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Cards Rain on Bears In D-III Opening Round

Claremont — Maybe the Stevens High boys soccer team should pray for rain the next time out.

Playing in a steady downpour on Thursday, the Cardinals had a pretty easy time of it, downing Newfound, 4-1, in a New Hampshire Division III first-round game at Monadnock Park.

The Cardinals scored in the first 61 seconds and then built up the lead to 4-0 before the Bears hit the back of the net.

The victory sends Stevens to Sunday’s quarterfinal, and if its raining, “that would suit me just fine,” Stevens coach Jason Stone said.

Whatever the weather, the Cards (13-4) will host No. 14 Sanborn, which pulled off a 1-0 upset over No. 3 Gilford.

It was hard to get the smile off Stone’s face as he talked about how his team has shaken its inconsistent play.

“This is really exciting,” Stone said. “The kids are happy, the coaches are happy. We’re just coming together at the right time.”

Stevens’ fast start was too much to overcome for Newfound.

“We just couldn’t get going early and we’re not a team that comes from behind well,” Newfound coach Josh Hill said. “We knew we had to play well because we knew Stevens was quick, but it just didn’t happen.”

For only the second game, the Cardinals used 6-foot-3 Jordan Haines in goal trying to take advantage of his height. That move paid off in the second half, when Newfound’s Ben Learned tried to elevate the ball over Haines. But the Cards’ keeper was able to reach up and make the save.

The Cards’ first goal came on a corner feed from Zach Bunnell to Daniel Croteau, about 15 yards out and to the left of Newfound keeper Matt Pritchard. Croteau’s uncontested shot was inside the far post.

The lead became 2-0 11 minutes later when Bunnell’s long shot went under the crossbar and over the leap of Pritchard.

The halftime break seemed to bring the Bears to life, but they were never able to connect on their chances around the net — including an open-net opportunity.

“We had a bunch of corners and those two empty nets and couldn’t do anything with them,” Hill said.

Stevens defender Ryan Napsey picked up an assist on the third goal, as his long clearing boot was collected by Kyle Hamel, who chipped it over the head of the charging Pritchard to make it 3-0.

The final tally came when Bunnell’s corner was re-directed by Croteau past Pritchard.

Austin Tsao had the Newfound score.

Stevens had a 16-7 advantage in shots on goal and 7-4 lead in corners. Newfound didn’t get a shot on Haines in the first half until there were less than 10 minutes to play.

Austin Putnam took over for Haines in the Stevens net for the final minutes of the second half.