EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

November 7, 2013

Warden's first career goal leads Knights to North final

North Andover's defense keys thrilling win

LYNN — We can pretty much guarantee that North Andover High senior captain Jeff Warden’s surprising 40-yard blast from the right side, that went over the outstretched arms of the Concord-Carlisle goalkeeper with only 15 minutes left in the game, was the biggest goal of his high school career.

And it wasn’t simply the fact that it lifted the undefeated Knights past its state tourney rival, 1-0, and into the Div. 2 North final tomorrow is one thing.

It was also the first goal of the All-Conference (and probably All-State) defender’s exemplary career.

“It’s funny. I usually stay back on corner kicks,” said Warden. “Coach (Kyle Wood) was yelling, ‘Step up! Step up!’ So I did and the ball came right to me. I hit it has hard as I could, kept my head down, and when I looked up the ball was in the back of the net.”

This goal by Warden, as unexpected as it was, had been in the works for a few months, if not years.

“We’ve been talking about Jeff scoring a goal all season,” said Knights coach Kyle Wood. “When there is space in front of him, we want him to come up and play the ball. On that play, it’s exactly what happened.”

The game was exactly as expected — tough. Last year, North Andover beat C-C, 3-1, in the Div. 2 North Finals. Concord-Carlisle, which hadn’t lost a game since its season opener against Cambridge Rindge & Latin (1-0), seemed to have an edge, as expected, with skill.

The top-seeded Knights are noted for one of the stingiest defenses in the state, with Warden usually in the back.

“We’ve beaten them now twice, but before that we’ve had problems with them in the state tournament,” said Wood. “It is one of the well-coached, well-disciplined programs we play. They have tons of skill.”

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