GROTON -- Three. That number marks the number of times Bromfield and Groton-Dunstable have met, and the number of wins the Crusaders have against their not-so-distant neighbors.
On Saturday night, in front of a large contingent of supporters at Groton-Dunstable, Tom Hill's Bromfield Trojans erased the past with a hard-fought, 1-0, decision over the Crusaders.
"Well, they are very good, they put pressure on our defense," Hill said. "Our defense came through. That is the best our defense has played all year. They played great without a rest. Ben Veno, Ryan Kennedy, Roman (Vellante) and Matt (Olejarz) all did a very nice job. Early on, Ryan (Kennedy) had to make some tough saves. That is a very, very good tough team. They are physical."
It was senior forward Andrew Cullinan's goal in the 71st minute that proved to be the difference-maker for the Bromfield Trojans, who with the win, improve to 14-1-0.
Like a pair of chess masters dueling it out, Hill and Groton-Dunstable head coach Sean Wisbey went to battle.
"There wasn't really much in it," Wisbey said of the match. "They get a deflection and the ball goes in. It is kind of a lucky goal. Eventually, someone might have broke through in this game. Bromfield is a good team. Tom (Hill) has done a spectacular job from the time we saw them at the preseason jamboree till today. They can play with anyone in Division one. They proved that today."
Speed kills and both Bromfield and Groton-Dunstable certainly have it. Bromfield senior captain Ezra Kraus led the Trojans' offensive attack for the majority of the match.
Kraus blasted a shot that caught the jet-stream in the 10th minute. Kraus appeared to have the goal on lock, but the wind, which was swirling from right-to-left, had other plans. Kraus's shot sailed just inches above the crossbar for a goal-kick.
Three-minutes-later, Groton-Dunstable senior Brogan Walsh connected with a chip-shot attempt from the left side of the 18-yard box that appeared destined for the back of the net. However, Walsh's attempt was seized by the leaping Bromfield senior goalkeeper Ryan Kennedy.
Chances were at a premium for both sides in the first half as the strong defenses stole the show.
Groton-Dunstable's most promising chance of the match came four minutes into the second half as the two teams were still deadlocked at 0-0.
Junior striker Matt Tornaritis sliced a well-paced ball toward goal, but it nipped the top of the cross bar and bounced in the goal box. The officials waived off the goal as it did not land on the goal line. Tornaritis missed his chance to give the Crusaders the lead by a mere few inches.
"He toe-balled it and it hit the inside of the crossbar," Wisbey said on the goal that wasn't. "It would have gone in on a round post. I felt like we put so much effort on Thursday into beating Marlborough to qualify that what I saw from my group, they don't respond in that third game of the week. When it comes to trusting the guys around you and passing the ball quickly, Bromfield did a better job of that."
In the 71st minute, Cullinan emerged as the eventual hero with his chip shot into traffic from the right-side of the 18-yard box. Cullinan chipped the ball into a sea of white and blue jerseys and it beat Groton-Dunstable veteran goalkeeper Connor Maguire to his right. Maguire appeared to have his line-of-vision obscured by one of his own defenders. The ball looked like it changed its trajectory on a deflection.
"Any team could have won," Hill said. "That is a very aggressive, physical team. It was a really well-played game. We are going to have to take a day or two to get better. I'm sure we are going to be hurting a little bit."