The 17th-seeded Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) boys varsity soccer team played No. 1 seed Norwell High School to a 0-0 stalemate for nearly 80 minutes Tuesday afternoon in Norwell.
A referee’s phantom call gave the Clippers a penalty shot with about 10 seconds left, on which sharpshooter Henry Wheeler guessed right and potted one past Hiaggo Goncalves, sending the Clippers on to the Division 3 South Sectional tournament.
Vineyard players surrounded the ref and screamed long and loud before the shot, but did not get an otherwise deserved yellow card, for some unknown reason. In baseball, bad calls such as these are referenced as umpires’ “early dinner reservation” calls. The successful penalty kick avoided overtime and a potential shootout to decide this one. This was a sad and clearly awful way to end it. On the other hand, the way they were going, they might have played until tomorrow morning without the help from the zebras.
Coach John Walsh, who got the full 80-minute effort he said was necessary to compete with Norwell, was unavailable for comment at press time.
The Purple entered the fray at 7-8-3 overall, qualifying for the tourney by finishing second in the Cape & Island League Atlantic Division at 6-3-3. They got to Norwell by beating Seekonk 2-1 on Sunday afternoon in a bruiser. Their record and 17th ranking belied a season in which they played D2 teams Nauset (defending state champs), Sandwich, and Falmouth, along with D1 Barnstable, in their own division, plus perennial D2 powerhouse Concord-Carlisle and D1 Brockton twice in non-league contests.
Both teams began cautiously on Tuesday, gradually opened up their attacks, and each had good chances in the first half. Norwell’s basic strategy was to loft 15- to 20-yard passes into Vineyarder territory on a wet and murky afternoon, hoping to free a speedy wing or forward for a run at Goncalves. It almost worked a time or two, but Vineyarder defenders were able to corral the longish passes in their own end and move upfield with their signature short passing game, creating their own chances.
By the second half, it was full-bore physical; bodies hitting the ground, fouls and freekicks abounded (Norwell won that battle), and players physically tussling as Norwell changed to working the sidelines and sending high lofters, hoping to find a head in front.
Those kinds of scrums lead to player resentments, and that played out on both sides. By now in their careers, these high-quality players are adept at clutching, grabbing, and assorted felonies. The Vineyarders, it seems, are a hair more flamboyant in technique. They get caught more often.
So Norwell moves on with a 16-0-2 record, and your Vineyarders end the season 7-9-3 with a top-notch effort on Tuesday.