By Tris Wykes

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION – The Hartford High boys soccer team has lost its first two games of the season. The Hurricanes have shown, however, that they possess the grit to make the campaign’s remainder a success.

Wednesday night, Green Mountain Union’s Jack Boyle leaped to head in Elias Stowell-Aleman’s corner kick with 2 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the first of what could have been two 10-minute overtimes. The defending Vermont Division III champions earned a 2-1 victory after Division II Hartford rallied from an early deficit. 

Green Mountain Union High’s James Birmingham (11) and Eben Mosher (20) join Hartford’s Nick Martin (23) and Dylan Morse (4) in watching a corner kick sail into the Chieftans’ crease. GMU goalkeeper Skylar Klezos is at far right.

“It felt like a playoff game with the intensity and the atmosphere,” said first-year Chieftains coach Jake Walker, referring in part to playing before a vocal crowd and under the lights on the Hurricanes’ football field. 

“Last season, all four of our playoff games went into overtime. I told our guys that we know how to play in this situation, now let’s go get it done.”

Hartford battled GMU at every turn, but although they spent much of the second half in the offensive end, the hosts were mostly stymied by their foes’ positioning and defensive poise.

“They’re a hard-working team that put us under pressure,” said seventh-year Hartford coach Kevin Guilbault, whose squad fell to Brattleboro in two overtimes during its opener. “We struggled to pass where we wanted to. Some of that was because of our composure and some it was because of our ability.”

Said Walker: “We work on not stepping or stabbing at the ball, being more composed and safer. We hold our line and let (opponents) make the mistake and then we can have the ball.”

Green Mountain (2-1) opened the scoring when Everett Mosher’s shot caromed off two defenders and past goaltender Shane Miller, who was caught flatfooted and never had a chance. 

The Hurricanes forged a 1-1 tie with five minutes remaining in regulation time when it drove the ball into the box from the left wing. The ball bounced out on the opposite side of the rectangle to Aidan Brooks, who sent a low shot inside the far post.

“It was obvious early on that serving the ball into the box in the air wasn’t going to work,” said Guilbault, noting the height and heading skills of the Chieftans’ defense. “We talked about driving in low balls and Aidan showed a lot of poise on that play.”

Miller leaped to tip a hard shot over the crossbar 30 seconds before the deciding sequence. Guilbault wished his field players had shown similar hops on the game’s final play.

Green Mountain Union goalkeeper Skylar Kelzos snatches the ball in front of teammate Sawyer Pippin (13) and Hartford’s Nick Martin (23).

“When the ball goes in the air, we’ll be side-by-side with someone and watch them go up for it,” the coach said. “At least go up shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Maybe you throw them off a little. We can’t just give away free shots.

“If we make a physical challenge and we still get beaten, I can live with that. We’ve shown a lot of character but we need to execute a bit better.”

Green Mountain took nine of the game’s 17 shots and forced Miller to make eight saves. The Hurricanes host Fair Haven at the Maxfield Sports Complex on Friday afternoon. The Chieftans, who suffered a 1-0 loss to Woodstock last weekend, get a road rematch with the Wasps on Saturday.

Notes: Walker, a GMU assistant the past two years, said the Chieftans returned virtually all their players from last season’s team… The visitors benefitted from moon-shot goal kicks by defender Eben Mosher, who cranked out 40- and 50-yard boots throughout the night… Guilbault said Everett Mosher and Stowell-Aleman have played with Norwich’s Lightning Soccer Club… Green Mountain Union High is located in Chester, Vt. and also enrolls students from Cavendish, Proctorsville and Andover… The Chester Telegraph newspaper held an online poll in July, asking readers whether GMU should stop using Native American imagery with its Chieftans mascot name. Fifty-five percent of nearly 500 respondents said it’s time for a change.

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Hartford High’s Eddie Jeon (11) and Dylan Morse (4) watch Green Mountain Union’s Jack Boyle head the ball away from the Chieftans’ goal.