It was just about 5:00 in the afternoon on October 17 when the final whistle blew and the somber Rebels walked off the field, throwing their water bottles and ferociously ripping the tape off their shin-pads. The Boys Soccer team (5-7-2) lost to their rival Wellesley 4-3 on that fall afternoon, meaning that their postseason hopes were fading away in a hurry.
That’s when their improbable run started.
“I always knew everything little thing was going to be all right,” said senior Captain Bob Ivatts. “All we needed was some momentum and confidence.”
Everything little thing was going to be all right. Sounds like that Bob Marley song that Red Sox fans grew so accustomed to hearing every time Shance Victorino walked up to the plate. Yet Ivatts was right; everything was going to be just fine.
Boys Soccer won four straight to end the regular season to qualify for the Division 2 Tournament, a tournament the Rebels knew they could do damage in.
“Having played 16 games in the Bay State League (which is mostly all Division 1 teams), we knew we could find success in the D2 tournament,” said senior Captain Colin Murray. “We just had to get in.”
It all started in the Whaling City. Last season, Boys Soccer stole a victory from No.3 New Bedford in the second round of the Division 1 Tourney with a late goal from senior AJ Chauvin. This year, the Rebels defeated No.4 Greater New Bedford Voc-tech 1-0 after a late goal from Ivatts.
Next up: rival Nauset.
“Words cannot explain how excited I was to play Nauset in the tournament,” said senior Mark Niden, who certainly caused some tension between the two teams at the Keene State soccer camp. “We were so ready to play.”
The defense gave another solid outing, this time going 100 scoreless minutes, and the Rebels got an unlikely boost in penalty kicks in a 1-0 win over No. 5 Nauset.
Ivatts scored on the first kick of the shootout and the Warriors missed over the crossbar to give Walpole the early edge. Chauvin converted his opportunity, and then senior Captain Peter Hoegler came up with a save for a 2-0 lead. Mo Young, who missed the entire season following knee surgery, went to the spot and buried his attempt for a commanding 3-0 lead.
“I was extremely happy that I could contribute,” said Young. “It was tough looking on from the sidelines all the season so making the clinching tournament PK was awesome.”
The Boys’ incredible run continued into the South Sectional Semi-Finals at Taunton High, where both soccer teams had their tournament tilts. Rebsoc’s heartbreaking OT loss meant that all the weight was on the boys to win; and they did, eliminating No. 9 Pembroke, 2-0.
Chauvin gave the Rebels the lead in the 23rd minute, getting onto a long ball played through the midfield by Bobby Ivatts. Then, senior Robbie Ellis added a second in the 64th for insurance off a pass from Bob Rabaioli, appearing to catch the Pembroke keeper either off guard or off balance while sneaking it inside the near post from the left side of the box.
The win meant that for the first time in 34 years under head coach Lee Delaney, the Walpole High Boys Soccer team would be playing for a sectional title.
“We’ve been to a bunch of semis, but never to a sectional final,” said Delaney. “We’ve always been competitive, because we’re in the Bay State League we have to do it on the road most of the time, and it’s a bugger to do it on the road. Last year, wins at Durfee, New Bedford, it wasn’t enough.
On Veteran’s Day, the Rebels made history: winning their first South Sectional Championship in school history. Chris Gallivan and Bobby Ivatts scored first-half goals to give the No.13 Rebels yet another shut-out upset against a top ranked team.
“We didn’t let up a goal throughout the sectional tournament, so I kind of felt that was the game-winner,” said Gallivan.
Four games. 340 minutes. No goals.
“Our biggest problem all season was giving up goals,” said Murray. “It is just incredible that we didn’t give up any in four games.”
Walpole proved yet again that defense wins championships; unfortunately it wasn’t enough against a very proficient Masconomet team in the state final. The Chieftains pounced on every Rebel mistake and finished their opportunities in a 4-2 victory on Thursday November 14 at the Manning Bowl in Lynn.
“I’m so proud of the team. It was great,” said Ivatts. “It was a great ride, a thrill. It’s tough to have it end like this, you’d rather go out on top, but it’s not a bad way to lose.”
In all retrospect, the Rebels made the most out of a season that was not supposed to go anywhere. Every time the boys would gain momentum, they would be hit with another form of adversity. First, Young tears his ACL in preseason, then Ivatts gets suspended, then Chauvin breaks his wrist, and then sophomore star Ian Fair tears his oblique. But with hard work and perseverance, the Rebels qualified for the tournament and won a South Sectional title—something that no other Walpole team had ever done before. And that’s what these boys, this school, and this state will remember; not the loss in the state championship.