Just 10 seconds into the 2018 season, the Nauset Regional boys’ soccer team trailed Somerville, a perennial Division 1 power, 1-0.
Not exactly the start the Warriors were shooting for after the graduation of 12 players, including All-American forward James McCully , a 31-goal scorer his senior season.
John McCully , in his 20th season as head coach, knew his squad needed a “reshaping” after the departure of his son (now at the University of New Hampshire) and others. But he stuck with his time-tested approach, emphasizing chemistry, organization, and discipline. And thus far, the Warriors (13-0) are humming along with a balanced attack minus a 30-goal scorer.
In the opener, Nauset stuck to the plan, rallying from a 2-1 halftime deficit for an impressive 4-2 win.
“We scored in the first 10 seconds and we were up 2-1 at half,” said Somerville coach George Scarpelli. “[Nauset] never stopped fighting. It was humbling.”
And 13 games into the season, Nauset has recorded 13 wins, rising to No. 1 in the Globe’s Top 20 poll. The Warriors have done it with rock-solid defense and goalkeeping, in addition to an unselfish offense.
“Everybody on our team knows we don’t have that guy this year, that 30-goal-scorer we can bank on to do it all,” said Curtis Moore, a senior captain. “Nobody is greedy on this team. If you have a situation where someone could shoot the ball and be greedy, or pass it for a better chance to score, he’s more likely to pass it.”
McCully said this may not be his best team — his 2016 squad allowed one goal the entire season in winning the Division 2 title —
but “it’s the most hard-working.”
With Saturday’s 2-0 win over Falmouth, Nauset clinched its eighth consecutive Atlantic Coast League title. At no point did the roster turnover affect their poise and execution on the field, as evidenced by their season-opening comeback.
“We didn’t really look at that as a big deal,” Moore said of Somerville’s early goal.
“We knew how good we were.”
Scarpelli said that it was good “that our guys saw that team. That’s a highly professional program. They prepared like a college team. It was good that we saw what it takes to be a state champion.”
That professionalism is a byproduct of McCully’s methodical focus on discipline and organization.
“We show up on time,” he said. “We avoid [red and yellow] cards. We warm up in an organized manner, like a professional team would. I’m trying to build this organized, disciplined structure.”
McCully’s players say he gets the best out of them.
“[McCully] is a hard coach, he expects a lot,” said Ben LaBranche , a sophomore midfielder. “But he knows we can do great things and he helps us get there.”
In a 3-2 win over Marshfield on Oct. 10, the Warriors allowed a goal in an Atlantic Coast League game for the first time in five years.
“Our goal is to possess the ball and go forward,” said Abdel Talabi, another senior captain who starts in the back alongside Moore. “We always want to be strong on defense. We always say if the other team can’t score, they can’t beat us.”
Talabi and Moore, starters since sophomore year, anchor the back line in front of keeper Jack Avellar. New to the starting defensive corps this year are senior Nolan Ellard and sophomore Ethan Boyle, both whom have slid into the role nicely, Talabi said. The unit has allowed just six goals all year (eight shutouts).
For all the talk of defense, the Warriors have been scoring at an impressive clip, too. Their 3.77 goals per game is by far the best in the ACL, about 1.4 more than the next team (Sandwich, at 9-3-1).
LaBranche is instrumental in converting the back line’s stout defensive play into offensive chances for the team’s young corps of forwards.
“My main role is to get the ball and to find a forward,” LaBranche said.
The defensive mentality doesn’t slip his mind, though: “I’m a defensive mid, so I defend first and then play up.”
Moore often finds ways to impact the score sheet from the back. The defender is remarkably among the team’s leading scorers (nine goals, seven assists).
“[Coach] wants us to get up the field and attack, and take chances when they’re available,” Moore said. “I’d consider myself to be pretty fast. I think coach sees it as a weapon, and wants me to use it.”
After the ball gets through midfield, it often finds senior forward Avery Santoro, who leads the team’s newly-balanced attack with 11 goals and six assists.
To a man, the Nauset boys’ soccer team attributed their success this season to their camaraderie. “I think that’s why we’re good,” Talabi said, plainly.
The Warriors eat team meals together before every game, either at a restaurant or at a player’s house. Upperclassmen offer rides to underclassmen, which McCully said helps to break down any social barriers between age groups.
