WOOD RIVER JCT. — It was a good test for both teams. One played a bit better and wound up winning.
Division II Westerly High’s boys’ soccer team beat Division I Chariho 2-1 in a non-league game on Saturday. The game counts in the teams’ overall records, but does not count in their eligibility to qualify for their respective divisional playoffs.
But the teams are Chariho and Westerly and that means a geographic rivalry that transcends all sports, counts for bragging rights by the players and almost guarantees a game that is intensely fought.
“We play every game to win,” Chariho coach Tyler Hartshorn said. “And Westerly is a good test. But for us, it’s all about the Division I wins.
“This gave us a chance to try some new guys out. And we played some other guys in different spots.”
Westerly coach Les Ahern used a similar approach. He said he started five players who had not started before for the Bulldogs and they stepped up.
On balance, the Bulldogs were a bit more precise and aggressive on offense and a bit more tenacious on defense. That helped pull out a win.
The game was scoreless at halftime. Austin DeGiacomo and then Pat Johns each scored early in the second half for Westerly (3-4). Steve LaBier got one back near the midpoint for Chariho (1-4-2). The Chargers threatened thereafter, but without success.
With Westerly leading 1-0, Johns scored what proved to be the winning goal just 6 minutes, 12 seconds into the second half.
“Austin (DeGiacomo) was running down the line and crossed the ball to me,” Johns said. “The defender was out of position and I was wide open in the middle. Their keeper charged out and I slid it under his legs for the score.”
DeGiacomo had scored just under three minutes into the second half. Cooper Ferreira delivered the ball to him from about 40 yards out. DeGiacomo spun, put his back heel on the ball, which changed its direction, and bounced it into the net for the game’s first score.
LaBier scored the Chargers’ only goal with 27 minutes left in the game. He took a pass from Dustin Tougas, was unmarked and rammed it home.
“It was a great pass from Dustin,” LaBier said. “I turned a bit outside the 18. Their goalkeeper was in the center and I put the ball into the left side of the net.”
The Chargers pressed the attack but the Bulldogs held on. Westerly had a close call with 7:30 left when a Chariho shot off a rebound flew just over the net. And at the 5:40 mark, Corey Zegarzewski had a clear shot on goal that squarely hit the crossbar and bounced away.
The first half was played with similar intensity but with no goals scored. Each team hit the crossbar with shots in the first 15 minutes of the game. Westerly keeper Billy McCormick made a spectacular save on a point-blank shot by Alec Fowler with 7:40 left in the first half.
And Chariho keeper Gus Almeida did likewise on a somersaulting shot by Terrell Norris with less than two minutes left to a scoreless halftime. McCormick had seven saves. Almeida had five and teammate Corey Merritt later had eight.
“We came very close and did a good job to come back from behind,” Hartshorn said. “I was happy with the way Bruce Law played up front (on offense) and with Zach Kittel, who played smart and fast and broke up a lot of plays on defense.
“Westerly looks strong — too strong not to have a winning season. I think they’ll do well.”
Ahern singled out senior defender Robbie Trebisacci and junior forward Pat Johns for their outstanding play.
“Robbie is not the biggest, toughest, meanest kid, but he plays with a lion’s heart. And Pat will eat up the state next year — he’s like a gazelle on steroids,” Ahern said.
Westerly resumes Division II play by hosting Mount St. Charles on Monday at 6 p.m. Chariho plays a Division I game at Central on Tuesday at 4:15.