BOLTON — The Nashoba Chieftains started Saturday morning’s make-up contest in thrilling fashion building a 6-0 lead, but the Crusaders dug deep, its defense making adjustments in the second half allowing junior goalkeeper PJ Kendall (14 saves) to make better reads on the shots he faced.
“You need a goalie like PJ who can steal some tough shots,” Groton-Dunstable head coach Rick Arena said. “He made a lot of big saves in the second half to keep the momentum going — that just adds to the whole way our team plays.”
The Crusaders ended the game on an 11-1 run to down Nashoba, 11-6, in Bolton.
“I was really proud of the guys today,” Arena said. “To be down 6-zip going into the second quarter and for them to get better with each quarter and win it — the boys did a phenomenal job both offensively and defensively.”
Groton-Dunstable senior midfielder Austin Hourani potted a game-high four goals and an assist.
“Austin has always been our goal scorer,” Arena said. “Today we saw that. He has been struggling as of late, but we have a lot of other guys who have stepped up for us.”
Nashoba attackman Ben Czekanski powered home the game’s first strike 1:30 in on a feed from Lucas Evangelous.
Evangelous found the cutting Czekanski, who pulverized the back of the net to give the Chieftains a 1-0 lead. Three minutes later, it was Czekanski again, this time from Casey Elkins. The Groton-Dunstable defense allowed three more goals in the first half, but it found its feet in the second quarter.
Arena and his staff made some formation tweaks to its defense allowing Kendall a better vantage point on the ball. Nashoba netted its sixth goal at 1:07 of the second quarter, but that would be all the Crusader defense would allow for the remainder of the game. Groton-Dunstable erased its goose egg with 7:34 remaining in the second. Hourani broke free down the shoot and beat Nashoba goalkeeper Robert Atwood to his right to bring the Crusaders within five, 6-1.
Twenty-seconds later, Justin Cole scooped up a turnover at midfield and bounced off a pair of Nashoba defenders before potting a howitzer from 15 yards out.
The Crusaders put one more goal in the cage before half time with a strike by Paul Leonardo from AJ Dufresne with 1:45 remaining.
The Groton-Dunstable defense held its own in the second half to shut out Nashoba.
The Crusaders closed the gap late in the third quarter with goals from Zach Cotoni (2 goals, 1 assist), Quentin Forbes (2 goals, 3 assists) and Tristan Lynch.
Lynch’s goal was the equalizer. Lynch steamrolled his way into the teeth of the Nashoba defense and redirected a shot by Leonardo to tie the game at 6-6 with 5:46 remaining in the quarter.
Late in the third quarter, Hourani scored off the restart from 12 yards out off a pass from behind the goal by Forbes.
Groton-Dunstable led 7-6 after three.
Emotions got the best of Nashoba in the second half, and the Crusaders were able to close out the game on a 11-1 run. Nashoba committed seven infractions in the half for a game total of 10.
“They had a lot of penalties,” he said of Nashoba. “When they lose their composure and we capitalize, that’s what really changes the momentum of the game.”
Groton-Dunstable defeated Littleton on Tuesday morning, 15-9, to move to 4-3 overall on the season.