Merrimack pushes Timberlane to limit, but falls

PLAISTOW – These 12 Merrimack High boys soccer seniors played the game with grit, passion and commitment, changing a culture and raising the bar for the program.

Wednesday afternoon, it came to a heart-breaking end for them after nearly 98 minutes as the 10th-seeded Tomahawks fell to Timberlane, 2-1, in double overtime of the Division I first-round playoff.

Merrimack finished the year at 8-8-1, another step forward as the dozen walks away.

“A couple years ago we came into a culture that had not had lot of success, they wanted to change that,” said coach Mark Papp. “They were willing to work harder in training. They worked in the offseason. Over last couple years they went from winning three games to five games to eight this year. “And we’re hoping the future continues to trend in that direction. We have a strong junior class. We have a lot of kids at the JV level we think can step into influential roles next year.”

One of those seniors, goalkeeper John Goodwin turned in a huge final performance, including a pair of diving saves in the second half with the No. 7 Owls already up 1-0 that could have ended things.

He certainly gave his team a chance, despite a very slow start.

“We knew, playoff atmosphere, we hadn’t been in a playoff game in a few years,” said Papp. “We knew coming in that the home team was going to have energy, and they certainly did. I felt we settled into the game, and from there it was kind of back-and-forth.”

Down 1-0 on Jacob Stewart’s first-half goal for Timberlane, Merrimack regrouped and

finally got going.

At times with guys like Johnathan Paulhamus, Andreas Ramos and Carter Sherman doing yeoman work, the Tomahawks

carried play.

Merrimack was rewarded with just over 22 minutes left in regulation Jay Wozniak broke through the Timberlane defense and headed a ball that caromed off the post, off a Timberlane defender and in for the 1-1 tie.

Energized, the Tomahawks weren’t done, but as they seemed to get physically stronger, they just couldn’t finish.

“We had a couple of big time chances and their keeper (Demetri Kakouris) came up with some good stops,” said Papp. “Our fitness was where it needed to be, unfortunately we didn’t execute. It’s a credit to them, they

played hard.”

As the overtime began, it was pretty even through a scoreless 10.

Like the last time these teams met in the playoffs (2015 won by Merrimack), this one appeared to be headed to penalty kicks.

But with 2:07 left to play, the Owls countered a Merrimack corner kick, moved the possession up the field and delivered the season-ender from a scrum out in front of Goodwin.

Timberlane now advances to meet second-seeded Manchester Central in the quarterfinals on Saturday