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Hanover Boys Soccer Falls in Tight Final

  • Hanover’s Ben Manning (19) bows his head after receiving a runner-up <br/>medal following Hanover’s 2-1 loss to Manchester Central in the NHIAA <br/>Division I boys soccer final at Exeter High School last night. The <br/>Marauders finished their first Division I season with a 17-3-0 record. <br/>(Valley News - Rayn Dorgan)

    Hanover’s Ben Manning (19) bows his head after receiving a runner-up
    medal following Hanover’s 2-1 loss to Manchester Central in the NHIAA
    Division I boys soccer final at Exeter High School last night. The
    Marauders finished their first Division I season with a 17-3-0 record.
    (Valley News - Rayn Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover’s Daniel Hazlett, left, works to control the ball in front of <br/>Manchester Central’s Semir Sandzic during last night’s NHIAA Division I <br/>boys soccer final.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Hanover’s Daniel Hazlett, left, works to control the ball in front of
    Manchester Central’s Semir Sandzic during last night’s NHIAA Division I
    boys soccer final.
    (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover’s Jacob Lapoint (6) drives past Manchester Central’s Anuj <br/>Kandka, left.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Hanover’s Jacob Lapoint (6) drives past Manchester Central’s Anuj
    Kandka, left.
    (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover’s Ben Manning (19) bows his head after receiving a runner-up <br/>medal following Hanover’s 2-1 loss to Manchester Central in the NHIAA <br/>Division I boys soccer final at Exeter High School last night. The <br/>Marauders finished their first Division I season with a 17-3-0 record. <br/>(Valley News - Rayn Dorgan)
  • Hanover’s Daniel Hazlett, left, works to control the ball in front of <br/>Manchester Central’s Semir Sandzic during last night’s NHIAA Division I <br/>boys soccer final.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • Hanover’s Jacob Lapoint (6) drives past Manchester Central’s Anuj <br/>Kandka, left.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

— Sometimes, events don’t turn out as planned. Sometimes, the unexpected is what creates the desired outcome.

Thus was the case for Manchester Central boys soccer defender Alex Carignan, whose left-footed corner kick stayed high and curved under the crossbar for the decisive goal in last night’s 2-1 Little Green win over Hanover in the NHIAA Division I boys soccer final at Exeter High School.

Coming in the 65th minute, the senior’s arched offering glanced off the arm of leaping Hanover goalkeeper Duncan Piper to put Central up 2-0 and all but seal the No. 4 Little Green’s second championship in three years. In ending their inaugural season in D-I after petitioning up from D-II, the second-ranked Marauders finish 17-3-0.

“He wasn’t trying to do that,” confirmed 13th-year Central coach Chris LaBerge of Carignan’s strike. “He’s trying to get it to the near post on that one and put it position to get a shot off. It was a very fortunate (trajectory) for us.” Rocco Linehan headed in a lobbing feed from Xavier Tchana with 1:05 remaining for Hanover, which held a 13-10 edge in shots. It’s the first title-game loss since 2003 for Hanover, which won six consecutive Class I/Division II crowns from 2005-10 to help encourage the notion of petitioning up.

Trailing 1-0 at halftime, the Marauders imposed every ounce of their will out of the gate in the second half. Outrunning and outmaneuvering the Little Green (15-4-1), Ian Strohbehn and Tchana challenged aggressive Central keeper Noah Edmunds within the first couple minutes of the stanza.

That set the tempo for the majority of the final 40 minutes as the Marauders contained speedy Central forward Samuel Binogono (goal) and kept the ball primarily moving toward the Green end of the field.

As if Hanover coach Rob Grabill needed proof that his team belonged in D-I, last night solidified it.

“I was very happy that we were able to establish ourselves so well in the second half,” said Grabill, the seventh-year Hanover mentor who earned his 100th win with the Marauders during a 1-0 win over Central in Manchester back in August. “To dominate a team like Central, you have to feel good about that.” With the start of the game delayed nearly an hour on a cold night thanks to the length of Windham’s penalty-kick win over Hollis-Brookline in the D-II final beforehand, Hanover ran extra warmups around the perimeter of Bill Ball Stadium while they waited and watched.

The Marauders wasted little time warming up for real when the game started, with junior Daniel Hazlett — back after missing the semifinal win over Londonderry with a quadriceps injury — setting up Strohbehn with a crossing pass that the senior pushed wide in the second minute.

Edmunds wouldn’t allow many more of those chances in the first half, playing up in the box to snuff out Hanover possessions.

Central had similar frustrations on the other end, unable to crack the Marauders’ sturdy back four save for limited occasions. Binogono eventually started shooting from further out, forcing a save from Piper at the right post in the 13th minute.

Central was able to find twine in the 17th when Binogono headed a high service ball from Keegan LaBerge into the right corner. The Green was able to carry momentum through the remainder of the period and got inches away from a 2-0 game less than a minute before halftime. A through pass from Carignan to LaBerge set up a shot that bounded over Piper before sprawling senior back Daniel Osheyack knocked it away from the goal line at the last instant.

“We lost 1-0 the first time we played (Hanover),” Chris LaBerge noted, “so to get that first one on the board against them, I think, did a lot for our confidence. We know they’re an elite team, so it was big for us to play with the lead.” After falling behind 2-0, the Marauders had a number of chances down the stretch. While some of the bids were off-target, senior captain Brendan Barth was a smidgen away from making it 2-1 when his direct kick from 18 yards smacked off the exact point where the right post meets the cross bar with 13 minutes left.

With less than three minutes remaining, Linehan found a streaking Tchana with a good angle, but the shot was pushed just wide.

“We thought we had the game in hand when it was 2-0; then all of a sudden it could have been 4-2 (Hanover),” Chris LaBerge said.

Added Grabill: “The shots just weren’t falling for us, but I’m going to steal a line from one of my favorite actors, Clint Eastwood: ‘We’ll be back.’ ”

∎ Free Kicks: Hanover slipped to 17-7 all-time in title games. … Marauder senior Ben Manning, who also missed the semifinal with an injury, returned and was back in the starting lineup. … Hazlett left the game twice in the second half, once with leg cramps and once when his quad injury began smarting. … The physical game featured a combined 24 fouls, including yellow cards to both sides. Central’s Semir Sandzic’s yellow card was issued after verbally gesturing to the Hanover student section.

… Hanover graduates 10 seniors: Piper, Osheyack, Barth, Drake Greenwood, Jacob LaPoint, Strohbehn, Liam Gantrish, Zach Taylor, Daniel Wilson, Manning and Daniel Slayton.

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