Tewksbury’s Evan Mendonca gets control of the ball

Tewksbury’s Evan Mendonca gets control of the ball while being chased down by Marcello Caixeta during an earlier season home game against Danvers. (photo by Bob DeChiara).

TEWKSBURY – There's many ways you can describe last Thursday's Boys soccer game between Tewksbury and Lawrence. You can use the words 'bizarre, awkward and intense.'

But the best way to describe it is 'what a comeback'!

The Merrimack Valley Conference game was supposed to start at 4 pm, but during the day it was pushed back to 4:30. Lawrence didn't arrive to TMHS until 4:40. Fearing darkness, Tewksbury wanted to start the game immediately, but the Lawrence coach refused to play unless his team got a 15-minute warm-up. That was granted, and play started at 4:55 pm.

Lawrence jumped out to a 2-1 lead and then eight minutes into the second half, when darkness was becoming a problem, the Lancers' coach called a timeout, which set off Tewksbury first-year head coach Mario Almeida. That timeout was actually the best thing to happen to the Redmen. It allowed Almeida to rally his troops, who responded with two goals within a 5:28 span, the second coming with 16:55 to go.

Then almost three minutes later with 14 minutes left, with players saying they couldn't see anything due to the darkness, the officials called the game, and Tewksbury came away with a 3-2 win, avenging a 3-0 loss to the Lancers earlier this season.

“I was more fired up because here it is, they get here late, then they call a timeout to waste time because they were beating us 2-1. Those are the things that irk me,” said Almeida. “We have been here since 3 o'clock waiting for them for (an originally scheduled 4 pm game). They get here (after 4:30) and say that they want a 15 minute warm-up and to me, it can't happen that way.

“They did the same (delay tactics) thing in Lawrence. They got a penalty kick goal by flopping in the box, then they got another free kick (which led to a goal) and then they were wasting time (once they had the 2-0 lead). They were changing the goalies every few minutes of the second half, knowing that we had the momentum (and the lead). Those are the things that I don't like. It's (lack of) sportsmanship. You win and you lose. To me, there was no way we were going to lose this game. I have lost other games, but the way these guys were doing things, to me, wasn't right. You get here late and now you're calling timeouts in the second half? So (once we retook the lead) I did the same thing, I called a timeout.”

Just six minutes into the game, Tewksbury took the lead. Redmen goalie Ryan Melo took the ball out of play and quickly rolled it ahead to defender Jack Rennell – who was back after missing the previous three games with an injury and played fantastic. He quickly moved ahead with the ball, going around two players. As he got up to midfield, he was nearing the right sideline when he collided with a Lawrence player, and doing so, he sent the ball ahead on a great pass. Michael Gaglione retrieved the loose ball and fired a shot to the low right side for the quick 1-0 lead.

Rennell kept it 1-0 by making a terrific defensive stop on a Lawrence offensive threat, and after stopping the ball, Rennell blasted a pass up the field and eventually Evan Mendonca got his feet on it, took a high shot, which was barely tipped out by the Lancers' keeper.

After that, the play was starting to get pretty physical. Tewksbury was called for a foul inside the '18 which led to a PK and Lawrence's Arodi Rodriguez converted to tie the game up at 1-1.

Lawrence had a great bid to get another, but strong defensive plays by Tewksbury's Dylan Crowley and Kallebe Da Silva, who blocked shots or passes, prevented that from happening.

Lawrence added another goal with 12 minutes left in the half to go up 2-1.

The score remained that way through the first eight minutes of the second half. Once Lawrence took the timeout, the game completely changed. About eight minutes later, Rennell tied the game up a low shot to the left corner, and then with just under 17 minutes to go, Eric Impink's throw-in, was headed in by senior Justin Rooney, who was just inserted into the game a few seconds before, for the game winner.

“It was one of these games again. We had full control, we had plenty of opportunities, probably four or five opportunities to score (and we didn't convert). It's just been that type of season for us. We just put too much pressure on our back line (of defense) to save (us),” said Almeida. “Early on we controlled the game and it could have been a 2-0 or 3-0 game right away. We didn't convert those chances but I am happy for the guys for this win. It was hard work. It's not easy to win games. I tell them all of the time that it's easier to lose games and harder to win games.

“We scored three good goals today. We have had a hard time trying to find different ways to score this season. Evan (Mendonca) is our leading scorer and in the games, it's either Evan or someone else scoring, but we really haven't been consistent. Today three different people scored, so that's what is it and it takes (time). I'm proud because they fought back.”

The win ended a six-game winless streak for the Redmen.

“These are my players and this is my team, but I feel like we deserve more. This season, a lot of different things have happened but these kids worked hard. I never once thought that they weren't working hard. They were in every game with the exception of two, and even in those, we had slow starts,” said Almeida. “For the kids, I wanted a great season for them because I feel like the past few seasons, previous to this one, maybe they didn't have the luck or the seasons they wanted so that's why I was pushing for success for some of these senior players”.

“Result wise, I can guarantee you something that if you watched our first game and watch today, we are a different team. The passing was much better today and we have been working on that. When we pass like we did today, than we create more opportunities, we create gaps and then we can convert through balls (to the open player) so now these guys are chasing us. My thing is the possession game. I'm more of an attacking coach and score a lot of goals which hasn't happened, but (when you don't score) it puts a lot of pressure on your back line and that's what has happened to us this year.”

Just two days before the Lawrence game, Tewksbury was defeated by Central Catholic, 2-0.

“We played a great game against Central Catholic. I was so happy with how we played. It was 1-0 and then at the end they scored a late goal, but we played really well. I won't say that we had a lot of (scoring) opportunities, but we had a few and if one of those went in, it would have changed the outcome,” said Almeida.

On Saturday, Tewksbury defeated Dracut 3-1 behind single goals by Mendonca, Rooney on a PK and Gaglione.

The two wins puts the Redmen at 4-9-3 overall. The team has two games left, first with Methuen at Doucette Field on Thursday night at 7:15 and then against Andover at the Dick Memorial Turf Field on Saturday morning starting at 10:30.

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