Assistant Sports Editor
BENNINGTON -- 79 minutes, 55 seconds.
That is how long it took for the Burr and Burton Academy Bulldogs to find the winning goal against the Mount Anthony Union High School Patriots in the final of the John James tournament on Saturday night.
With just five seconds left in the game, BBA senior Reid Conde was looking for a shot inside the MAU penalty area, but as he tried to manuver for position he went to ground under contact. The referee pointed to the penalty spot, and sophomore Wes Lord was able to put his shot past MAU goalie Pat Cody to give the Bulldogs a memorable 3-2 win.
"I've been in three of these," Conde said. "And none have felt like this."
"I don't think we played our best," MAU coach Mike Molloy said. "We were playing not to lose, [instead of] going for the win."
It was a game that was worthy of the occasion. The Patriots and Bulldogs fought tooth-and-nail to try and find an edge over each other.
But every time the Patriots hit out, the Bulldogs found an answer.
"It's the James," BBA coach Peter Mull said. "Anything can happen, and it usually does."
The first goal of the game went to Mount Anthony and came on 19 minutes played.
Awarded a corner, junior Brad Anair whipped a cross into the area that teammate Matt Upright was able to meet with his head, and Upright directed his shot high and over the arms of BBA keeper Adam Maitland.
Ten minutes later, and the Bulldogs would find their first equalizer.
Sophomore Jacob Bazyk put a long cross into the MAU penalty area. Cody came up to try and snatch the ball out of harms way, but found himself caught up with a BBA attacker. As the ball bounced away from Cody, Lord was able to use his head to score the first of his two goals on the night.
Before the half ended, both teams were able to create a few worrying chances.
The Patriots saw two, the first when Anair played a ball in to junior Briar Wilkinson, but Maitland was up to the challenge and saved Wilkinson's shot. Junior Marcus LaFlamme would also get a shot in on net late in the half off a free kick, but Maitland again came up with the save.
For the Bulldogs, junior Sam Anglum put fellow junior Bowie Pugliese in on goal with a nice pass, but Patriots defender Nick Altland was able to track back and make a sliding clearance to end the danger.
After the restart, it took the Patriots five minutes to grab the lead again.
This time, Anair did all of the work himself. After the Patriots were awarded a free kick just outside the penalty area, Anair stepped up and curled his effort inside the left post.
"He is in control of things," Molloy said of Anair. "In the first half I thought we went away from getting him the ball. In the second, I thought he controlled play a lot more. I thought he was the MVP of the tournament."
The Bulldogs, though, were not going to be denied another.
"We are a young team and have a lot of injuries," Conde said. "But we come out and nothing matters. Go a goal down, doesn't matter. Everyone's heads are up, everone is going for it."
First it was Lord trying to test Cody. Taking a free kick just outside the Area, Lord put the ball on net but Cody was able to come off his line and punch the ball clear.
But that was just the start of the pressure.
The Bulldogs' second equalizer came off of an amazing individual effort.
Conde, receiving the ball just outside the area, dribbled his way around, through, and inbetween four MAU defenders. Still keeping the ball with him, Conde was able to create enough space to toe a shot past Cody and into the net to make it 2-2.
"At some point in the game, Reid decided he was going to take over," Mull said. "That second goal was sheer willpower."
After that goal, the game opened up.
BBA, pushing a defender up to the midfield to add more bodies in attack, saw a golden chance come up short when Pugliese slid a ball in to Peter Oh in the middle of the area. With Cody off his line, Oh tried to put his boot through the ball and into the gaping net, but just missed getting his foot on the ball.
MAU senior Dylan Prazak then came close to giving the Patriots the lead again, as he narrowly missed beating Maitland to a ball high in the air. Minutes later, and LaFlamme came a half-foot away from beating Maitland to a rolling ball in the box.
But just when it seemed like extra time was coming, Conde earned the penalty.
When Lord stepped up to take the kick, he stared down Cody, saw him go left, and dinked a shot to the right to give his team the 3-2 edge.
After the game, both coaches talked about having to move on.
"This one will hurt for a little while," Molloy said. "The question is how we bounce back."
Mull said that his team could not rest on the victory.
"You have to go back to work on Monday...We are looking forward to getting Andrew [Gayda] and Liam [Kelleher] back. We still haven't quite put the team together yet."
MAU falls to 2-2 on the year, while BBA improves to 3-2. BBA's win gives them a three-peat of James titles. The offensive MVP award went to Conde, while the defensive MVP award went to BBA's Colin McLeish.