sent a beautiful ball to the far post. That’s where Matt Selleck, a freshman who came off the Falcons bench, headed the ball into the ground and watched it bounce over Stark defenders and keeper Chase Patterson (seven saves) to make it 3-0 with 9:34 left in the first half.
And still Bow wasn’t done with its first-half offense. The Falcons added a fourth tally in the 36th minute when Elsasser fizzed a cross that Will Russo redirected toward the net. Patterson made a remarkable save on the shot, but the rebound bounced off the trailing defender and went in for the second own goal of the half and a 4-0 Bow lead.
The Generals started the second half on the front foot, but Bow keeper Joe Rychwalski (five saves) stopped a shot from Jared Peterson and quickly came off his line to grab a cross from Reynolds that was ticketed for Patrick Kalob and an easy goal.
There was nothing Rychwalski could do when a hustling Jonathan Rizzitano chased down a ball on the left side and sent a perfect pass to the top of the 18, where Evan Caswell powered it home with his left foot to make it 4-1 in the 56th minute.
Patterson kept the score there when he made a diving save on a shot from Ryan Leonard, but the Stark keeper couldn’t stop Elsasser in the 59th minute. As Selleck was taking a corner kick, Elsasser carved out space for himself at the far post and then got a head on Selleck’s delivery and sent the ball off Patterson and in for a 5-1 lead that stood until the end.
“We had a great season and the score doesn’t indicate the game,” Stark Coach Jeff Vogt said. “I thought we possessed the ball well and moved it around better than they did, but they took advantage of their opportunities and we didn’t, and sometimes that’s how it goes.”
For Bow, a team that has spent most of its year in D-III, the win was an affirmation.
“I think this shows the other teams in Division II that, okay, Bow is back,” Pinkham said. “We’re legitimate and we’re going to give you a game when you play us.”