Sports

Peabody brothers are Prep’s winning combination in net

Prep goalie Christian Buckley, a Peabody native, corrals a shot. His older brother, Cameron, is also a goalie for the Eagles. (Item Photo by Katie Morrison)

LYNN — Brothers are said to have a special bond.  In the case of Peabody’s Buckley brothers, Cameron and Christian, their sibling bond extends all the way to soccer field where the two have been St. John’s Prep’s go-to goalies this season for the undefeated and top-seeded Eagles (19-0-3).  They won their first North Division 1 championship since 2014 last Saturday morning at Manning Field, defeating Brookline, 1-0. They’re in Brockton Tuesday (7:15) to face Brockton in the Division 1 state semifinal.

Cameron, a senior and second year varsity player, got the start and had his hands full in the first half against the Warriors, who dominated possession throughout yet could not get one past Buckley.  

Brookline’s best chances came with about 16 minutes to play when senior midfielder Mekhi Edge-Wallace was decked just outside the box.  Junior Matthew Salzman took the free kick and drilled a laser at Buckley, who made the save and cleared the ball.  A Warrior played a through ball to Edge-Wallace streaking toward the goal, but Buckley won the foot race and broke up the chance with a sliding grab.

Both players went down hard, causing a stoppage in play while the trainers worked on Edge-Wallace, who left the game, never to return.

Buckley, while visibly shaken, finished the half, but it was clear during halftime that he could not continue.

“My knee was bothering me so I worked it out taking a few kicks during halftime

It was feeling okay but towards the sixth or seventh one I just realized that it wasn’t happening for me and we made the decision to switch,” said Buckley.  “I didn’t want to come out and this (pointing to his right knee) kind of stinks, but I had full confidence that Christian could step in and get the job done.”

Christian, a junior, picked up where his older brother left off.  Thanks to a couple of halftime adjustments, the Eagles turned tables on the Warriors and dominated the second half. Their efforts finally paid off with a picture perfect goal off a corner kick in the 66th minute.  Senior captain Mitch Collins played the corner to the far post.  Senior Erik Gustafson headed the ball to the right side of the box, where the Eagles’ leading scorer, senior Steven Yakita, drilled a header into the open net.

This was not the first time that little brother came to the rescue.

Just three games into the season, Cameron suffered a concussion while warming up before the Danvers game.  

Enter Christian, making the first varsity start of his career.  He delivered a solid effort against the offensively charged Falcons, helping the Eagles remained undefeated with a 2-2 tie.

“I was very nervous going into the Danvers game because it was my first varsity start and I knew how tough that game would be considering we were playing at Danvers High under the lights,” said Christian.  “After watching Cam start the first few games, I definitely learned a lot from him in terms of positioning, communication, clock management, etc., so even though part of me was nervous, part of me also knew that I was ready.”

Buckley proceeded to post three straight shutouts.  By the time Cameron was cleared to play about two and a half weeks later, the Prep was on cruise control and still undefeated.

“When Cam returned, it was a great feeling for the entire team because we were all happy to see him back at 100 percent and play the second half of his senior season,” said Christian.  

All told the brothers, who grew up playing together in the Peabody Youth Soccer program, combined for 10 shutouts during the regular season, holding opponents to under one goal on average per game.

In the tournament, Cam started game one and earned a 4-1 win over Newton North.  The two split time in goal and combined for a 4-0 shutout over Medford in the quarterfinals.  In the semis, Christian got the start and win against Framingham, 4-0 when Cam had an ongoing headache and was scratched during warmups.

In the north final, Cam said he had full faith that his brother would get the job done.

“When I missed all that time with a concussion, Christian stepped in, so he’s very experienced and today wasn’t his first time in a big pressure situation,” he said.

Prep coach David Crowell said having two talented keepers that happen to be brothers is an added bonus.

“We had some jitters in the first half but we just settled down and made a couple of adjustments at halftime defensively and it paid off as I don’t think Brookline had any chances in the second half,” he said.  “It was just a tale of two halves, basically, which happens a lot in  high school soccer.  Cam managed to finish the half but he couldn’t push off, that’s the leg he punts and kicks with so we went to Christian.

“With the injuries that Cam has struggled with and today it was his knee that he injured in that collision, but to have Christian be able to step in is just great.  The kids have complete faith in both of them, so when we have to make a switch like we did today, there was zero panic.

“Sometimes on the field the kids know it isn’t right, a sense of “on, no” when your starter goes goes down, there can be concern about that, but we don’t have any of that with these two boys when we put Christian in there.  Both of them have played great all season long and today they were just awesome.”

Cam, who says he will hanging up his soccer cleats for good after the season and will not play collegiate soccer, said this season has been a dream come true.

“It’s been a lot of fun being with my brother every day at practice and games.  It’s great that we get to compete with each other and play together.  This was a great game and just knowing we have two games left and can potentially win a state title with my brother potentially is just a great feeling.”

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