By Tris Wykes
Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021
LEBANON – Mosquitos and tiny, biting flies swarmed parts of Lebanon High’s soccer field Friday afternoon. More severe bloodletting occurred on the grass itself, however, where the Raiders boys routed Plymouth, 9-0, in an NHIAA Division II contest and improved to 5-0.
Ryan Oliveira had two goals and two assists and Krists Putans had two goals for the hosts, who led, 5-0, at halftime. Lebanon could have won by a larger score, but, among other chances, Oliveira fired over a wide-open net early and Angus Hall struck the right post with a free kick late.
Plymouth goaltender Bayden Statton had a strong game despite the score, but the Wildcats (2-5) allowed far too much free space in front of him.
“We clearly have a very good, dangerous team and everyone’s getting better, even in the last two weeks,” said Lebanon coach Rob Johnstone, whose side hadn’t played since Sept. 7. “We played an intrasquad game Tuesday and it was great, high-energy, high-level soccer.
“Our floor has been raised, but so has our ceiling. We’re not leveling out as a group.”
Lebanon has outscored its opponents, 31-0, since halftime of its first match, when it needed overtime to rally at Stevens. Four consecutive shutouts have followed and Plymouth didn’t have any significant scoring chances.
Center midfielder Oliveira orchestrated the Raiders’ offense, dribbling when given space, passing at opportune times and avoiding the hard tackles that inevitably come his way.
“He works so hard to get the ball but his decision-making has sped up,” Johnstone said of the senior co-captain. “Or maybe the game has slowed down, for him, however you want to put it.
“He’s moving the ball and getting it back and recognizing the times when it needs to be about him putting the ball on (goal).”
Putans, the electrifying finisher and Latvian exchange student, pounded a gimme into an open net but also cut in off the wing from a sharp angle and beat Statton low and to the far post with one of his trademark, pinpoint shots. The 6-foot-4 senior has the type of finishing skills rarely seen in the Upper Valley.
“Krists has a pretty sophisticated soccer mind and I think he figured out what was happening out here today and took it upon himself to pass it off,” Johnstone said. “He set up some people beautifully.”
Brill, a sophomore sprinter from Grantham who scored once Friday, is simply more than the average defender can handle. Plymouth surrendered three or four through balls to No. 4 before he and Putans were pulled. The foreigner’s ball control combined with the local’s speed leaves opponents reeling.
“They’re extremely dangerous together,” Johnstone said. “The sophistication of Nick’s running off the ball and presenting himself (for passes) has increased. You throw that together with his raw athleticism and it’s a problem for other teams.”
Johnstone often looked unhappy despite the score, urging players to better read open space and to make smarter passes. Lebanon’s starters have played only 35 minutes total the last two games, but the silver lining is the backup 11 are thriving with extra game time.
“We still make late passes or we’re too casual with our technique, but these are also kids and they’re human,” Johnstone said.
The Raiders are scheduled to play at Pembroke (1-6) on Tuesday. The Spartans have lost four games by one goal this fall.
Notes: Lebanon’s girls soccer team watched the game although it was supposed to be at Plymouth. The squad was stuck in town and its game postponed after the school district was caught down a bus and a spare part needed for repair didn’t arrive in time. The football team was able to get a bus for a trip to Milford because the vehicle was back from its daily, after-school run… Lebanon faces two of the better teams on its schedule back-to-back when it visits Milford (5-0) on Oct. 13 and hosts Hollis-Brookline (6-0) three days later. Oyster River (4-0-1) is another presumed challenge and the Raiders visit there Sept. 28… Lebanon lucked into Putans, whose local host family, also of Latvian heritage, moved to town from the Dallas area a couple of years ago… Lebanon midfielder Will McGee plays guitar in a band out of Tuck’s Rock Dojo named “B Dominant”. The group is scheduled to play at LebFest in downtown Colburn Park on Saturday.
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