Cavalier boys strike first, oust Pelham

Hollis Brookline's Max Burns charges up the field in Wednesday's playoff win over Pelham

HOLLIS – Complacency never entered the equation. The Hollis Brookline boys soccer team, seeded No. 5, drilled Pelham in the regular season finale and came right back to choke out the Pythons again on Wednesday, this one a 3-0 whitewash in the Division II playoff opener. With the victory, the 13-4 Cavaliers advance to the state quarterfinals, Saturday (2 p.m.) at No. 4 seeded Pembroke.

“(Last week’s 4-0 win over Pelham) certainly gave us a lot of confidence,” said HB striker JJ Kennedy. “This was definitely tough, though. (Playoffs) put a whole lot of pressure on you. You’re almost preparing for a whole different season. You have to have that mindset. “You get the butterflies, but at the end of the day,you just leave it all out on the field and play your heart out.

“Hollis Brookline did just that, from the opening kick. “We tried to possess and tire them out and get the first goal,” said Kennedy.

The Cavaliers certainly stuck to the plan, taking it right to the No. 12 Pythons. And Kennedy had a huge part in it, earning an assist when Max Burns found the back of the Pelham net in the 17th minute or a 1-0 lead.

Thirteen minutes later things went to 2-0 on one of the prettier goals you’ll see in high school. Joey Dias sent a sweet left-footed cross to the front of the goal from the deep corner. Bryan Wright volleyed it past the Pelham keeper to the open side and right at the goal line Kennedy pumped it home.

“I couldn’t tell if it was going in, so I just made sure,” said Kennedy.

A fluky “own goal 18 minutes into the second half put the Pythons away for good. Defender Kyle Simpson, who sent the long ball into the area, was credited with the goal as the Pelham defender deflected it past his own goalie. But it was speedy Cavalier Ethan Smith, whose tenacity on the play up front forced the confusion and the score.

The energy, emanating out of the back like from Cavs like Andy Basque and Josh Ide plus the homefield advantage was too much for Pelham to overcome.

“There was talk of playing on a different field (because of earlier rains), but this is our home field and I felt it gave us a great advantage,” said Kennedy. “We’ve done it here all season. It’s good luck.”

And now it’s on to Pembroke, a team the Cavaliers defeated, 2-0, back on Oct. 9. Pembroke, now 12-3-1, was one of four teams to earn a preliminary round by in the Division II playoffs. Amazingly enough, HB and goalie Ryan Coutu continued their incredible run with their fifth straight shutout. The Cavs have not allowed a goal since Oct. 2. And even that came in a 2-1 win over Kearsarge.