Just Like His Idols: OT Winner Sends Lakers to Final

  • Sunapee High boys soccer coach Jack Iacopino, top center, sends his Lakers out for the first half of an NHIAA Division IV boys soccer semifinal in Laconia, N.H., on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. Sunapee won in overtime, 1-0, to make its first state final since 2013. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Littleton High goalkeeper Josh Finkle (99) fists away a first-half Sunapee High corner kick under pressure from the Lakers' Lane Smith (8) and Darren Hulton (4) during the first half of an NHIAA Division IV boys soccer semifinal in Laconia, N.H., on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sunapee High's Parker Reed, left, converges on the ball with Littleton's Quinten Perkins, right, and Todd Kroll-Corliss (24) during the first half of an NHIAA Division IV boys soccer semifinal in Laconia, N.H., on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. Reed later scored on an overtime free kick to give the Lakers a 1-0 win. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sunapee High's Gabe Hastings (17) looks for a pass upfield under pressure from Littleton's Quinten Perkins (11) during the first half of an NHIAA Division IV boys soccer semifinal in Laconia, N.H., on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. The Lakers' Drew Nichols (16) follows the play. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 10/29/2018 11:58:08 PM

Laconia, n.h. — It stands to reason that, with nearly 23 years of coaching under his belt, Jack Iacopino as a long memory for Sunapee High boys soccer. It’s a trait that’s trickled down to at least one of his young charges.

Growing up, Parker Reed idolized the last batch of Lakers who brought the program to the precipice of NHIAA Division IV success five years ago. He and friend Jackson Cooney would pretend to be those Sunapee stars when they were kicking a ball around, imitating — or planning — successes of their own when they donned the school’s colors.

Future Lakers may do the same with Reed after the sophomore’s stunning overtime strike settled third-seeded Sunapee’s 1-0 defeat of No. 2 Littleton in a D-IV semifinal at Laconia High School on Monday.

Given a rare chance at goal with a 21-yard free kick just past the four-minute mark of extra time, Reed curled a beauty around a four-man Crusader wall and barely beat Littleton goalkeeper Josh Finkle to the near post and under the crossbar.

Long memories only go so far, of course. Ask any Laker when Sunapee last won a state boys soccer championship and you’ll likely get a blank stare — it never has, a situation Sunapee (16-3-0) will try to rectify against top-seeded Newmarket (19-0-0) in Saturday morning’s D-IV final at Southern New Hampshire University.

“Coach gave me the sign to take a shot and just go for it,” said Reed, who netted just his second goal of the season, the other coming in a season-opening defeat of Woodsville on Aug. 24. “I just kind of took a few deep breaths. I decided I was going to try to go around the wall and put it upper right if I could, and it just dropped right in there.”

The situation came up suddenly in a match high on defensive brilliance.

Reed caught sight of a ricocheted ball bounding toward the right wing in Littleton’s zone, but Crusader center back Jason Brammer beat Reed to it. In sliding to boot the ball out of danger, Brammer contacted it with his hand. Referee Brian Elbert quickly signaled the free kick. Reed buried it.

“I’ve done this 23 years; you get to overtime and it’s a 50-50 chance,” Iacopino said. “Something’s going to happen, and if not, you go to penalty kicks, and that’s more 50-50, you know what I mean? You always hope to get it done in the overtimes. … There’s luck involved, and I think we had a little today.”

Sunapee and Littleton (17-1-1) played three times in the last two years, prior to Monday, with the Crusaders claiming three one-goal wins, including one in last fall’s quarterfinals. Littleton brought junior scoring ace Daniel Kubkowski along with a big and physical defense, so the Lakers had change their ways if they wanted to advance.

Iacopino had Sunapee focus on defense first, packing at least six people behind the ball as soon as the Crusaders gained possession. Matt Nangeroni, Jake Austin and Josh Heino took turns clogging the middle, often teaming up to shut down any hint of a Kubkowski breakout. With Darren Hulton and Brendan Kelleher manning the wings and Gabe Hastings dropping back in defense midfield, Sunapee rarely allowed the Crusaders to bother Laker netminder Justin Claus (two saves).

“I was just trying to keep depth as a sweeper; we were staying back behind them,” Nangeroni said. “All around, just good work by our defense, and our offense kept it in their zone a little bit.”

Littleton mirrored Sunapee’s game plan, assigning two and three defenders to shadow Michael Mullen, the Lakers’ 35-goal striker. Slowed to a stall by Brammer and fellow Crusader center back Christian Silviera, Mullen was limited to a half-chance each half, missing wide left on a partial breakaway in the first and seeing Finkle gobble up a 20-yard turnaround drive in the second.

Reed frequently sent probing passes either between defenders or to the flanks. Those that Littleton didn’t intercept skipped harmlessly into touch along the wet artificial turf surface.

“We knew we had to be patient,” Nangeroni said. “We knew we weren’t going to get a lot of shots inside the 18, so we were trying to take a little bit longer shots. In the end, it worked out.”

Kubkowski threw a fright into the Lakers in the first minute of overtime. The forward, who had five of the Crusaders’ 11 shot attempts, found open space on the left wing and forced a ragged save from Claus on a 20-yard bouncer. The Laker defense swooped in to clear the rebound.

Moments later, Reed had his opportunity. He didn’t disappoint, swerving his free kick from outside the right post to just inside at 84:18.

“It’s kind of a weird group in that it’s young; we’ve got a bunch of seniors, but we’ve got a bunch of sophomores, too,” Iacopino said. “It’s important for these guys to see this type of game. They’re responded really well. I’m proud of them.”

Reed had only seen such finishes in his imagination. Until Monday.

“This is huge,” Reed gushed. “I grew up cheering for kids like Brian Brewster, Ethan (Weinstein), James (Fitzgerald) and all them. To finally be in this position is so great for me.

“I remember me and Jackson, we would role-play and pretend to be those characters. We thought that we were so cool when we’d act like them. I’d just like to think that maybe there’s kids out there doing that with me if I’m doing this.”

That would be something to remember.

Free Kicks: Iacopino said he’d never coached Sunapee to a win over Littleton before Monday, although the Crusaders for many years played one class above the Lakers in the NHIAA hierarchy. … Newmarket nipped No. 4 Concord Christian in Monday’s other semifinal, 1-0. The Mules swept the Lakers in the regular season, winning 2-1 in Sunapee on Sept. 14 and 4-0 at home on Oct. 5. … Sunapee’s previous title games, all defeats, came in 1978 (Class A, Hinsdale), 1987 (Class S, Derryfield), 2011 (D-IV, Wilton-Lyndeborough) and 2013 (D-IV, Derryfield). … Kickoff at SNHU on Saturday is 11:30 a.m.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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