SALEM — Josh Nadeau needed just one opportunity to make for a memorable senior season in a Hall-Dale shirt.

The Bulldog midfielder split the seam in a tight Mt. Abram back four midway through the second half, accepting a pass from Ian Stebbins and calmly finishing it off for the match’s only goal in a 1-0 Mountain Valley Conference win over the Roadrunners on Tuesday night. In a week in which the top three MVC teams all meet one another in a span of five days, Hall-Dale (6-0-1) has the early hold on conference supremacy after tying Monmouth over the weekend.

Last season, Hall-Dale similarly escaped this meeting with a 1-0 win over Mt. Abram. But the Roadrunners (6-1-0) got the better of the Bulldogs in the MVC championship.

Mt. Abram’s Evan Allen steals the ball from Hall-Dale senior Akira Warren (10) during a Mountain Valley Conference game Tuesday in Strong. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“Our goal from the beginning is to get back to (the conference championship),” Nadeau said. “This was a really big win for us. This was basically exactly what we expected. They’re one of the best teams in the MVC. They’re really good.”

The win did not come without its nervy moments for the Bulldogs, particularly over the last third of an hour.

Mt. Abram’s Kenyon Pillsbury cut to his left foot and roped a shot that Hall-Dale keeper Sam Sheaffer ushered over the crossbar in the 60th minute. In the 80th minute, Pillsbury settled calmly in the chaos inside the visitors’ 18-yard box but hit the post with a bid which had alluded everybody in a white shirt, Sheaffer included.

“I was really proud of our effort. They came out and played. They competed. They tried,” Mt. Abram coach Darren Allen said. “We don’t get any points out of it, but I think this makes us stronger in the long run. The kids see now that, hey, this is for real.”

Hall-Dale first-year coach Jesse Rowe, who played for the Bulldogs in the late 1990s, said he never wavered in his belief.

“That’s a good team, but I was never nervous,” Rowe said. “Yeah, there were moments (for Mt. Abram). I’m a Hall-Dale kid, so I trust Hall-Dale kids. That’s never going to change. I’ll side with them nine times out of 10.”

Stebbins made a beautiful effort on the deciding goal, threading through to a sprinting Nadeau with a brilliant touch to set his teammate free in the 54th minute.

From there, one-on-one with the goalkeeper, Nadeau calmly finished off the to far post with what looked like little effort. Getting to that position, though, was a different story.

Space to operate was often frustratingly difficult to find.

“They pack it in, so it was kind of hard out there,” Nadeau said. “They have a really good defense and their midfield came back a lot to help out. I just got that lucky one, I guess.”

“I couldn’t have asked for a better guy in that spot,” Rowe said. “With the storied career he’s had here, to have Josh Nadeau be a leader and step up there, it’s just a big, big moment for him and for us. Hopefully that solidifies us a a team that people will not forget is in this conference.”

Nadeau’s goal came courtesy of the Bulldogs’ lone on-target bid of the second half.

But that was typical of how the match played, especially before Hall-Dale dropped in much deeper to defend its advantage over the final 15 minutes.

The midfield was a battlefield throughout the evening, with Nadeau and his opposite number —Mt. Abram’s Evan Allen — and the center backs at both ends of the park ensuring the game would not open up much, if at all.

The early first-half chances in either direction came via restarts and set pieces.


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