WILMINGTON – Stephen Sheppard’s goal with 2:56 remaining gave Bishop Denis J. O’Connell High School of Arlington, Va., a 6-5 victory over host Salesianum on Tuesday afternoon at Baynard Stadium. Salesianum tried valiantly to get the equalizer in the final minutes but was unable to sneak one past Knights goalkeeper Justin Fitzsimmons.
Sheppard took a pass across the crease and beat Sallies keeper Ryan Kern. Sheppard was bumped during the play and took the shot from his knees at a harsh angle.
Salesianum kept the pressure on after the goal. The team’s best chance to tie occurred with less than 10 seconds to go. Garrett Cannon intercepted an O’Connell pass from behind the net. Cannon fed Liam Mackenzie in front of Fitzsimmons, but Mackenzie’s attempt was wide to the keeper’s right. Fitzsimmons blocked a follow-up. The Sals had one last chance on an inbounds pass from behind the midfield line with 2.1 seconds left. The ball fell harmlessly to the grass and the horn sounded.
Salesianum, ranked first in Delaware, began the game on fire, controlling the ball throughout the first quarter while racking up a 4-0 lead. Cannon scored on the team’s first shot less than two minutes into the contest. The Sals added two more goals within a minute later in the first as Mackenzie tallied with 9:34 to go, and Andrew Witherell followed 32 seconds later.
O’Connell settled down after that, but Witherell found the net a second time with just 15.2 seconds left in the first. Salesianum took a 4-0 lead after one quarter.
It was a different story after that as O’Connell took control. Kern made a few saves on an O’Connell power play early in the second, but Michael Armor got the Knights on the board midway through the second. By halftime, the home team’s lead had been cut to 4-3.
The comeback continued after intermission. O’Connell finally took the lead, scoring twice in 66 seconds to go up, 5-4. Salesianum had several chances to tie, but did not until Michael Drake beat Fitzsimmons through the five-hole with 1:16 left in the quarter. That was the last goal until Sheppard hit paydirt.
The Sals lost their second straight game and fell to 3-2. They are back in action Thursday at 1 p.m. against Canisius High School of Buffalo, N.Y., at Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore. Salesianum will play just five in-state opponents this season, including St. Mark’s twice. The Sals and Spartans will battle for the first time on April 15 at 7:15 p.m. at St. Mark’s.