By Tris Wykes
Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021
HANOVER – Oscar Miller’s future endeavors are wide open, as befits a Hanover High senior. After Thursday’s 2-0 boys soccer defeat of visiting Londonderry, however, it’s clear the striker has a potential future in sales.
Dribbling into the right side of the Lancers penalty area early in the second half, Miller was cut off by a defender and went down hard. Perhaps a littler harder than necessary. There was also a dramatic shout and a two-handed grab to his leg.
Tweet. Penalty shot awarded.
Miller bounced up even as an echo of the referee’s whistle hung over Merriman-Branch Field. Grinning broadly, he prepared the ball at the 12-yard stripe before calming opening his hips and knocking a low, right-footed shot inside the right post.
“They were hard on us and fouled a lot and that certainly decided the game,” the Lyme resident said. “I saw the guy coming in with his hip at me and I’m going to go down, of course. It was a foul no matter what, but I’m going to sell it.”
Miller pointed out he was legitimately dropped on several other occasions and Marauders coach Rob Grabill’s meticulous scorekeeping had the Lancers (8-4) committing 23 fouls while absorbing 16. The NHIAA Division game was decidedly physical, with shoulders and elbows and forearms deployed early and often, to say nothing of blows from the lower limbs.
“I told the players at halftime that this was going to be a game of restarts, of free kicks, and we’re going to get more than they do if we play our game,” Grabill said. “I thought we were dangerous right from the start of the second half.”
Hanover’s second goal came with 10 minutes remaining after Jacob Kubik-Pauw ran down a Becket McCurdy feed on the right wing and deep in the Lancers’ end.
Londonderry goalkeeper Jason Reilly made several outstanding saves during the afternoon, but he misjudged this ball. Coming off his line late, Reilly could only watch as Kubik-Pauw used a single, precise touch to knock a bouncer inside the far pole.
“We’re playing through the middle, we’re passing more quickly and we’re getting our passing patterns downs,” said Miller, whose team hit the crossbar and posts several times but improved to 9-2-1. “It’s been really effective for us.
“It was a tight one and there could have been more goals. I think the usage of our wide players could be a bit better, but overall, I really like the way we’re playing right now.”
Grabill was pleased his team didn’t retreat to its side of the center stripe after Miller’s goal.
“A nice, solid, businesslike win,” the coach said. “No mistakes in the back and I was never really worried about us conceding a goal. We were patient, especially waiting for that second goal.
“The best way to hold onto a one-goal lead is to work on getting goal number two. We took the game to them and didn’t sit back. It was entertaining.”
Hanover’s victory pushed it up to third place in the division standings. The top four teams out of 16 postseason participants receive home field advantage through quarterfinals. Nashua South (11-0), which beat visiting Hanover, 1-0, on Sept. 13, is atop the table, with Manchester Central (11-1) second and Manchester Memorial (8-2-1) fourth.
The Marauders visit fifth-place Dover (9-3) on Tuesday and host Central three days later. A trip to clash with Bishop Guertin (3-9) on Oct. 19 is followed by the regular-season finale against visiting Winnacunnet (7-4) on Oct. 21.
“Finishing in the top four is everything,” Grabill said.
Notes: Hanover played without central defender Palmer Okai, who’s nursing an injured knee. He joined Zane Schiffman among the walking wounded. The senior wing was on crutches and Grabill said he expects him to miss a couple of weeks. “We can afford to be really careful with injured kids because we have a lot of depth,” the coach said… Senior Murphy Hunt leads the Marauders with five goals and five assists while Miller has six goals and an assist. Nolon has allowed seven goals while appearing in 11 contests and his goals-against average is 0.63… Kubik-Pauw unleashed a shot off the post roughly 15 seconds into the game… Londonderry defender Pat Tewksbury has a tattoo of what appears to be a rose-wrapped sword on the inside of his right forearm.
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