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Penalty kick preparation helps Hanover boys soccer move on to final

  • Hanover Marauders celebrate their penalty kick victory over Manchester Central at in the NHIAA Division I semifinal game at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Alan MacRae photograph)

  • Hanover's Eli Stack moves the ball down the field in the NHIAA Division I semifinal game against Manchester Central at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Alan MacRae photograph)

  • Hanover goalkeeper Andrew Enelow scoops up the ball in the NHIAA Division I semifinal game against Manchester Central at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Enelow came into the game after teammate Joey Perras was injured colliding with a Manchester Central player. (Alan MacRae photograph)

  • Hanover's Eric Ringer tries to head the ball in front of Manchester Central's Rahul Drukpa in the NHIAA Division I semifinal game against Manchester Central at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Alan MacRae photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/5/2019 10:07:09 PM
Modified: 11/5/2019 10:13:40 PM

NASHUA, N.H. — Hanover High boys soccer coach Rob Grabill would prefer to not leave things up to chance. So he prepares his team for any situation.

All season, at some point in every practice, Grabill has Hanover work on penalty kicks — anything to create game-like situations for his team.

The preparation paid off on Tuesday night in a NHIAA Division I semifinal showdown.

With temperatures dropping into the 40s and fog rising off the turf at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, the third-seeded Marauders outlasted No. 2 Manchester Central on penalty kicks, 5-3, pushing the final score to 3-2 after a late run from the Little Green ended regulation in a 2-2 tie.

The win sends Hanover to its first state championship game since 2013.

“Once we got to PKs, I was very confident,” Grabill said. “I knew we’d be covered in goal. We’ve practiced, practiced and practiced. This is a situation the players are used to. You see how they calmly rolled the ball in the net. They took what the game gave them.”

One after another, the Marauders walked up to the penalty mark and made their shots with ease. Charlie Adams, Latham Allison, Judd Alexander and Blake Palmer all converted.

Sophomore defender Evan Nichols finished off the victory for Hanover by making the fifth and final shot. It was the first action Nichols saw all game.

The Little Green converted their first three attempts, but Haris Suljevic missed the fourth. His shot went high and through the field goal posts behind the net.

“Nobody loves it (penalty kicks); it’s just the way it is,” Central coach Chris LaBerge said. “They deserved to win because they won on penalties. They’re a good team; they deserve to be in the finals.”

Playing without starting goalie Joey Perras after a collision forced him out of the game late in regulation, senior Andrew Enelow stepped into the net for the Marauders.

He came out of goal in the first overtime to make a crucial save. In penalty kicks, he held his composure, not making any moves that would cost Hanover, despite not making a save.

“We have such trust in Andrew,” Grabill said. “He’s a great senior goalie. He works so hard in practice. I feel so great that, on this big stage, Andrew could go in there and get the hold for us.”

To set up overtime and the penalty kicks, Central’s offense finally executed with 10 minutes to play. While the Little Green dominated possession in the second half, they couldn’t finish on their chances.

Then Sam Latona dribbled through the middle of Hanover’s defense and dropped a shot out of Perras’ reach to bring the Little Green within a goal.

The equalizer came four minutes later, when a ball deep in Central territory was sent up to Samuel Assantha. The junior forward took a few steps and collided with Perras, but he was able to get the ball past Perras before the collision.

“There’s a reason why they’re the Cadillac team in Division I,” said Grabill about the Little Green’s effort. “Central has won a lot of championships and been to a lot of finals. They’re a classy team. Hats off to a great team.”

In the first half, Adams and Hanover showed why they beat Central earlier in the regular season. Three minutes in, the Brown commit headed in the first goal.

Adams broke the program’s assists record with 12 minutes to play in the half. The senior found an open Henry Aspinwall on a free kick, and Aspinwall only had to give it a quick touch to give Hanover a 2-0 lead before the half.

Adams is a member of Hanover’s 17-person senior class that has never reached a title game. Last season ended with a 4-0 loss to the Little Green in the semifinals. Two straight years before, Hanover was bounced out of postseason play in the quarterfinals.

There’s no question that Adams is one of the best to ever don the maroon and white. The only thing missing from his list of accolades is a state championship.

He’ll have a chance to win one on Saturday night at Manchester Memorial High School against No. 1 seed Bedford.

“We know it’s going to be hard,” Adams said. “Once you make it to the finals, anything can happen. We can grind games out; we can win however we need to.”

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Notes: The win is the first time Hanover has ever beaten Central in a postseason contest. Hanover beat the Little Green, 4-2, during the season. ... Bedford beat Windham in the late semifinal game, 4-1. The Bulldogs beat Hanover, 2-0, in September. ... Grabill will be contending for his seventh state championship and second Division I title on Saturday. The Marauders beat Alvirne, 2-0, in 2013. ... Saturday’s start time is set for 6:30 p.m. ... Adams now has 23 goals and 20 assists on the season.

Pete Nakos can be reached at or 603-727-3306.

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