TOWNSEND -- After tying Gardner, 1-1, in the first game of the season early last week, the North Middlesex Regional High School Patriots were eagerly seeking their first victory this fall, determined to beat visiting Tyngsboro last Saturday.
North Middlesex wasted no time getting shots on net when two goals were scored by Jacob Fitzgerald and Steve Julius, allowing the Patriots to capture an early 2-0 lead. North Middlesex maintained the lead for the remainder of the game, eventually holding on for a 2-1 victory.
As fans cheered on the sidelines, it seemed like the players would have a chance at a high-scoring game. However, Tyngsboro quickly stepped up its defensive play, as sweeper Charlie Savard made sure North Middlesex didn't get too close to the goal.
The Tigers quickly obtained control of the ball and carried it down the field. As they dominated the Patriots in the offensive zone, sweeper Mike Spagnola of North Middlesex stepped up to break up the plays before the ball reached goaltender Tyler Ruf.
North Middlesex regained control of the ball and made several attempts to carry it into the offensive zone. However, the aggressive and physical play of Tyngsboro's defense and midfield presented a tough obstacle. At 23 minutes into the game, Ruf held his own on net, as he faced a series of difficult shots, but managed to block them all.
Tyngsboro's Paul Sickinger had an attempted header on net, shortly followed by Jake Gallagher who had a shot on net as well. Jesse Kablik had a shot but missed his target. As Adam Ascensao made a pass to Eric Morrison in an offensive play toward the goal, Spagnola again proved his ability to hold his own as sweeper, by breaking up the play and preventing a shot against Ruf.
As the second half started, Ruf continued to face shots on net.
"We need to keep the balls to the outside," said Spagnola. While the Patriots scrambled to clear the ball from their defensive zone, Tyngsboro's Tommy Smith got a shot on net 30 minutes into the game. At 41 minutes into the game, senior forward Matt Wolski got a corner kick that assisted the goal that was headed in by Sickinger leaving the score 2-1.
As North Middlesex worked hard at a third goal, Tyngsboro stepped up its physical play, creating a much tougher game on the Patriots' home field.
Forty-three minutes into the game, North Middlesex broke through the defensive action of Tyngsboro, when Sage McPherson made an attempted shot on net, which was saved by sophomore goalkeeper Andy Savard. As the physical play increased, the North Middlesex defense demonstrated its ability to handle the ball under pressure. Sean Monahan blocked several of Tyngsboro's attempts to break into the offensive zone.
"The communication was good on the defensive end, and we cleared the ball well," said Spagnola.
The Patriots continued with their efforts in getting into the offensive zone, as Tyngsboro became more aggressive in an attempt to prevent them from getting to close to net.
Finally, at 59 minutes into the game, Julius broke through the defensive barrier and made a shot on net that was blocked by Savard. As the game drew to a close, North Middlesex maintained a strong effort to hold onto its one-goal lead, overcoming the challenge of Tyngsboro's physical play.
The final score was 2-1, leaving North Middlesex with a victory, and Fitzgerald with a goal and an assist, and Julius with a goal and an assist.
"We were a little tired out there, we needed to talk more," said Fitzgerald. Even though the Patriots succeeded with a win, they always seek improvement.
Overall, Coach Pen Burnham was pleased with the team and its Saturday afternoon victory.
"They played well out there. It was a good win for us," he said. "Tyngsboro played a really physical game."
North Middlesex continues to look to improve its game as it gets ready to take on Quabbin this week.