Barcelona vs Real Madrid, Celtic vs Rangers, AC Milan vs Inter Milan, Boca Juniors vs River Plate… these are just a few among a lengthy list of the fiercest and most storied rivalries in world soccer. On Monday, September 18, an age-old rivalry between the visiting Bishop’s College School Bears and the Stanstead College Spartans was played out on Philip Field.
True to form this game brought out the intensity and passion both teams have for their own schools and, at moments, the aggression and aversion they have for one another. After a hard-fought eighty-minutes in the rain and a man down due to a red card infraction, our Spartans grinded out a well-earned 1-0 victory.
The game started with BCS kicking off the match and dominating ball possession in both halves of the field for lengthy stretches during the first 10 to 15 minutes. While feeling a tinge of uneasiness due to the unfamiliarity of excessive defending, our Spartans defended well individually and collectively in their positional units. Once the opposition’s energy surge subsided, Stanstead gained ball possession and started stringing passes together and created some good scoring chances. Henry Riddell and Josh Lippmann both turned defenders but struggled to gain good footing on the slick, rain-soaked pitch. The Spartans played very well defensively as the half progressed and limited the Bears to only a few shots from distance. Goalkeeper Emanuel Ganz provided a steady stream of positive comments that gave a lift of confidence to his backline consisting of Chaz Grenier, Mauricio Lopez, Mason Béasse and Beckett Kristensen and midfielders Jordan Ilunga, Josh Lippmann and Luke DeLaBruere. All-in-all, the first half was a fairly even affair and played within the spirit of the game.
The second half began in a different fashion to that of the first, with both teams competing hard for loose balls in the midfield and balls turned over caused by errant first touches. Gradually, the Spartans began to force play in the Bears’ end of the field. Good combination plays from the midfield as well as quality crosses from wingers Erik Fabian, Jeremiah O’Regan, Nicolas Robillard and Will Towner put great pressure in front of the BCS goal. This paid off in the 60th minute when Fabian beat an opposing defender deep into the right-hand corner and played a low, hard pass across the face of the goal. Will Towner, who had started the game at left fullback and left the game for a period due to injury, returned to the line-up on the left wing and was johnny-on-the-spot to redirect Fabian’s cross past the helpless BCS ‘keeper. 1-0 Spartans.
With less than 20 minutes to play, the Bears ratcheted up their intensity in hopes of tying the game and possibly winning it, too. They were playing well, and the game always hung in balance with neither side looking to be the outright dominant team. Their chances of finding a result looked increasingly better when, in the 63rd minute, Spartan midfielder Ilunga received a second yellow card and thus a red card for an overly excessive challenge against a BCS opponent. So, down to 10 men vs 11, the Spartans changed formation and hunkered down to face an onslaught of Bears’ pressure in the final fifteen minutes of the match. And that’s what unfolded. Following the sending off, the intensity was sky-high as the tackles inflicted by both teams on one another were flying in at a great rate. Fortunately for Stanstead, we regained our composure and focus and saw out the remainder of the game to earn a very hard-fought win.
A few positive lessons from this match include:
1. Keeping our heads and composure when all about us everyone else was losing theirs.
2. Playing the Spartan way…play hard, play well but play within the laws of the game.
3. Good onfield leadership from our captains and senior players allowed us to re-focus and play well even when we were down a player.
Next up for the senior boys…three games on the road next week. On Tuesday, September 26, Stanstead travels to Alexander Galt for a 4:15pm match against the Pipers. On Wednesday (27th), our Spartans are in Richmond to face Richmond Regional High School at 4:30pm, and then on Saturday, we travel to Lennoxville for the return leg of the rivaly series against BCS at 11:00am. We will have to be at our very sharpest as this game is featured in BCS’ Homecoming weekend activities.