“We’ll get food and sit down, and we’ll just eat, talk and have a good time,” Talabi said, the same day they dined on chicken parmesan in advance of their league-clinching win over Falmouth.
■ Carver was one of the state’s last unbeaten teams before falling to South Shore League rival Cohasset, 1-0, on Tuesday. The Crusaders, who returned every player from a team that went 11-6 a season ago, kicked off the fall with a 6-0-3 record.
“With everybody being extremely young and getting a lot of experience last year, coming into this season we hit the ground running,” coach Mark Alessandri said.
Sophomores Mike Sawicki (11 goals, 5 assists) and Dominic Craig (9 goals, 4 assists), and senior captain Cole Berry (7 goals, 4 assists) pace the attack. Carver has scored five goals three times and seven goals twice this fall.
Craig scored four goals in a win over Abington and has scored two goals three separate times. Meanwhile, Sawicki has two hat tricks and Berry has one.
“The familiarity really has benefited our team in the higher scoring games,” Alessandri said. “Craig and Sawicki both started at forward as freshman and they built up a really strong partnership. They usually assist each other goals so when the two of them work well together we’re really hard to guard.”
Upcoming road matchups against Mashpee and No. 12 Norwell will be key if the Crusaders want to capture the South Shore Tobin Division title.
■ No. 18 Norton had quite the week in the Tri-Valley League, defeating previously unbeaten Medway and Holliston in a three-day span. The Lancers (9-1-1) avenged a 4-0 loss in the season opener by defeating the No. 18 Mustangs, 3-2, on Wednesday before knocking off No. 19 Holliston, 2-1, Friday on the road. The three teams are now in a first-place tie.
■ In the City League, it continues to be a two-team race between Burke and East Boston. The two teams tied, 1-1, on Tuesday to stay deadlocked in the standings. Burke (7-1-1) has just one loss this season, a 4-0 defeat to Watertown, while East Boston is 6-0-2.
Players of the Week
Will Clifford, Arlington —
In the No. 8 Spy Ponders’ impressive 1-0 win at BC High on Saturday, the senior midfielder scored the go-ahead goal with 13 minutes left.
Mauro Cardoso Damoura , Burke — The sophomore helped the Bulldogs (7-1-1) stay atop the City League standings, recording a hat trick in a 4-0 shutout win over Snowden.
Anyolo Makatiani, Middlesex — The junior delivered two goals, including the winner in the 90th minute in a pivotal 3-2 win over Independent School League rival Groton on Friday, keeping the Zebras unbeaten (9-0-1). Makatiani also tallied two goals a 7-0 win on Wednesday over Governor’s.
Michael McDougald, Cohasset — The senior scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over previously-unbeaten Carver on Tuesday and then recorded three assists in the Skippers’ 6-2 victory over Abington on Thursday.
Delmer Romero, Chelsea — The electrifying junior continued his torrid season, scoring two goals in a 5-1 win over Northeast Regional and providing the go-ahead strike with 20 minutes left to propel the Red Devils (9-0-2) in a 2-1 win over Shawsheen.
Games to watch
Brockton at New Bedford, Tuesday (6 p.m.) — The defending state champion Boxers (4-4-3) have not won a match since Sept. 13th. Now they face a tough Whaler team (4-3-3) on the road with second place in the Big Three up for grabs. They tied the first match of the season, 1-1.
St. John’s Prep at BC High, Wednesday (5:45 p.m.) — The best of the Catholic Conference square off with the league title at stake. Both are unbeaten in conference play and they tied 1-1 in the first meeting back in late September.
Holliston at Medway, Wednesday (6:45 p.m.) — The Tri-Valley League is a three-team race. And in their lone matchup of the regular season, these two programs will try to keep pace with Norton.
Lynnfield at Masco, Friday (3:45 p.m.) — Winners of eight in a row, the No. 10 Chieftains (11-2) can gain the inside track to the Cape Ann League Kinney Division title with a win over No. 15 Lynnfield (12-1-1). Masco won the first meeting, 5-1.
Burke at Danvers, Saturday (4 p.m.) — An intriguing nonleague matchup, the best team in the City travels north for test against a talented Falcons team that is 4-1-2 in its last seven matches.
Charlie Wolfson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Correspondent Matt Doherty also contributed to this story.