FARMINGDALE — Hall-Dale High School freshman Nat Crocker is rapidly becoming the worst-kept secret in Class C soccer.

The diminutive striker scored both goals Wednesday to lead the Bulldogs to a 2-1 win against Dirigo in the quarterfinal round of the Western Class C tournament.

Third-seeded Hall-Dale (13-1-1) advances to play No. 2 Waynflete in the semifinals Saturday, while No. 6 Dirigo finishes at 11-4-0.

Crocker, who stands 5-foot-6 and weighs 115 pounds, also scored both goals in last week’s Mountain Valley Conference championship win against St. Dominic. Wednesday, he scored a goal in each half, both off of assists from his senior brother, Ben, including the game-winner with 17 minutes, 57 seconds left to play.

“Nat is probably our most composed player as a freshman,” Hall-Dale coach Andy Haskell said. “He just does everything right.”

Crocker played defense for most of the season and is still coming off the bench since moving to the front line. But when he gets into a game, he makes things happen. He nearly scored on a header 20 minutes into the first half and rang a shot off the crossbar shortly before scoring his first goal. It came right after the Cougars took a free kick in the Hall-Dale end of the field.

“We knew we had to get it by the defenders somehow, and so (Ben) just chipped it over them and I had a clear breakaway,” Crocker said.

Crocker finished his breakaway by beating Dirigo goalkeeper Caleb Turner just under the crossbar. Turner made nine saves in the first half. Not only did he rob Crocker, but he also made two diving saves against Kevin Zembroski from point-black range.

“He’s phenomenal,” Dirigo coach Jack Rioux said. “He was playing with a chip on his shoulder. He felt he should have been one of the MVC all-conference goalies, and he wasn’t.”

The Bulldogs outshot the Cougars 11-2 during the first half, but Dirigo turned things around early in the second period and tied the score just more than five minutes in. Chad Snowman got the equalizer when his shot deflected off of a Hall-Dale defender past goalie Sam Shepherd.

“It looked like it was going wide, but one of our players tried to hit it out and it ricocheted in,” Shepherd said.

Nat Crocker scored his game-winner when Ben chipped a ball over the defense from about 20 yards away.

“He’s got good pitch sense,” Nat said of his brother.

Crocker finished the pass by beating Turner to the left corner of the net. The Bulldogs finished with 14 shots on goal to four for the Cougars.

“I think their depth wore us down,” Rioux said. “He can rotate subs in, and we only go one or two deep. I know they’re extremely conditioned.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

 


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