The ORHS Boys Varsity Soccer Team will play in the state championship for the first time since 2015.
The team played Merrimack Valley (MV) on their home turf for the DII NHIAA boys soccer semifinals on Wednesday night. Going into the game, the boys had a 7-3-1 overall record, with all their losses being to DI teams, in comparison to Merrimack Valley’s 4-6-1 overall record. Everyone on the team contributed to the dominant 4-1 win. As a result of this win, the boys will play Bow at 2:00 today for the championship.
Caden Leader (‘21), a co-captain, started the Bobcats off strong with a goal in the first 10 minutes of the game off a penalty kick. The first of Leader’s three goals started with a low free kick from Noah O’Hern. The ball landed in front of the goal and Leader got a slight touch on it. The goalie saved the tip shot but as Leader went to fight for the ball back, the goalie clipped him from behind giving him a penalty kick. Leader sent a powerful shot directly to the bottom left corner of the goal to score.
The next goal came shortly after. The ball was bouncing around in the box and Merrimack Valley’s defender tried to clear it but instead, he hit it in the middle of the box. The ball went in between Ty Dorow (‘23) and a Merrimack Valley defender. Dorow won the battle for the ball and shot it right above the diving keeper.
With 15 minutes remaining in the first half, Noah O’Hern (‘21) passed the ball right by a MV defender to Leader, who followed with a quick cut in to get around another defender and he slotted it near post. Going into halftime, the boys were looking dominant with a 3-0 score.
Merrimack Valley scored with 15 minutes remaining in the game but OR answered back shortly after.
The last goal of Leader’s was a one touch shot from about 30 yards out that got over the keeper’s reach, assisted by Alden Swiesz (‘21).
Goalie and co-captain for Oyster River, John Kell (‘21), kept the win out of reach for Merrimack Valley throughout the game. Despite his great performance, he gives a lot of the credit to the defense on his team, and said, “everything that came through was pretty easy to deal with. There was that one goal but other than that our back line was rock solid,” said Kell.
The team had a clear focus going into this game. Co-captain, Aidan Kelley (‘21), said, “We wanted to focus on our speed of play, getting on their touches quickly, and just having a strong playoff mentality.”
Oyster River head coach Akan Ekanem was very pleased with how the team played. “Everyone off the bench was amazing today. Everyone was loud. We definitely took them by surprise, and it showed: three early goals and just kept going. We played as a team. The top end with Caden being Caden, but everyone around him, not just Caden. Because yes he was fantastic, but the team was absolutely as a group, absolutely amazing. Everyone did their job and that’s what we ask of you.”
Now the boys are set to face off against Bow in the finals. Before learning they would be playing Bow in the championship, Kell was still confident, “We don’t know who we’re playing yet but we will soon, and whoever it is we’re gonna go out and beat them.” They’re looking to get their revenge from getting knocked out of the quarterfinals by Bow two years ago.
“Redemption time. Bow took us out two years ago in the Quarterfinals and I’ve got a nice sweet spot in my heart for it and I can’t wait to have them,” said Ekanem. Despite the excitement and confidence from the team, they’re aware the job isn’t done just yet. “I’m stoked, but we have to stay focused and put the work in these next couple days to get ready for the finals. It should be a tough game but I think we can do it,” said Leader.
The squad will be playing on Saturday 11/7 at 2:00 pm with the home field advantage where they hope to win their first championship since 2015.
Photos by Madelyn Marthouse