PROVIDENCE --- Jeff Craven tormented Shea High again on Friday night, but this time, the Barrington High senior standout victimized the Raiders on the biggest stage of the season -- the Division I championshp game.
Craven netted a pair of first-half goals and the Eagles’ superb defense did its part to fend off the high-scoring Raiders’ assault the rest of the way en route to a 2-1 win and the team’s record 11th state title at Rhode Island College.
The Eagles, who are 11-1 in championship games in their 46-year existence, have enjoyed a marvelous three-year run that saw them win the Division I title in 2008 and post a 50-4-7 record during that time, but that 50th triumph didn’t come without the Eagles having to survive a tough battle with the Raiders.
“It was a great game,” Shea coach Pierre Ridore remarked. “You had two very good teams doing battle and they came out on top, so congratulations to them. (It was) well deserved. We did not hand them the championship -- they had to work their butt off for it and they did.”
For the third time this year, the second-seeded Raiders (14-2-5) were unable to net a win over the Eagles (17-0-4), who concluded their first undefeated season since 1995.
Both teams battled to a 1-1 draw in their Oct. 2 meeting at Max Read Field, but the Eagles finally pinned a loss on the Raiders in their Oct. 18 rematch at Victory Field, winning by a 2-0 score on a pair of early goals by Craven, whose two goals on Friday gave him 30 for the season and helped him win the tournament’s MVP award.
“I’m going to be very happy to see him graduate,” Ridore said with a smile. “He’s a special player. Even when you cover him, he still finds a way to get loose and put the ball in the net.”
Craven’s first goal came at the 11th minute off a long throw-in by co-captain Brett Sullivan, the state’s leader in assists with 27.
Sullivan heaved the ball into the middle of the penalty area to Craven, who gathered the ball, wheeled around a Raider defender, and blasted a low shot past Shea keeper Julio Garcia and into the lower left corner of the net.
Four minutes later, the Raiders evened the score on a 25-yard free kick from sophomore Julio Ramos, who lined his shot over a wall of players and to the left of the dive of net minder Andrew Jones.
But Craven struck again at the 27th minute on a nice chip pass by Allesandro Guani. The pass sailed past a Shea defender and Garcia and went right to Craven near the right post, and Craven easily slid the ball into the back of the net.
“We let up a couple of easy goals -- goals we could have done something about,” added Ridore. “Miscommunications happened, people weren’t being covered, and they did their job to put the ball in the net.”
The Raiders nearly tied the score with five minutes to play in the half during a scramble for the ball in front of the Eagles’ net after a corner kick.
One of the Raiders caught Jones away from the goal and tried to tap the shot into an open net, but Eagles defender Christian Eggllin came out of nowhere to boot the ball away.
The Raiders continued to apply heavy pressure in the Eagles’ end of the turf during the first 15 minutes of the second half, but on quite a few occasions, they were unable to finish their opportunities.
Two close calls stood out among the bunch. In the opening minutes, striker Emerson Barros tried to slide a shot past Jones on a 2-on-1 breakaway with Anildo Amado, but his shot sailed past the front of the net, and 11 minutes into play, Ramos smacked a 30-yard line drive that just missed the top left corner of the net.
Garcia also had a handful of big saves to keep the contest a one-goal affair, none bigger than the stop he made with less than 19 minutes to play on a laser just inside the penalty area by Craven that he batted away with a dive to his left.
Barros, who concludes the season with 24 goals, but none in the three games against the Eagles, was named to the All-Tournament squad, as did Amado and Joao Cardoso.
It was a tough ending to a marvelous first season in the Division I ranks, but Shea could very well be back at RIC next November vying for another title. Only four seniors, Gerson Gomes, Luckson Omoaregba, Alex Contreras and Sebastian Estriplet, are graduating.
“We will definitely have a lot of players back next year,” said Ridore. “Like I just told the guys, ‘This is a minor setback. We’re going to let this drive us to do better next year.’ That’s the way I’m wired, and that’s how I’m trying to get those guys wired. I could cry about it. It’s spilled milk. What’s done is done, but now we have to work harder for 2011.”
Shea 1 - 0 -- 1
Barrington 2 - 0 -- 2
First half: B -- Jeff Craven (Brett Sullivan), 10:58; S -- Julio Ramos (unassisted), 15:14; B -- Jeff Craven (Allesandro Guani), 27:09.
Second half: No scoring.
Shots on goal: Shea 9, Barrington 11. Goalie saves: S -- Julio Garcia (9 saves), B -- Andrew Jones (8 saves).