Given the success of Cape Ann high school sports teams in the 2018-19 school year, which concluded on June 22 in the state finals, its no surprise that there were several memorable games played in all three seasons. From overtime thrillers, to close games with championships on the line and nail-biting regular season games with great significance, all three Cape Ann schools delivered.
Here's a look at some of Cape Ann's best games, in no particular order.
Gloucester vs. Triton softball, Division 2 North Finals, June 15
This isn't the last time we will see Gloucester softball on this list as its run to the Division 2 State Championship Game was filled with epic games. But we will start off with the wild and crazy Division 2 North Final against Triton at Martin Field in Lowell.
Triton is not your conventional softball team as it earned the No. 1 seed in the section by out-slugging opponents, something rarely seen when teams venture deep into the state tournament, where pitching usually takes over.
The Vikings came in with one of if not the best batting lineup in all of Division 2, and Gloucester matched them hit-for-hit in a roller coaster ride of a game. Back and forth they went for six innings with Gloucester jumping out to an early lead, and Triton chipping away at it all day and eventually tying the score at 6-6 after six.
Triton looked to have momentum after holding No. 2 Gloucester scoreless in the seventh and sending its four, five and six hitters to the plate the next inning. But Gloucester pitcher Sydney McKay got the side in order to send it to extras.
The first six innings were wild enough, but the game took another crazy turn in the seventh, where Gloucester went to its bread-and-butter; small ball. Jenna Hoofnagle led off with a single and that's what Gloucester needed to get started. What followed was an incredibly executed barrage of bunts and baserunning that put more pressure on the Vikings defense than they could handle.
Freshman Natalie Aiello bunted home what turned out to be the game-winning run when pinch runner Rachel Rallo beat a throw to the plate. Four more bunts and a hit batsmen followed and Gloucester had the lead up to 10-6. The Fishermen would score four more times in the inning, both on bunts and base hits from senior captains Tracy Wood and Liz Schuster, to grab a 14-6 lead and the Division 2 North championship.
It was possibly the closest eight run game one will ever see, one with unbelievable twists and turns to go along with stellar play on the field.
Manchester Essex vs. Bromfield girls lacrosse, Division 2 State Semifinals, June 18
The spring was such a great season so let's stay right there with a one-goal nail-biter at Babson College that helped Manchester Essex reach its first ever state championship game.
This one saw the Hornets pull off a dramatic comeback, capped off with a masterful final 10 minutes where they held onto a one-goal lead.
Manchester Essex started strong, but Bromfield started to control the game in the latter stages of the first half and early stages of the second half, building a 9-6 lead with 23:30 to go in the second half.
It looked like it might be a repeat of the season opening game between the two teams, a 13-9 Bromfield win. But Manchester Essex had other plans and mounted a comeback, scoring five of the next six goals, with Abby Lantz scoring twice to tie it and Brigid Edgerton notching the go-head goal with 9:53 to go to make it 11-10.
Just under 10 minutes is an eternity in girls lacrosse, a high scoring game where momentum can switch in a heart beat. But it was enough time for the Hornets to control the game with possession, and a few big stops from goalie Bella Pomeroy, to salt away the time for a one-goal win.
Bleeding clock is a risky strategy, but the Hornets were so good at it they made it work three games in a row to get to the State Finals.
Gloucester vs. Manchester Essex field hockey, Division 2 North Semifinals, November 7
Two Cape Ann teams met in an epic sectional semifinal at Reading High School where the level of skill on the field was off the charts and the game could not be decided until a shootout.
Gloucester entered as the No. 2 seed in the section and Manchester Essex the No. 3 seed, and the two teams were evenly matched, which led to scoreless a stalemate for 80 minutes.
The defenses were able to keep the opposing offenses off the scoreboard, but that does not mean there was not plenty of offensive talent on display. Both teams earned quality scoring chances thanks to incredible team play and individual efforts, but each time it was met with equally strong play and individual effort from the opposing defense and goalie.
Gloucester controlled the ebb and flow early, Manchester Essex adjusted and started to control in the overtime periods, but it still remained scoreless and the teams went to a shootout.
The shootout format was changed for the better in the sport this year as the shooter has 10 seconds to score on the goalie. The teams traded goals early with Cate Delaney and Jemima Grow scoring for Gloucester while Lily Athanas and Annika Dahlin finding the back of the net for Manchester Essex. But Hornets goalie Christina Calandra stopped the next two bids while Christina Bullock and Isabel Amigo scored to give them the 4-2 win in the shootout, 1-0 being the final score.
This game showed off just how fine the line is between the thrill of victory and agony of defeat. Both teams were state championship caliber teams and turned in a game that was as well played as it can get.
Gloucester vs. Lynn Classical football, Week 5, September 29
There really can't be a game of the year list on Cape Ann without a Gloucester vs. Lynn Classical football game on it.
