By Jeremy Stafford - email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- Following their 4-2 win over Briar Woods on Wednesday, the Handley Judges boys soccer team trickled out of their locker room two-by-two and headed to Winchester Medical Center, where sophomore keeper Stefano Frantellizzi was being treated for a concussion.
In the 51st minute, Frantellizzi sprinted out of the goal box for a 50-50 ball; Briar Woods forward Elliott Bostelman sprinted into the box for the same ball. They collided at the top of the box, and Bostelman got up, shaken.
Frantellizzi lay still in the grass.
"It's a violent game," Handley coach Cosmo Balio said. "Nothing against the kid, it went up, it was a bang-bang play."
A group of Briar Woods players gathered around the motionless sophomore, and one flipped Frantellizzi onto his side.
Blood trickled from Frantellizzi's bottom lip to his left ear, and Balio sprinted over to clear room for his unconscious keeper.
The Briar Woods players still cluttered the huddle around Frantellizzi, and a skirmish of shouts and shoves ensued. The Briar Woods side, enraged that its players had been touched while Handley cleared room for paramedics, called for ejections.
Balio simply wanted his keeper to wake up: "For me, the whole time, I'm thinking of Stefano," he said.
At 6:51 p.m., the paramedics arrived on the field with a backboard. Judges backup keeper Jonathan Argueta warmed up on the sideline with junior Mac O'Brien.
The Handley Bowl was silent, save for O'Brien's light shots pounding off Argueta, and for the crackle of a paramedic's radio.
Six minutes later Frantellizzi was put on a stretcher, wrapped in a white blanket and taken off the field to uncomfortable claps.
The Judges, when they congregated before play resumed, were frazzled.
"You could see it in their eyes, they were shaking," Balio said.
The Judges, not a full 24 hours removed from a 4-3 loss at Freedom, were caught in a 1-1 tie with a cold keeper against a fresh, physical Briar Woods team.
So Handley junior David Ko ensured Argueta had at least a one-goal cushion to work with.
In the 64th minute, sophomore Eduardo Santiago sent a corner kick to the low post. Ko soared above a Briar Woods player and sent a header into the near side of the goal.
"It was definitely for Stefano -- definitely," Ko said of his goal. "He is such a great player and he's a hard worker, so I just felt like we owed something to him.
"When I got it, it felt awesome."
It was Ko's second goal of the game -- his first came on a free kick in the 16th minute.
But as Handley inched further away on the scoreboard, Briar Woods became more desperate on the pitch.
Eagles forward Conner Pompilio notched his second goal on a liner in the 74th minute, and the Judges' weary legs began to fade.
Handley senior Graham Sharples, the only captain left in the backfield -- fullbacks Ian Morrison and Andrew Marut were sidelined with injuries -- was left to guide a young defense to a somber win.
He made Handley's penalty box his own, winning 50-50 balls and clearing loose through-balls.
If he wasn't the reason Handley scored four goals, he was certainly the reason Briar Woods scored only two.
"It's definitely a different type of play without the two seniors," Sharples said of Morrison and Marut. "They're great players, so we definitely needed them. But Nilesh Virmani stepped up so well, and I couldn't be more proud of him -- Levi [Stein] and Jairo [Santos], also.
"Normally I'm listening to [Marut] yell at me -- I guess it's a different type of game, I've gotta let [the younger players] know."