Coming off a strong win against a talented side from Choate in the New England Class A Quarterfinals, Berkshire knew they would need their best against the #4 Kent who beat #5 Hotchkiss, 2-1, in its quarterfinal match. Earlier in the year, Berkshire had earned it's most important victory of the year with a tight 1-0 win over Kent on the road in early September. The Bears knew they would have to produce 90 minutes of great soccer to secure the win.
In front of a large crowd at Berkshire, the Bears came out strong and took control of the early part of the match. With quick passing and good movement off the ball, Berkshire was able to possess the ball well and build up some exciting scoring chances. Unfortunately, Kent's keeper was outstanding and made some alert plays off his line to deny Berkshire some early scoring chances. Zeiko Lewis '13, Jack Harrison '15, and Tony Amolo '13 proved to be a handful for Kent's back line and Haden Cosman '13, Tanner Tomasi '14, and Luis Echeverria '13 controlled the middle, playing tough defense, spreading the attack, and working well in transition. It was far from a one-sided match, as Kent has one of the dangerous attacking teams in the league. In fact, they had only been shutout twice in the regular season - once to Berkshire and once to Loomis. With speedy strikers and aggressive forward play, Kent challenged Berkshire's back line of Noah Sinkoff '13, Brandon Allen '13, Nate Summers '14, and Justin Donawa '15 time and time again. Berkshire's backs were great, winning head balls time and time again, denying Kent's attackers time on the ball, and playing tough one-on-one defense. In goal, Sam Clougher '13 made a couple very nice stops to keep the score level at 0-0 up to the halftime break.
In the second half, play continued in much the same way the first half had gone. Berkshire's wing back, Noah Sinkoff '13 and Justin Donawa '15, proved to be extremely dangerous on the sidelines and nearly scored on a couple occasions. As both teams pressed forward in search of the first goal, the intensity and tempo of the match really took off. With a flurry of action in front of the Kent goal, Berkshire seemed destined to score, but Kent's keeper made a couple superb stops. In the 30th minute, the Bears did find the goal when Zeiko Lewis '13 and Jack Harrison '15 combined on a short corner. Harrison passed to Lewis and then overlapped, and then Lewis passed back to Harrison who whipped a cross across the face of the goal where a gathering of Berkshire and Kent players competed for the ball. As it played out, a Kent defender got his head on the ball first but not with enough of an angle to clear the ball; instead, the ball skipped off his head and into the goal. Berkshire constant pressure paid off.
What happened next was very unfortunate, as just minutes later, Noah Sinkoff '13 chased down a high bouncing ball behind Kent's back line. The ball bounced high into the Kent box, and Kent's keeper rushed out to punch the ball as Noah rushed forward to try and nod the ball over the Kent keeper. Both players arrived at the same point at the same time, and Noah was knocked high into the air doing a full one-and-half flip and then fell from 5-6 feet up down on his neck. He did not move and we were all scared. Immediately the trainers and Berkshire coaches rushed onto the field to check on Noah. He was moving a bit and conscious, but it was a scary moment, and he had to removed from the field on a stretcher and taken to the emergency room to check for fractures. Though Noah did sustain a small compression fracture in one of his vertebrae, he was released from the hospital later that night with a neck brace. It was a heroic play by Noah and we are thankful he is going to be okay.
The game resumed with the renewed intensity as Kent pressed to get back in to the match. Berkshire did not sit back and try and hold the lead. In fact, Berkshire pushed forward looking for the insurance goal. The action went end-to-end, and several times Berkshire almost scored. Once Zeiko Lewis '13 looked as though he would score that insurance goal, as he broke free to the goal. Kent's keeper rushed out to meet him, and as Zeiko tipped the ball past the keeper the keeper took Zeiko down. It looked to be sure red card, but a yellow as given. On the ensuing free kick from 20 yards, Lewis missed the target. He would have his redemption though. With four minutes left in the game, Lewis received a pass ball, made an unbelievable turn on his defender and then struck the insurance goal. Up 2-0, Berkshire closed out the match in great fashion stopping all of Kent's last-ditch efforts to score.
It was an impressive victory for Berkshire in the face of a great challenge posed by Kent's talented and very physical team. It's unfortunate that Noah suffered a season-ending injury, but Berkshire was happy the other players left the game without any serious injuries, as it was certainly a physical contest. With a convincing 2-0 win over Kent, Berkshire advances to the the New England Class A Championship for a chance to win the The Stewart Cup.
Berkshire will play Exeter in the final on Sunday, November 18th at Middlesex School. The match begins at 11:00 AM. Please come out and support the Bears as they hope look to make history and win Berkshire's first ever New England Class A Championship in soccer.