GROTON -- For the second time this season, the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders defeated Tyngsborough by a slim, one-goal margin. On Tuesday afternoon, the Crusaders showed grit and wherewithal en route to an 8-7 win.
Groton-Dunstable trailed 6-3 heading into the second half, and that is when the defense stole the show. The Crusaders defense allowed just one goal in the second half, and that made all the difference.
Crusaders' head coach Rick Arena said he was proud of the heart his team displayed coming out of halftime. "No matter what the score is, we keep on fighting," said Arena. "It is just a matter of a lucky bounce here and there. I asked them to get us into a position to win this game in the fourth quarter and they did."
The Crusaders lit up the scoreboard on a blazing fast strike by Zach Cotoni off an outlet pass from A.J. Dufrense to put Groton-Dunstable out in front 1-0 27 seconds into the match.
Groton-Dunstable's attack caused the Tigers' defense fits again less than two minutes later, when Austin Hourani found Tristan Lynch for a blistering shot 15 yards from the goal to put the Crusaders up 2-0 early in the first quarter.
Tyngsborough displayed great patience throughout the match, picking and plotting their next move offensively with immense precision. The Tigers would find the back of the net with 7:17 remaining in the first quarter when Ben Foley synced up with a slicing Justin Maher for a tomahawk goal to make it 2-1.
Tyngsborough hammered home two more unanswered strikes from Maher and Foley late in the first quarter.
The Tigers led Groton-Dunstable 3-2 after the first, and Groton-Dunstable started the second quarter with a sense of urgency. Hourani bulled his way into the attacking zone, stirred up a whirlwind of dust, and swiped his shot past Tyngborough goalie Aoppy Allan with 10:57 remaining in the half to tie the game at 3-3.
Hourani's goal would be all the Crusaders could muster in the second, as Tyngsborough buried three goals before the halftime buzzer sounded. Jamie Croteau, Foley and Austin Coene all recorded goals for the Tigers in the second quarter.
Down by three goals heading into the second half, Groton-Dunstable made some defensive adjustments, and they worked to near perfection. The Crusaders scored 19 seconds into the half on a sinking Hourani missile from Forbes to cut the Tigers' lead to 6-4.
Foley picked up his second assist of the afternoon on his crisp feed to Maher. Maher dipped and dodged his way into the attacking zone for a laser of a goal with 10:01 remaining in the third to put the Tigers up 7-4.
Groton-Dunstable's defense bent, but it did not break. Tyngsborough controlled the clock in the third quarter, but the Crusaders would have the last laugh with 3:04 remaining.
Cotoni weaved his way into traffic, but the ball was jarred loose by the Tyngsborough defense.
Cotoni showed great grit and swept the ball into the net with the mouth of his stick to cut the Tigers' lead to 7-5.Groton-Dunstable's backs were up against the wall going into the fourth, but they showed patience in their attack. Crusaders' midfielder Matt Manning corralled a pinpoint pass from Forbes and slung the ball by Allan with 9:07 remaining.
Lynch narrowly missed an opportunity to tie the game a minute later, but Allan made a stellar kick-save to momentarily preserve the Tigers' one-goal lead.
Hourani tied the game with 5:40 remaining when he tucked his shot inside the far post. Thirty seconds later, Forbes scurried towards the crease and wedged the eventual game-winner under the crossbar.
"Both teams had opportunities to win this game," said Arena. "We were able to get a lucky break when Quentin scored that goal in the end. I have been waiting for him to come alive, and he did. "
The Crusaders hit the road for a non-conference tilt with Bedford tomorrow at 10 a.m.