Gloucester dominated in the postseason on its way to the Division 4 North championship last fall, but its toughest test and toughest win came all the way back in Week 4 at Manning Field against arch rival Lynn Classical.
The two rivals, which were the top two teams in Tier 2 of the NEC last fall, have a knack for turning in memorable games that are decided on the last play, and the 2018 version of the rivalry was no different.
Lynn Classical, which was led by Boston College bound quarterback Keith Ridley, who has a monster arm, and Nashaun Butler, a dominant deep threat on the outside, took a 16-6 lead at the half and looked to be in control of the game.
But Gloucester's game was to wear down opponents with constant physicality, and that started to pay dividends in the second half as Gloucester battled back to take an 18-16 lead after three. Classical grabbed the lead back, 22-18, and looked to be well on its way to a win, marching towards midfield in the final four minutes.
A Daylon Lark interception, however, gave Gloucester the ball back and set up an improbable final drive.
After a 37-yard burst from Jan Pena-Ortiz, quarterback James Nelson hit Marc Smith inside the Rams 10 on a big third down completion up the right seam. The Classical defense held strong from there, though, and Gloucester faced a 4th-and-goal from the nine yard line in the final seconds of play.
For the do-or-die play, Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli listened to his players and called a reverse to the left, which Smith took in for the game-winning-touchdown behind perfect blocking to leave Manning Field with a 26-22 win.
Gloucester vs. Danvers boys basketball, Division 2 North First Round, February 27
No team ever wants to see a conference opponent in the early stages of the state basketball tournament, especially as the higher seeded team. Nevertheless, No. 5 Gloucester drew conference rival Danvers, the No. 12 seed in the section that squeaked into the tournament at 10-10 and was blown out by Gloucester by 50 points in a regular season meeting at the Smith Field House.
The second meeting at the Smith Field House, however, was very different as the Falcons knew what they had to correct and put together a great game plan which revolved around stopping Gloucester's two prolific scorers, Marcus Montagnino and Ben Oliver.
Danvers was able to turn this game into a defensive grind with extra attention on those two scorers, particularly Oliver, who could not move without at least one, more than likely two, Falcons defender right in his hip pocket.
Senior Matt Montagnino, Gloucester's third leading scorer in the regular season at just under 10 points per game, stepped up in a big way with a game-high 31 points, each one needed for a Fishermen win.
Gloucester had a five-point lead with just over two minutes to play, but Danvers tied it by the end of regulation, putting a serious scare in the higher seed.
But the host Fishermen proved to have more in the tank at the end, finishing the overtime period on a 13-2 run to snatch a 67-58 victory.
The Fishermen were on upset alert against a prepared team, but they had enough heart on both ends of the floor to hold them off in a tense nail-biter.
Rockport vs. Hamilton-Wenham boys soccer, October 25
There was a lot on the line in the late regular season at Ryan-Curley Field with the Vikings needing a win to reach the postseason and the Generals needing a win, or at least a tie, to stay in the Cape Ann League Baker Division race.
What ensued was a stalemate that forced both teams to dig as deep as they possibly could to reach the desired outcome.
The first half, and first 30 minutes of the second half, saw both teams canceling each other out with quick punches and counterpunches. Scoring chances were tough to come by as both defenses were stout and the tension started to build as the game wore on as both teams desperately needed a win.
Finally, with a little over 10 minutes to play, the Vikings finally found some room and they converted. Andrew Guelli found the back of the net to give the Vikings momentum, but the game was far from over.
Needing a goal to keep their CAL Baker championship hopes alive, Hamilton-Wenham turned the tides and earned some quality chances in the final 10 minutes. Rockport goalie Camden Wheeler came up huge, including a diving stab in the final four minutes on a shot that looked like a sure goal, to preserve the win.
The win propelled Rockport into the state tournament, where it won a game before falling to the eventual sectional champ, St. Mary's. The late October meeting showcased everything that makes CAL soccer great, and Rockport's heart won out in the end.
Manchester Essex vs. Lowell Catholic baseball, Division 4 North Semifinals, June 10
The Manchester Essex baseball team's run to its first ever state championship was dominant late, as the Hornets won their final three postseason games by a combined score of 28-5. But the early stages of the tournament were very difficult and the eventual state champs had to fight through two high quality teams in the sectional quarterfinals and semifinals.
The most difficult win was a 4-2 victory over Lowell Catholic in the Division 4 North Semifinals at Haverhill Stadium.
The two teams came in with state tournament history as Lowell Catholic defeated the Hornets in the Division 4 North Finals in 2017. The No. 6 seed in the section got back to the sectional finals in 2018 and are always around deep in Division 4 North.
Manchester Essex, the No. 3 seed, was a long way away from a state title at the time and turned in a stellar all around performance in an eventual 4-2 win at Memorial Field.
The Hornets bats came out early with three runs in the bottom of the first inning, a two RBI hit from Mike Quill and a RBI hit from Harry Painter the damaging blows.
