LYNN — Whenever Classical and English sports teams meet, fans are in for a treat. The Rams and Bulldogs always expect a challenge from one another, regardless of the sport or the other team’s record coming into the game. Thursday afternoon’s boys soccer game at Manning Field between the Rams and the Bulldogs wasn’t any different.
English came into the contest without a win on the season but that didn’t mean the Bulldogs couldn’t keep up with the Rams. Classical fell into a 1-0 deficit at halftime but a pair of second half goals lifted the Rams to a come-from-behind 2-1 win.
Classical coach Dominick Steadman wasn’t surprised that English gave his team an 80-minute challenge.
“There’s just something about when we play English,” Steadman said. “It doesn’t matter what our records are. It’s always a battle, it’s always a good game. English gave us everything today.”
Despite the loss, English coach Kerry King applauded his team for a solid effort.
“We’ve been playing very well lately,” King said. “In the first half, we had plenty of opportunities and we didn’t finish. We could’ve had a few more goals but we couldn’t get another one in. I think we ran out of gas a little bit in the second half but my kids played their hearts out. We’ve been playing well, we just haven’t seen results.”
Both teams battled to a scoreless tie in the early portion of the game. Classical had
the first chance to break the ice on a free kick in the 15th minute, but Josue Blas’ shot sailed high over the crossbar.
Eight minutes later, English broke the ice on a goal from Julio Cora. The junior midfielder picked up a pass in front of the net and booted it past Rams goalie Daniel Cortes for the 1-0 Bulldogs lead.
“In city rivalries, momentum is huge,” King said. “Once we scored, we played with a lot of confidence. We were able to create a lot of chances. Unfortunately, we missed a few shots and their goalie (Cortes) made a lot of big saves. I knew the second goal would be important. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t score it.”
The Bulldogs saw a handful of chances to add to their lead slip away throughout the remainder of the half. Classical’s Cortes made five saves in the period to keep his Rams within striking distance, down 1-0 at halftime.
“Daniel has been the story of our season,” Steadman said. “I hope a lot of people in the Northeastern Conference are seeing that he’s been playing really, really well. He made a lot of big saves.”
Five minutes into the second half, Classical’s offense came to life. Rams midfielder/forward Christopher Zelaya picked up a loose ball in front of the net and buried it past English keeper Billy Allen to tie the game at 1-1.
“We simplified things a little bit,” Steadman said. “We were trying to do a little too much. At halftime, I told the players ‘let’s just get back to playing soccer.’ We’re trying some different formations to see what’ll work. In the second half, we just went back to simple soccer and it worked.”
It stayed tied at 1-1 until Classical midfielder/forward Gabriel Novoa scored the game-winner on a penalty kick in the 75th minute. The Rams held their lead through the final four minutes for the 2-1 rivalry win.
“I had all the faith in Gabe in that moment,” Steadman said. “He has a special foot. I don’t think he has ever missed a penalty kick that we’ve taken in practice.”
Both teams are back in action against NEC opponents on Monday when the Bulldogs (0-7) host Salem and the Rams (3-6-1) visit Gloucester.