By Tris Wykes
NEWPORT – His boys soccer players all opted to travel home with their parents Monday, so Lebanon High JV coach Bill McFee returned to the school mostly alone on the team bus. Just him, the driver and a strong sense of satisfaction.
Matched against the Newport varsity, the Raiders produced a 6-0 victory. Lebanon played with 10 substitutes, while the Tigers had just two, but didn’t let their energy wane.
“It speaks volumes for our players, as freshmen and sophomores, to come out with a victory,” McFee said. “Our passes were connecting and we won balls out of the air. We worked in practice recently on our first touches of the ball and I thought those were night and day from the last game.”
Lebanon received goals from Riley Sullivan, Birhanu Harriman, Nick Galev, Tommy Wolfe and Ben Twarog. Nick Brill had two assists and Wolfe had one. The hosts, who trailed 4-0 at intermission, suffered an own goal on the final scoring play.
Newport (0-4) is a fifth-year varsity program guided by third-year coach Caleb Goodwin. The Tigers snapped a 34-game losing streak during his initial campaign, at which point they had been outscored, 257-13, since the team was resurrected in 2016.
Goodwin said his club missed the NHIAA Division IV playoffs by one victory last season, when it included 16 players. The Tigers are down to 13 now, with only three seniors.
“This is a football town and we have to compete against that,” said Goodwin, a 1998 Sunapee High graduate who previously coached in the youth ranks. “There are lots of kids on the football team who played soccer until they got to high school. It drives me nuts.”
Goodwin praised his team’s improved possession and ball movement and their “iron man style” for playing with such limited substitution.
Lebanon (2-1) was plagued by nearly a dozen offsides violations, but adjusted as time passed. The Raiders were also regularly stymied by hulking, senior goalkeeper David Hutchinson. The first-year netminder’s aggressive charges off his line and soaring goal kicks and punts kept his team in the contest.
“We could have had 10 goals but their keeper was in the right spots,” said an admiring McFee. “We had to be a little more careful on offense. Usually we say to be on the hip of the last defender, but today we had to back off and use our speed and skills to get around him.”
McFee substituted liberally and moved players to different positions throughout the second half. Center fullback and captain Francis Calandrella didn’t see second-half action, while starters Harriman and Connor Chinn, normally a forward and a fullback, switched ends of the field with strong results.
“I wanted to give Francis a rest, because he plays major minutes,” McFee said. “And it was interesting to see who stepped up into a leadership role without him out there.”
Goodwin departed from a darkening field and with a winless team, but said he’ll still be excited for the next practice. The Tigers’ effort never flagged and there was none of the bickering and negative body language so evident on many teams that rarely enjoy victory.
“Their drive and how much they love the game, I don’t want them to lose that,” the coach said. “If they’re willing to play, I’m willing to try and push them through.”
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