Rebel boys lose in OT to Stowe

TOWNSHEND — Dramatic finishes are a given when the Leland & Gray Rebels and the Stowe Raiders meet up in the boys' soccer playoffs.

In 2009, the Rebels and Raiders met in the Division III semifinals where the Rebels lost by one missed penalty kick.

In 2010, the Rebels beat the Raiders in overtime in the semifinals, 2-1, and went on to win the state championship.

On Friday, these two teams met again, this time in the quarterfinals, and No. 7 Stowe came away with a 2-1 upset of the second-seeded Rebels in an epic, hard-fought game that continued the tradition of high drama between these rivals.

The game started out with a bang as Stowe's Blake Duffy headed a rebounded shot off of goalie Tanner Karg into the goal in the fifth minute.

With elimination at stake, the Rebels fought back and did a good job keeping the ball out of the goal. Their offense, on the other hand, could not penetrate Stowe's stellar defense.

Halfway through the first half, junior Kevin Young crossed the ball to senior captain Michael Bergeron who awkwardly kicked the ball off his shin over the head of Raider goalie James Brochausen. The ball bounced dramatically into the far corner of the goal, tying the game at 1-1.

The remainder of the game was a battle of defense. Karg was making beautiful diving saves left and right while the Raider defense constantly got the ball out of the goal box just in the nick of time. Where the Rebels lacked in their ball-handling skill, they made up with their tenacity, maintaining an equilibrium with the Raiders that lasted until the second overtime.

By this point, the intensity level was off the charts as both teams were determined to settle the match before it went to penalty kicks.

After each team's goalies came up with big saves, it was the Raiders that got the lucky break.

A beautiful cross was sent to the left side of the Rebels goal, where Raiders junior Robert Buonnano headed the ball in the upper end of net for the win with seven minutes left in the second OT. The Raiders tackled Buonnano into a giant pile where he had scored the walk-off goal. The devastated Leland & Gray fans cheered on the Rebels supportingly as the players slowly walked off the field.

“In my opinion, that was the best we played all year,” said senior co-captain Mike Bergeron, who had scored four out of the six Rebel goals in the playoffs. “Stowe was the best team we have faced [and] although we didn't look as organized and in control as normal, we still gave it our all. The game was pretty even, because what they had with passing and foot skill, we matched with pure intensity.”

Like his teammates, Bergeron hoped for a championship run that turned out not to be.

“It was emotional, but in a good way. We had an awesome career at Leland & Gray so it's hard to accept that we are done playing together. We are all really grateful to have been able to play with a group of guys that really got along well, [along with being coached by] one of the best coaches in Vermont. The most important advice I could give to anyone would be to cherish your opportunity to play high school sports. You don't understand how great it is until it's over.”

“[Stowe] played a great game and I hope we gave them the challenge that they were looking for,” said Rebels coach Chris Barton. “I'm glad it ended the way it did, instead of penalty kicks. It doesn't feel as good when you end it that way. They are a great team and I wish them the best of luck the rest of the season.”

Leland & Gray 5, Winooski 0

The Rebels got to Friday's quarterfinal with a 5-0 demolition of the No. 15 Winooski Spartans last Tuesday. The win avenged a first-round loss last year to the Spartans.

The Rebels were constantly on the offensive, but could not execute for most of the first half. After several attempted shots, Bergeron drove a ball past two Spartan defenders to lay in the first goal of the game and a 1-0 lead at the break.

The momentum Bergeron set at the end of the first half carried throughout the rest of the game.

Right away in the second half, Karg made a beautiful save to keep the game at 1-0. Soon after, senior co-captain Chayse Jarvis took the ball down the field past the Spartan defenders to put in the second goal of the game, despite playing on a fractured ankle.

Bergeron and sophomore Ryan Borgeson also scored within the next 10 minutes to build up the lead.

In the final few minutes of the game, Bergeron converted from the 18 for the fifth and final goal on the day, and his second hat trick of the season.

The Rebels finished the season with a 11-4 record.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates