Bromfield’s top-seeded boys soccer team (18-2-1) held an aggressive Sutton offense (15-4-2) in check Tuesday night, beating the central Mass. rival 3-1 in a semifinal match in Marlborough and earning a chance to win a fourth consecutive state title.
Tuesday’s match was played in near-freezing temperatures under an almost-full moon on the year-old artificial turf of Assabet Valley Vocational Technical High School. The Trojans and Sutton High School’s Sammies last met in 2018 to compete for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Central Division 4 state championship. That year, Bromfield narrowly beat Sutton, the No. 1 Division 4 seed at the time, 3-2 in overtime.
Bromfield's Tafara Vera tries to keep the ball inbounds. Vera went on to score the second goal of the game. (Photos by Kent Boynton)
But this year, Bromfield dominated the Sammies, the No. 4 seed in this year’s tournament. If the team had a mantra, it was “second ball,” shouted from the sidelines by coaches and the bench and among players on the field. “The bench was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think,” Coach Alex Horne said after the game,
The idea, co-captain and midfielder Geraghty Vellante explained in a quieter moment, is to maintain possession. It’s not enough to clear a ball from the backfield; it’s getting control of it that’s critically important. “We can get those clears all day, but we have to maintain possession,” Vellante said. “So I clear it up and Ryan will trap it down. Or if it’s a scuffle in the air, we win that head.”
Senior co-captain Ryan McNulty was first to score for Bromfield on a penalty kick awarded five minutes into the game after freshman forward Brendan Listzwan was fouled inside the Sutton penalty box on an attack from the right. McNulty’s shot sailed past the Sutton goalie and into the left side of the net. The remainder of the half was a defensive battle between the two teams, and although Bromfield maintained possession for most of the period, it was unable to score until the remaining two minutes of play. Junior Theo Bradley took control of a free kick from senior Amlyl AitDowd and passed it to senior Tafara Vera in front of the net, who kicked it past Sutton’s goalie to give Bromfield a 2-0 lead.
Sutton returned from the half-time break determined to even the score. At 47 minutes, senior midfielder Dillon Dussault got within striking distance and shot the ball from the left past Bromfield goalie Tucker Madison into the right side of the Trojans’ net. But that was Sutton’s only breakthrough. And before the night was over, Bromfield scored once more, this time on a shot by Alex Myles at the 63-minute mark on a pass from Vera.
If “second ball” was the team’s mantra, its execution was key to their victory. “The backfield played out of its mind,” Horne told his players in their postgame huddle. The words “timid” or “lack of composure” weren’t in their vocabulary. “You guys played like hockey players.” The midfield won every second ball. They didn’t touch us.”
Sutton’s offense threw everything it had at Bromfield, Vellante said after the game. “They were not a one-trick pony. They had multiple threats, and our backline did a fantastic job keeping that to a minimum.”
The Trojans have been the MIAA Division 4 state champions since 2017. In 2020, the MIAA canceled sectional and state tournaments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, depriving last year’s team of a chance to extend its legacy. This year the MIAA eliminated its traditional sectional tournaments and sorted schools of similar size across Massachusetts into new statewide divisions. Bromfield and Sutton now belong to Division 5, which embraces 81 schools, from Mt. Greylock in the west to Upper Cape Cod in the east. Forty-six schools qualified for this year’s playoffs. Because it is the No.1 seed in its division, Bromfield has had the right to choose its home field, and has chosen Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School for most of its playoffs.
With Tuesday’s win, the Trojans are headed to their fourth consecutive state championship. They will compete against No. 3 seed Douglas High School for the Division 5 crown at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, at Doyle Field in Leominster..
Ryan McNulty, Alexander Myles, and Amlyl AitDowd celebrate after the third goal.