Lowell Catholic, however, hung around all night and settled down to hold the Manchester Essex bats scoreless over the final five innings of play.
Manchester Essex, however, showed off its pitching depth to earn the win. Dylan Wilson allowed two runs in four innings, and freshman Kellen Heney took over in the fifth with Manchester Essex holding onto a two-run lead. He allowed three hits in those final three innings and survived a couple of scary moments to hold on for the big win.
That was a big hurdle for Manchester Essex to get through as it was facing a perennial powerhouse in the section and really needed to get past that opening game after being upset in 2018. The win over Lowell Catholic may have been early on, but it set the stage for what was to come and the Hornets only got better as the tournament went deeper.
Gloucester vs. Norton softball, Division 2 State Semifinals, June 19
Gloucester softball finds its way onto this list twice and for good reason. While this game did not have the drastic momentum swings and the intense action that the aforementioned win over Triton had, but it was more nerve racking as the game seemed to hang in the balance on every pitch.
This game was much more conventional as pitching and defense ruled with McKay dueling Norton's Sofia Knopf.
It was Knopf that looked to be in control early as Norton busted out 2-0 lead after two innings with Knopf simply blowing away the heart of the Gloucester lineup.
McKay, however, was nails the rest of the way and adjusted to the Norton lineup, not allowing another run while the offense started to chip away.
Tracy Wood singled in a run in the third inning to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Knopf, however, was still in control and did not appear to be in a lot of trouble when Jenna Hoofnagle came to the plate with two down and a runner on first in the bottom of the fifth inning.
But after hanging tough and fouling off some good pitches, Hoofnagle finally got a pitch to hit, and hit it she did. The Freshman lined a frozen rope into the gap in left center, easily scoring pinch runner Rachel Rallo from third. Hoofnagle slid safely into third and the throw got past the bag, allowing her to score.
In a flash Gloucester went from down a run to leading, 3-2. That lead was more than enough for McKay as the NEC MVP shut the door in the final two innings to send the Fishermen to their first ever appearance in a state championship game.
Whether it's a slug fest or a pitcher's duel, Gloucester softball delivered in the big moments during its unprecedented tourney run.
Gloucester vs. Danvers hockey, Division 2 North First Round, February 26
The final two games on the list may have ended in devastating defeats for the local team. But the quality of play and excitement both of the games brought to the table makes them impossible not to recognize.
One night prior to Gloucester basketball's overtime win over Danvers, the school's hockey programs battled in a memorable first round tournament meeting that had drastic momentum swings and some serious plot twists that turned the game around.
It was a No. 3 vs. No. 14 seed matchup, but the NEC South champion Fishermen, the higher seed, and the Falcons were evenly matched and the game was decided by the slimmest of margins in double overtime.
It was Danvers that dominated early, going into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead and a 13-2 edge in shots on goal. Gloucester, however, turned the game around in a hurry.
Two goals from Jack Costanzo tied it up at 2-2 just five minutes into the second frame and a goal from E.J. Field just 50 seconds after that made it 3-2 Gloucester. Danvers tied it shortly after but Costanzo and Field scored again in the second frame to give the Fishermen a 5-3 lead in a massive momentum swing.
To counter that momentum, Danvers inserted senior Rob Prentiss in goal, and that decision ended up being the difference in the game as he shut Gloucester out the rest of the way.
The Falcons still had a lot of work to do and cut the deficit to 5-4 with six minutes to go, and then tied the score in dramatic fashion. Danvers won an offensive zone faceoff with just five seconds left in the third after a Fishermen icing, and Jared Mscisz picked the far left corner of the goal with 3.4 seconds on the clock to send the game into overtime.
After an evenly played overtime session that saw both goalies make huge stops, Danvers' Jack Thibodeau ended it in the 3-on-3 second overtime period to send Danvers to the win.
It was a bitter defeat for Gloucester, but still one of the games of the year.
Manchester Essex vs. Amesbury girls soccer, Division 2 North Finals, November 11
Another contest that ended in a stunning defeat for the home team as Amesbury took a 2-1 victory in overtime, but it was an incredibly well played final that featured the top two teams in the section by a wide margin.
The meeting at Manning Field was a clash of styles as Manchester Essex's speed was up against Amesbury's physicality.
Early on, the Hornet's speed was taking over, but Indian's goalie Alli Napoli made several big stops to keep it scoreless. On the other end of the field, Amesbury took advantage of its only scoring chance when Chelsea Lynch found the back of the net to give Amesbury a 1-0 lead at the break.
Amesbury rode that momentum into the second half, but the CAL Baker champion Hornets persevered and battled back to tie the score in the 72nd minute on a goal from Jillian Bowen, which sent the game into overtime.
The extra session continued to be a stalemate until a cross into the box rattled off of multiple players before finding the foot of Lynch, who burned the game winner.
When two evenly matched teams meet this late in the tournament, one bounce can be the deciding factor. The Hornets never made a mistake, but that's the nature of the sport.