LANGDON — Conant junior Noah Mertzic had a chance to make history — and he delivered.
His goal in the 34th minute of Wednesday night’s 1-0 win over Fall Mountain sent the Conant boys soccer team to the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III tournament for the first time in the program’s 47-year history.
“It feels amazing,” Mertzic said. “We put so much work into this team and you can feel the payoff now. It’s a great feeling. I can’t really describe it.”
The goal came late in the first half, from one of the rare scoring opportunities that either team could muster up in the first 40 minutes.
“We were struggling getting started,” said Conant head coach Tom Harvey. “It seemed like we came out awfully slow tonight. We really needed to find a spark, and that spark gave us some energy.”
Freshman Thomas Harvey, on a fast break toward the net, found Mertzic running stride-for-stride with him through the Fall Mountain defenders in the offensive third of the field.
“That was a really good play there,” Mertzic said. “Tommy sent it down the line to me, I took it in, kept my composure, cut it right past one of the (defenders) and then put it bottom corner. I was really proud of that goal.”
Harvey knows the value of having a guy like Mertzic on your team. The junior leads the team in goals this season — most of which have come at crucial moments.
“He’s had some key goals,” Harvey said. “So we’ve been very fortunate.”
Though none has been more key than the one on Wednesday.
“They’re writing the history books,” Harvey said. “They’re writing it down right now.”
Defensively, Conant subdued Fall Mountain’s offense, thanks in part to junior goalie Garrett Somero, who made some important saves, particularly late in the game, to help seal the victory.
“He’s a big, strong kid,” Harvey said. “He has all the attributes of a great goalie. It’ll help us play in these close games.”
Somero missed most of the season, but was a major factor in the playoff win.
“It was exciting to see him come and play a whole game,” Harvey said. “His ability to stay in for the whole game is key for us.”
Much of the first half was a deadlock between the two teams, scoring opportunities were scarce. It was clear that whoever took advantage of a defensive mistake first would get the upper hand. And it was Mertzic who found a weak spot in an otherwise stout Fall Mountain defense.
“We were solid as a whole defensively,” said Fall Mountain head coach Justin Parrott. “I just thought one miscommunication led to the goal.”
Sometimes that’s all it takes.
Junior Brayden Ring stepped up in net for the Wildcats, making key saves throughout the game. Mertzic's goal just barely got past Ring's outstretched arm.
“Brayden is always solid for us,” Parrott said. “He makes those easy saves that he should make and always comes up with one or two big saves. He played very well.”
Waiting for Conant in the next round is Trinity High School. They’ll play Saturday in Manchester for a trip to the semifinals.