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Proctor Stops Sharon Academy in Boys Soccer Semifinal

— In a rematch of last year’s Vermont Division IV championship game, it was more of the same frustration for the Sharon Academy boys soccer team.

Defending champion Proctor scored twice late in the first half and held off the Phoenix down the stretch, coasting to a 2-0 win in a D-IV semifinal yesterday at T&T Field.

It was the 13th straight win for the No. 1 Phantoms (14-1-1), whose only loss came in the season opener at Twin Valley. They’ll face the second-ranked Trojans again tomorrow at Williamstown High in a 1 p.m. final. Fourth-ranked Sharon finishes 12-4-1.

Proctor’s entire starting lineup was skilled, starting in the back with omnipresent sweeper Cody Landon and continuing through its 4-4-2 set.

Fellow juniors Dermot Hughes and Chris Clain helped Proctor dominate midfield play, winning almost every 50/50 ball in the first half and maintaining pressure in the Sharon end.

“Those two guys have helped us get a lot of opportunities all year,” Phantoms coach Kevin Ratti said of Hughes and Clain. “They had another great game today and that’s not easy against a team like Sharon. (The Phoenix) do a great job every year, so it was key for us to control the middle.” Proctor owned an 11-2 shots advantage in the first half, and its persistence paid off in the 26th minute on the Phantoms’ fifth corner kick.

Clain arched it in from the right and straight to the noggin of Dan Smith, who headed in his team-leading 16th goal of the year to make it 1-0.

“They brought a lot of pressure and played a great game,” Sharon coach Rob Stainton said. “At the same time, we had our opportunities both offensively and defensively. On that first goal, we had opportunities to clear and just didn’t react.” After Phoenix defender Colby Ebbighausen blocked a bid from Clain in the box, Proctor’s Landon returned the favor by knocking away an offering from Trenton Morrison less than five minutes later.

The Phantoms kept penetrating. John Connell — who scored for Proctor during its 3-1 win in last year’s final — took one too many touches while dribbling through Sharon’s central defense and had it knocked away.

Yet the Phoenix failed to clear on the play, and Connell got it back before lobbing an arching shot. Sharon senior Sawyer Levy misplayed it to the left of the goalmouth, batting it down to the waiting feet of freshman midfielder Curtis Tomlinson. Tomlinson dribbled once before putting it in the middle of the goal for a 2-0 Proctor lead 1:44 before halftime.

“There was only (about) a minute left in the half; he could have just let it go for a goal kick,” Stainton said of Levy, who finished with seven saves. “But Sawyer had a great year for us and made a number of plays today that kept us in the game.” Sharon came out revved up for the second half, talking more and having some success with passing.

Proctor didn’t let up, either, forcing a pair of Levy saves in the opening minutes on shots from Smith and Tomlinson. Nine minutes in, Clain challenged Levy with a hard shot from 20 yards.

Sharon’s offense finally countered midway through the half. Morrison’s direct kick sailed in on goal for waiting Phantom keeper Reid Farley (four saves) before a Max Buskey bid on a crossing pass from Ebbighausen got broken up at the last second by senior defender Jared Gintof.

The Phoenix also had a chance with 7:45 to play when Farley fumbled a save he’d caught on a weak shot from Mario Sacca.

It fell in front of the goalie in the vicinity of Asa Rubin-Crump, but the Sharon senior couldn’t beat the goalie to the ball.

“I think they just got to the ball harder than us most of the time today,” Stainton said. “I don’t think it’s because they out-hustled us or because of their fitness, they had guys in better position. There was always one of their guys between our guys and the ball.” After losing 12 seniors from last year’s 15-3 finalist, Stainton was happy with the season put together by this year’s new-look group.

Sharon had won five straight heading into yesterday and allowed just 11 goals all season.

“I think to have the turnover we did and still make the semis, that was better than most people expected,” Stainton said. “I think the difference between us and a team like Proctor is that we need to have a couple more guys play the game year round.”

Free Kicks: Making its seventh semifinal appearance in eight years and eighth overall, Sharon slipped to 4-4 all-time in the penultimate round.

... The pair of goals were the first allowed by the Phoenix this postseason and just the third and fourth they’ve given up since Oct. 2 (eight games). Proctor, meanwhile, has allowed just one goal in 11 games, all wins. ... Sharon senior Galen Higgins was held scoreless over the last four games after leading the Phoenix in goals during the regular season with 12. Rubin-Crump led Sharon with four playoff goals.

... In the second half, Proctor’s Clain (leg) and Smith (ankle) left the game with injuries. Smith returned. ... Sharon loses 10 seniors.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.