With the game in hand, Eric Martin limped off of soggy grass at Birch Plains Field in Beverly with just two minutes left Tuesday afternoon.
He cast a smile to his Danvers High teammates, took a big gulp of water, and took a well-deserved rest after getting slammed and battered for 78 minutes.
With two, three, and sometimes four defenders draped all over him, Martin had his blue No. 11 jersey yanked, his ankles hacked at, and his shoulders rammed repeatedly.
“He’s a physical player in himself,” said Mike Chase , who has coached Martin the last three seasons on the varsity boys’ soccer team.
“He’s a big, strong physical kid who likes the contact, and he’ll play for that.”
As a returning Eastern Massachusetts All-Star with more than 100 career points — the first soccer player at Danvers High to reach the mark — he is unquestionably the center of attention any time he takes the pitch. He reached the milestone in the third game of the season against Swampscott, an 8-1 rout in which he netted four goals and added an assist.
“To get that 100 points out of the way as quick as possible, so we can focus on the season, was definitely a goal of mine,” said Martin. “And definitely to win the [Northeastern Conference] and qualify for the tournament and hopefully go as far as possible.”
Through the first six games of his senior season, the 6-foot-1 Martin has tallied 17 goals and six assists, raising his career total to 109 points (60 goals, 49 assists) and counting.
“Eric will find ways to beat you,” said Chase. “He’s a fantastic soccer player. He’s aggressive in the air and can finish head balls. He just does it all, to be honest with you.”
A starter since his freshman year, Martin is in his third season as the Falcons captain.
“I don’t remember much of him his freshman year,” said Beverly head coach Kevin Leahy . “But I certainly remember him since then. He is such a tough player to defend, because not only is he a skilled playmaker, he is strong. He finds a way.”
That started early on.
In 2007, he helped lead his Danvers Force U-12 squad to a state title.
On the soccer pitch, he has never lost a home game against a conference opponent and he knows nothing less than ending a season as a Northeast Conference champion.
On the basketball court, starting at the point, he directed Danvers to the Division 3 state championship last winter.
He now hopes to accomplish the same with the soccer team.
“Last year we lost in the [Division 2] North semis [2-1 to Wayland in overtime], but we had some guys missing,” said Martin. “We just want to take it a step farther because those tournament runs are always fun.”
His senior season has started out with six wins; he hopes to keep the momentum going as the Falcons shoot for a conference crown.
“You’ve got to shut down Eric if you’re going to beat us,” said Chase, a Danvers alum who played for the Falcons in the mid-’90s.
“He’s going to go down as the best player to ever step on the field here.”
“It’s been great,” said Martin reflecting on his tenure with the Falcons. “I’ve got to thank all the coaches for giving me a chance.”
When Eric Martin walked off that field in Beverly, he had added two more goals and two more assists to his career totals, but more importantly, his team had won.
There may be no more potent girls’ tandem in the region than Caitlin Hart y and Eva Gourdeau at Beverly High.
Harty, a junior, and Gourdeau, a sophomore, have compiled eye-popping numbers through the first eight games, and are well on their way to surpassing their stellar seasons from last fall, when they each earned all-star honors in Eastern Massachusetts.
“They work so well together,” said Beverly coach Kristin Simpson . “They know each other’s runs on the field, and where each other are at all times. It’s very nice to have that as a coach.”
After a 27-goal, 10-assist campaign as a sophomore, Harty netted 21 goals in the first eight games, along with four assists.
“I’ve coached Caitlin since she was 10,” said Simpson. “She has always been a good player, but recently over these past two years, she has composed herself and learned how to finish putting the ball away.”
Gourdeau, (25 goals, 14 assists as a freshman), has four goals and 11 assists.
“Eva is a lot different than Caitlin,” said Simpson. “She is more of a one-on-one player. I haven’t seen many players who can do what Eva can. She is just technically great.”
The tandem has helped the Panthers to a 6-2 start, putting them in second place in the Northeast Conference, just behind top-ranked Peabody Veterans Memorial High School.
Craig Forde can be reached at email@example.com.