Salesianum needed a full game and then some to defeat Cape Henlopen to advance to the state championship boys soccer match, and on Saturday night in Smyrna, it looked for a while like the Sals might require more than the regulation 80 minutes against Charter. But a heads-up play in the 53rd minute by sophomore striker Gavin Ford was enough to ensure that extra minutes would not be necessary, as the Sals defeated the Force, 2-0, at Williams Stadium for their sixth straight state title.
In a scoreless, defensive contest, Ford took a long pass from a teammate just outside the 18-yard box to the left of Charter keeper Will Connolly. Ford was knocked down from behind, prompting the referee to call a foul on the Force. Some distracted Charter players appeared to be arguing the call, and as they did, Ford placed the ball down and played the free kick into the opponent’s unguarded net.
Ford said the ball was live as long as Salesianum did not ask for the Charter players to be 10 yards off the kick, in which case he could not have played the ball until signaled by the referee. As the official pointed to the spot where the ball was to be placed, Ford ran up and took the kick.
“We got the free kick, and I saw Will was off his line, and it was just a heads-up play for us,.” Ford said. “I think they were arguing the call. They didn’t like it, and they weren’t aware that we could play it. Or they weren’t thinking about it.”
The goal opened up the action a bit, and Salesianum would add an insurance tally in the 68th minute. This time, it was senior Trevor Clare finding the back of the net.
Clare took a pass from about 40 yards out in front of Connolly. A nice move got him behind the Force’s keeper, and he did not miss.
Ford nearly scored in the final minutes of the contest, dribbling down the right side and beyond Connolly. Sophomore defenseman Drew Amato, however, came in behind Connolly and made a fine sliding save of Ford’s blast. But it wasn’t enough, as Salesianum kept Charter to the outside of the field and off the scoreboard.
The championship is the Sals’ 15th, the most of any school in the state. Their six straight matches the record set by St. Mark’s, which won a half-dozen titles from 1996-2001. Salesianum coach Scott Mosier won his 12th crown. Clare said Salesianum knows it plays each season with a target on its back, which helps ensure that winning never gets old.
“This feeling’s indescribable,” he said. “It’s so nice to have such a good group of guys, and I’m just glad we could come out with another win.”
Clare was the only senior starter, and he has won four state championships. “It means a lot over the last four years to me. Soccer’s been a huge part of my life, and to get four straight state championships, it feels really good. And I’m glad I could do my part.”
Final statistics were not available early Sunday morning. Salesianum finished the season 14-3-1, with all of its losses coming to out-of-state powerhouses, including the national No. 1-ranked team, St. Benedict’s of New Jersey. Charter wrapped up the year at 14-4.