Fresh off the bench, Leo Oliveira was thrust into the biggest moment of the season for the Milford boys’ soccer team.
With the match tied, 1-1, after 100 thrilling minutes of play against defending Division 2 state champion Nauset, the Scarlet Hawks backup keeper was tasked to man the net in penalty kicks.
Nicknamed “Cheeseburger” by his teammates, Oliveira recorded the decisive save before Gabriel Godoy sealed the win in penalty kicks (5-4) as second-seeded Milford defeated Nauset at snowy Milford High on Sunday evening.
Milford (18-0-2), which is now the only undefeated team remaining in Eastern Mass. after handing Nauset its first loss in two years, will play North champion Winchester in the Division 2 final on Saturday.
“Leo’s a funny dude, he doesn’t really get nervous, he just shows up and plays,” Milford coach Brian Edwards said.
Oliveira entered the game prior to the second overtime after starting keeper Kevin Gomes wasn’t feeling well. However, the match only got to that point because of an emphatic Nauset comeback.
After Joao Pedro Da Silva put Milford ahead in the 44th with a goal off a beautiful set piece from Leo Coelho, the top-seeded Warriors tied the match with just three minutes remaining in regulation on Ben LaBranche’s goal.
Da Silva and Coelho both left the game with injuries and did not return, but shorthanded Milford responded to the adversity and forced the penalty kick session.
“We had belief in each other, belief in ourselves, this team is very confident,” Edwards said.
All five Milford players scored in PK’s, making Oliveira’s save in the fourth round the difference.
“It’s always hard sitting on the bench in cold weather but I was ready,” Oliveira said. “My teammates knew I was going to save at least one or two. During practice we practice it for a good 30 minutes, so I was ready.”
Division 2 North
Winchester 1, Concord-Carlisle 0 — For 75 minutes, the Sachems and Patriots appeared destined for overtime and penalty kicks at chilly Manning Field, combining for just nine shots to that point in a defensive duel. But Winchester junior John DeOliveira stunned C-C with a score in the 76th minute, ultimately securing a D2 North championship for Winchester.
Winchester (14-3-5) will face Milford in the D2 state championship on Saturday.
“My boys stuck with the game plan and that’s the biggest difference from games in the past,” said Winchester coach Vin Musto. “[In the past] when things got more intense we lost our cool. That didn’t happen today. We kept our composure. We felt we really earned that one in the second half.”
The shot tally was just 2-2 in the first half, but each team had a few close calls in the second. Things tightened up in the last 15 minutes until Winchester senior Will Hofheinz sent a cross into the box. DeOliveira banged it in to give the Sachems the lead.
“It was really shocking, to be honest,” DeOliveira said. “They battled really hard the entire time, and luckily we came out on top.”
Concord-Carlisle (11-4-5) had a free kick from close range in the 78th minute, but missed. Winchester goalie Kyle Ettenhofer recorded a five-save shutout.
Division 4 North
Burke 4, Manchester Essex 0 — A lucky bounce in the opening moments kick-started a historic win for the Bulldogs.
After a failed clear by Manchester Essex led to a second chance for Burke, a shot by freshman Domingo Gomes deflected off a defender and into the goal for a 1-0 lead. From there, the fifth-seeded Bulldogs put forth a relentless effort at Manning Field in Lynn to earn the first sectional title in program history.
“We preach early pressure,” said Burke coach Joao Barro. “It worked today . . . It was a deflection, but a goal is a goal.”
The 1-0 lead carried into the half. Senior Jayvon Lopes helped break it open when he cleaned up a loose ball in the box to double the Bulldog lead with 20 minutes left.
“That really was the difference-maker in the game,” Barros said. “[Lopes] noticed that the keeper was going to his left and he shot it to his right.”
Gomes and senior Khalid Abdi added late goals.
“It means a lot as a coach, but at the end of the day it’s just about these boys,” added Barros. “They deserve it . . . We want to win a state title for the city of Boston.”
Seeking to be the first city team to win a state soccer title, the Bulldogs (17-05-1) will play South champion Cohasset (16-1-5) in a state semifinal Wednesday night (7 p.m.) at Manning Field.Matt MacCormack and Charlie Wolfson reported from Lynn.