NHIAA D-I Boys' Soccer: Central edges Bedford, will meet Hanover for title
Central's Samuel Binogono outruns Bedford's Austin Long during Thursday's game. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER - Defending champion Manchester Central headed its way to a fourth straight Division I boys' championship soccer game with a 1-0 win over top-seeded and previously undefeated Bedford in a Thursday night semifinal played at Larkin Field on the Southern New Hampshire University campus.
Samuel Binogono headed home a corner-kick serve from Alex Carignan at the far post in the 73 minute of play in a hard-fought drama contested right down to the final minute of play. Play was stopped several times in the closing minutes as players suffered muscle cramps.
Central will meet No 3 Hanover, playing its rookie season in the large school division, in the championship match at 6:45 p.m. Sunday back at Larkin Field. The Marauders (17-2) defeated second-seeded Londonderry, 1-0, in the other semifinal.
Central lost to Hanover, 1-0, in the regular season opener.
"I never thought we were a pigeon among three cats while heading into this final," said Central coach Chris LaBerge. The Little Green (15-4-1) had the fourth-best record of the four semifinal teams. "We are the defending champs. We know how to get to a championship final."
The two teams battled on the final day of the regular season. Bedford (18-1) won by a goal, its seventh win by a one-goal margin this fall. h.
"Central was the toughest team we played all season. We knew it would a battle," said Bedford coach Stuart Pepper. "It was quite a game, one in which neither team really deserved to lose. Central got the goal and they advance."
First half play was crisp, rugged, evenly played and scoreless. The Bulldogs' Erik Martel and Marco Ibanez had the best shot at scoring, but Central keeper Noah Edmunds saved both. Bedford goalie Taylor Wallace tipped a Selim Salihovic offering.
Ibanez tipped a ball over his defender for a breakaway bid in the 49th minute, but Semir Sandzic made a sliding tackle just as Ibanez was ready to unleash a 10-yard shot. Bedford defender Nolan Villaneuve performed a similar feat on Binogono's breakaway bid in the 57th minute.
Wallace calmly scooped up a loose ball near the net before Central's Keegan LaBerge could reach it in the 68th minute. John Cassidy caromed LaBerge's 12-yard blast from the right wing, setting up the goal-producing corner kick serve.
Hanover 1, Londonderry 0
Medically speaking, Jonas Taenzer was on fire. Nursing a 103-degree temperature, the redheaded midfielder headed the home the game winner in the 78th minute of play.
"He missed school (Wednesday) and had a temperature, but was cleared to play," said Hanover coach Rob Grabill. "We kept shuttling him in and out of the game to keep him fresh for the end, which ended up being a pretty good idea."
Taenzer came back on the pitch in the 73rd minute and scored at 77:14, taking a pass from Evan Greenwald.
It was hard to believe this semifinal featured the two highest scoring teams in the division. Defenses held strong. Londonderry (16-3) scored 62 goals this season while the Marauders tallied 70.
Other than a Lancers' free kick that soared high, the first legitimate shot on goal occurred in the 28th minute when Taenzer had a look from the top of the box, but shot high. One minute later, the Lancers' Kenny Desmarais pounded a shot off the crossbar. Shortly thereafter, Hanover keeper Duncan Piper came out to take away a breakaway bid off the foot of Londonderry's leading scorer, Rob Hart.
"We had some chances early that we didn't finish," said Londonderry coach Jeff Colbert. "Who knows, we hit one early and the momentum changes. This was an 80-minute battle with a lot of talented players on the field. One goal was going to do it. We didn't get it."
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Eric Emmerling may be reached at email@example.com.