TOWNSHEND - With the game still fresh in his mind, Leland & Gray coach Chris Barton said his team’s last showdown of the season versus Stowe on Friday afternoon, is one that will be remembered and talked about for years to come.
"It was a battle of two teams that wanted it as much as the other," said Barton. "But in the end, Stowe scored a great goal to win it."
In one of the more physical matchups thus far in the Division 3 boys varsity soccer playoffs, the No. 2 Rebels fell to No. 7 Stowe, 2-1, in double overtime.
"I saw the play forming, trusting we’d win the 50-50 drop on the right side. We did, and I got a good hit on it," said forward Robert Buonnano, who scored Stowe’s winning goal on a header. "The Rebels were just as fit and aggressive as us, if not more."
The Rebels finish their season with an 11-4-0 record, and Stowe (6-6-2) proceeds to the semifinals.
Five minutes into the first half, Luke O’Toole tossed a long throw in to teammate Blake Duffy, who followed it inside and gave it a quick tap with the side of his head to arc it over Rebel goalie Tanner Karg for Stowe’s first goal.
The trenchant Karg did well protecting for the remainder of the opening period, often diving on top of the ball to maintain complete control, while in front of him, defender Dylan Jerz aided in clearing out the box.
With a shaved playoff scalp, like most of the other players on his team, the
Karg blocked an incoming punt at the start of the second as Stowe pushed forward in search of their next treasure. He got into trouble a few times, but Karg had plenty of help on defense from Danny Burdick and Zach Wilkins. All three are also senior players.
"Our seniors worked hard," noted their coach. "They are dedicated to this team, and are so passionate about playing."
With Young, Wilkins, and Corey Nystrom leading the fight, the Rebels got their second wind in the first OT, and it looked like they had a chance. But their forces became scattered chasing, and Stowe took control of the center.
The goal which sealed the deal came with about seven minutes left on the double overtime clock.
"This is the fourth time we have been here in either the quarterfinals or semis, and this is the first time we’ve won," said Stowe coach James Birmingham. "The games here have always gone something like this - a few overtimes and a last minute goal."
It was a game Birmingham said he’ll always remember, too.
"Stowe earned it," said Barton. "We wish them the best of luck."
In the other Division 3 quarterfinals on Friday, No. 1 Peoples prevailed 2-1 over Enosburg, No. 5 Thetford beat Williamstown 5-1, and No. 3 Rivendell ousted BFA-Fairfax 1-0.
David Aquino can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.