By Tris Wykes

HANOVER – Matthias Einarsson headed in a corner kick with 22 minutes to play Saturday, lifting the Hanover High junior varsity boys soccer team to a 2-1 defeat of archival Lebanon at Merriman-Branch Field.

The teams met during the 2019 preseason with the Marauders winning in a rout, so the competitive showing sent the Raiders home relatively happy. Lebanon features 14 freshmen but also pulled down junior Colby Delisle, the varsity’s backup goalkeeper, for the contest.

Hanover’s Owen Smith leaps to head the ball over Lebanon’s Nick Brill during the teams’ Saturday game at Merriman-Branch Field. The Marauders won, 2-1.

Hanover’s roster includes a senior, nine juniors, nine sophomores and five freshmen. The program also includes reserve and freshman teams.

“Our passing was really crisp for the first five or six minutes and we were in the attacking third a lot,” said Hanover coach Willie Johnson. “Lebanon pressed us better in the second half.”

That pressure also led to more Hanover scoring chances, however. Sophomore forward Jack Gardner, physically rugged and a varsity hockey player, had several short breakaways, scoring on one to put his team up, 1-0, three minutes into the second half.

“He uses his body so well to shield the ball,” Johnson said. 

Lebanon freshman Nick Brill had a 1-on-1 chance with Hanover goalkeeper Jackson McBride but was denied seven minutes later. A standout on Lebanon’s junior Babe Ruth baseball team this summer, the Grantham resident possesses eye-popping speed and may not be with the JVs much longer.

“His speed is an X factor for us,” said second-year Lebanon coach Bill McFee. “And he doesn’t back down from anyone.”

Lebanon forged a 1-1 tie when forward Jacob Morrell scored after chasing down a long pass into the right side of the Marauders’ penalty area. 

“We had them on their heels for a bit in the second half,” McFee said. “Colby made some big saves for us, but our communication is something we really need to improve on. We make situations worse by not talking.”

McFee praised outside fullback Connor Chinn for his preternatural poise and skills. The freshman might have been the smallest player on the field but he was also one of the Raiders’ best. 

“He really stood out during the tryout process,” McFee said. “He has a very high soccer IQ and he played almost the whole game.”

Johnson highlighted sophomore Owen Smith for smart decision-making. Freshman Jackie McBride also earned mention for consistently organizing Hanover’s collective positioning and his sense of when to fill in for teammates making an offensive run.

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Lebanon High’s Colby Delisle punts the ball away Saturday during his JV team’s 2-1 loss at Hanover.