HUDSON - Circle the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders on your list of teams to watch. That's what the rest of Central Mass. Has done after the Crusaders have won two consecutive state titles. This year's Groton-Dunstable team is a bit different.
Having lost his leading goalscorer in Matt Tornaritis to injury, Sean Wisbey has been met with the challenge of finding a nucleus of players who will mesh together.
On Thursday night at the Morgan Bowl in Hudson, the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders defeated Hudson, 2-1, despite a hostile environment.
Leading 2-nil late in the second half, Groton-Dunstable suffered an incidental hand ball penalty, which prompted a PK to be taken by Hudson senior midfielder Marc Deleppo. Deleppo buried the penalty late in the match, but it was merely a consolation prize.
"In the second half, I switched into a 4-3-2-1 and that kind of held off that surge that they gave us at the midfield," head coach Sean Wisbey said. "They kept working through it. Eventually, they found Gabe's head. When you find Gabe, good things happen with his size. "Thank god we got that goal because we let in penalty on a hand ball. At halftime, I told the guys the next goal that happens, is going to be the result."
Groton-Dunstable collected its first goal of the match at 15:14 when senior captain Dan McGuinness found junior forward Nick Fordham in front of the cage. Fordham pushed through the heavy Hawks' defense and unleashed a pretty chip-shot from the left side that floated over the outstretched hands of Hudson junior goalkeeper, Ryan Lyman.
Prior to Thursday's match, Fordham had been playing at left back.
"I moved him up to left mid today and brought Pat (Keating) in to generate some more scoring," the coach said. "And, he (Wisbey) gets that goal and it gives us the lift. It still comes down to a lot of the little things we are working on. They just aren't getting them quite yet in game situations."
Groton-Dunstable held a 1-0 lead going into the half as Groton-Dunstable senior captain and goaltender, Jamie Bailey, held his ground inside the frame.
Bailey fended off late chances at goal from senior midfielder Lucas Medeiros. Medeiros blasted a high-rising shot at Bailey in stoppage time. Bailey soared above the pack and seized the ball out of the air to preserve his team's 1-nil advantage.
Five minutes into the second half, Groton-Dunstable added a little cushion to its lead. Senior Brogan Walsh mailed a precisely calibrated cross to the tall, Dingle, who was camped out in front of the Hudson goal.
Walsh's cross gravitated towards Dingle, and he flicked it past the diving Lyman, to make it 2-0. Lyman came up lame on the play after his abdomen slammed into the left-post.
A flushed penalty kick with 4:38 left from Deleppo, put the Groton-Dunstable defense on its toes. The Crusaders managed to hang tough and escape Hudson with their first league win of the season.
"When you are the two-time defending state champs, everyone wants to play you," Wisbey said. "We have not had much success here. Last year, we tied. You need to get over the injuries and weather the storm. Hopefully, in the next week or two, we can get get that starting 11 back together and start that transition forward."
Groton-Dunstable out-shot Hudson,7-6, in the match.