TOWNSHEND -- With a wall of green facing him, Mike Bergeron completed a hat trick with three minutes left on the clock to lead the Rebels through an explosive second half Tuesday afternoon, that ended in a 5-0 victory over 15th ranked Winooski in a Division 3 boys soccer playdown game.
The midfielder’s third goal was the team’s last and it came on a penalty kick that began with not one, but two Rebel teammates faking the boot to mask Bergeron’s incoming punt into the net as a psyched out Winooski goalie fell to the ground.
"It throws them off as to when we’re going to kick it," said Bergeron. "You can see that it broke down their wall."
Leland & Gray’s coach Chris Barton calls it the Dummy Wall.
"I can’t go into the details, but the play has worked before," said Barton. "Today, it worked to perfection."
After numerous shot attempts by the home team, Bergeron gave the Rebels their first goal using his upper body and knees to stretch and bounce one in, with just under four minutes left in the opening half. The give came from Corey Nystrom’s through ball, as he and Bergeron finally broke through Winooski’s defense.
But Winooski’s defense did hold Leland & Gray through the first, with Spartan forward Eh Man applying pressure up front, and teammate Abdirahman Kadawe holding down their backfield, to keep the threat off goalie Hem Bista, who made a huge block
"No. 3 (Man) handled the ball well," said Bergeron. "We had to watch out for him until we stepped things up."
Much of the Rebels’ initial tries were solo attempts that came midway through the first, and many were off the corner to a header that wasn’t always there.
"At first, we were trying to do too many things on our own," said Barton. "At the half, we realized we could use more teamwork. It definitely created more opportunities for us, and as a result, our second half was much better."
It was intense, short passes that broke open the Winooski second-half defense allowing the Rebels to go on a three-goal streak.
After L & G’s Zach Wilkins chased the ball all over creation, he managed to steal and then dribble through the middle to dish it off to Chayse Jarvis, who slipped in the team’s second goal at the 30:00 mark.
"They scored the first one, and we still thought we could come back," said Winooski sophomore Abdikhafar Yussuf. "But once they scored the second one, we kind of lost hope, and with that our composure. We gave up, but we’ve improved with every game we’ve played this year."
Two minutes later, the Rebels had their third prize courtesy of Bergeron, assisted by Jarvis, to make it 3-0. Leland & Gray’s fourth goal came at 22:00 from Ryan Borgeson, unassisted.
Leland & Gray’s defenders shined in the second, with big plays from Wilkins who had a few swipes, and junior Adam Beattie on the left side, to lock down the D on their end. Nystrom and Jarvis also made critical defensive plays, not slowing down, even with a commanding lead. Senior defender William Nupp came out of the backfield early in the game to test Winooski with a few deep shots that almost found the back of the net.
"I felt we played our best soccer in the second half, but just not as consistently as usual," said Winooski head coach Steve Feiss. "We linked our passes together better in the second. They’re a big team; more physical than we’re used to."
Leland & Gray’s players towered over the visitors.
Winooski is a young team, but they have the athleticism. They just need to tweak their timing, thinks Feiss.
In other Division 3 playdowns Tuesday, No. 1 Peoples walloped No. 16 Windsor, 9-0; No. 9 Enosburg clipped No. 8 Northfield, 2-1; No. 7 Stowe shut out No. 10 Hazen, 2-0; No. 14 Green Mountain fell to No. 3 Rivendell, 3-0; and No. 6 BFA-Fairfax got past No. 11 Randolph, 2-0.
The Rebels will host Stowe in the quarterfinals on Friday at 3 p.m.
David Aquino can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.