By Tris Wykes
LEBANON – Moote? He did it again.
That’s Cooper Moote, Stevens High’s standout boys soccer goalkeeper. For the second time in three days he kept the outmanned Cardinals in a game against Lebanon on Wednesday.
The junior made 12 saves Monday when his team fell in overtime. Wednesday, Moote stopped nine shots during a 2-0 loss. In both instances, he prevented a lopsided outcome.
“We’re dead tired and so gassed that we made a lot of bad touches,” said Stevens coach Jason Stone, whose varsity had only three substitutes to Lebanon’s 11. “We didn’t have the legs for a good counterattack.”
Moote made one glaring mistake during the rematch, booting a low goal kick up the middle to Lebanon’s Tyler St. Martin with 15 minutes remaining. The senior sent the ball right back and under the crossbar from 30 yards.
“We’re not even going to get worked up about that, because Cooper almost always hits good ones,” Stone said of the goal kick. “And what (St. Martin) did isn’t easy.”
The Raiders’ first goal, which occurred seven minutes after halftime, came on a defensive breakdown that hung Moote out to dry. Elusive and athletic midfielder Ryan Oliveira slithered free along the goal line to the netminder’s right, forcing him to hold the pipe.
Lebanon forward Emmanuel Bello raced into an opening behind Moote. Oliveira timed his pass perfectly, snapping it just out of Moote’s reach but behind the nearest defender. Bello redirected the feed into an open net from 3 yards.
“If we’re going to give up a goal, I want it to be something like that, because it’s a beautiful lesson we can learn from,” said Stone, whose team fell to 1-2.
Lebanon coach Rob Johnstone was impressed that his players pulled off the nifty exchange, given that the Raiders haven’t enjoyed normal practice time this fall.
“That’s the kind of play we’d have done 50 repetitions of by now,” said Johnstone, whose team held a 21-1 shot advantage. “That really showed their soccer IQ.”
Moote earned his keep, several times diving to swipe balls off the feet of attackers in what Johnstone described as “brave saves”.
The Cardinals keeper also had an incredible two-save sequence during which he kicked out a shot from along the goal line before somehow regaining his balance and lunging sideways to stop a Raider from potting the rebound.
“We know we’re the underdog when we play Lebanon or Hanover and I use that as fuel,” Moote said. “I want to show what I can do.”
Moote’s older brother, Brady, plays directly in front of him and is presumably inured to criticism the netminder sometimes unleashes on his defense. When it comes to the others, however, Stone has been on his goalie to make nice.
“When things go wrong, he has to lift guys up, not put them down,” the coach said. “Cooper is such a phenomenal talent that the guys follow him, even though he doesn’t really want to be a leader. He has to realize he is one by default.”
Moote, whose speech is flavored with a New Hampshire accent, concurred.
“Things go better if I don’t get frustrated,” he said. “I have to remember we’re a family and that it feels better if we don’t play against each other.
“Coach J’s reigned me in the last two years. Before that, it was definitely a struggle to keep my mouth shut.”
Stevens plays Hanover twice and Lebanon once next week, a stretch that will test Moote’s resolve and the Cardinals’ endurance. The Raiders (2-1) are off until visiting Stevens on Oct. 1, then travelsto Fall Mountain four days later.
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