BENNINGTON — Our annual Banner XI returns from a year hiatus to recognize the best boys soccer players in the area.
We have surveyed the area, studied the game from the sideline and quizzed local coaches on the top players around. Many were worthy of recognition for their exploits this fall, but the process, ultimately, results in only a handful of honorees. Our selections should in no way diminish the outstanding performances of those not included.
While important, statistics and league honors were only partial factors in our lineup, which attempts to recognize players from all positions.
Based on the information and input we received, as well as our own observations about players' production, importance to their squad and individual skill-sets, we present the Banner XI All-Star squad.
— Michael Haynes, Jr., Hoosick Falls
Haynes was third on the Panthers' is goal scored in 2015 with nine goals, but it was his seven assists that was much more impressive to Hoosick coach Tim Ossont.
"I don't even look at the goals, it's his ability to make the pass at key times," Ossont said. "I never had to worry about my forwards this year. He sees the field and distributes better than most high school players."
Haynes, a second-team Wasaren League all-star, had hat tricks against Granville in both games with the Horde and helped them beat rival Cambridge by a combined 7-0 score with goals in each contest.
"The way he played was tremendous," Ossont said.
— Riley Bacon, Sr., Hoosick Falls
Bacon tied for the lead on the Panthers with 14 goals, and coach Tim Ossont never guessed he would be his main forward for this season.
"In summer league, he played forward and he had lots of speed to make defenses nervous," Ossont said of his first-team Wasaren League all-star. "He's a three-year varsity starter and was a captain this year — the kids look up to him, on and off the field."
Bacon scored many of his tallies going 1-on-1 against defenders and beating them on first step.
"Last year, we didn't have that and if we played through balls, he could make something happen," Ossont said. "It also opened up things for other guys to score."
— Wes Lord, Sr., Burr and Burton
Lord led the Bulldogs with 15 goals, scoring more than half the team's goals on the year. He started the campaign with eight of the first nine scores of the season and helped the Bulldogs reach the playdowns and finish 8-7 on the season.
As an opposing coach, MAU's Mike Molloy said the Patriots — who played BBA three times this season — had to scheme around the senior captain. He scored the lone goal in the James opener and two against Arlington in the James consolation game.
"He is BBA's [star]," Molloy said. "Technically, he's terrific and his work rate never stops. The bigger the game, the better he played."
Lord was named to the MVL's first team in the A Division.
— Jared Lacoste, Jr., Arlington
Lacoste, another first team MVL choice, was second on the Eagles with eight goals and led in assists, always looking for a teammate with a better angle or run towards the goal.
"He was our vocal leader this year," Wilkins said. "Some do it with their play, but Jared held guys accountable and praised them when they deserved it."
Wilkins said the team voted for Lacoste as a captain, a choice that he firmly agreed with.
"He carried this team on his back in games and practices, something that not everyone sees," Wilkins said. "He'll continue that role. He's a complete workhorse, he'll never quit."
— Colin Lawler, Sr., Arlington
In his second year with the Eagles, Lawler, a transfer from a school in Georgia, made a name for himself leading Arlington to the precipice of the Division IV championship in 2015.
Lawler, a first team Marble Valley League choice, scored 15 times this season, leading Arlington in that category, but it wasn't all about scoring as the senior captain was second on the team in assists too.
"I was happy to have Colin, the kids accepted him right away [when he came here]," said Arlington coach Todd Wilkins. "He embraced the center middie role, he really controlled the middle of the field."
Simply by wins and losses, the Eagles had a tough year, but considering the strength of schedule — games against Division I opponents Brattleboro and Burr and Burton Academy in the John James tournament and all but three regular season contests against higher division competition.
That paid off tremendously in the playoffs, as Arlington made a run to the final on the strength of outscoring opponents 11-1 — half of those goals coming from Lawler, including a hat-trick in a 4-0 rout of No. 1 Craftsbury in the quarterfinals.
"What he did during the playoffs was impressive, he's got a shooter mentality," Wilkins said. "He could dribble into four or five defenders and rip a shot, it never bothered him. You had to pay attention to him as a defense because he was always coming up for scoring opportunities."
— Tyler Gaines, Sr., Hoosick Falls
Gaines tied for the Panthers team lead with 14 goals, but Ossont admitted he probably did his senior midfielder a disservice.
"He's a kid who went everywhere I needed him," Ossont said. "I say, 'Today, you'll be a stopper, and he was like, OK.' He was unfazed. He would do whatever he could to help the team."
Unlike many players on this list, Gaines, a first-team Wasaren League all-star, moved up high at points, back to defense and in the middle as the ultimate versatile player.
"It was tough for him to find his groove, but if 14 goals is a tough season, that's still a damn good season," Ossont said.
— Jack Ams, Sr., Burr and Burton
The Bulldogs defender, another multi-sport star, was an all-league center back in the Marble Valley League and was chosen for the all-state squad as well. He made life miserable for strikers, who had to deal with not only his size, but quickness as well.
BBA allowed 25 goals in 15 games, an average of 1.66 goals against.
— Jack Peterson, Sr., Mount Anthony
A three-year varsity starter for coach Mike Molloy and the Patriots, Peterson was a picture of health, starting 49 games in a row. In 2015, Peterson was moved from defense to midfield as MAU had a plethora of options on the back line this season and the captain never missed a beat as he was part of a group that allowed only 12 goals in 17 games.
"In the last three years, he's worked tirelessly to improve," Molloy said. "We didn't need Jack to pay defense specifically this year and he still was a leader on and off the field, working hard every practice and every game. He knew when to get on guys and when to [praise] them."
— Isaac Salem, Sr., Mount Anthony
Salem was yin to Peterson's yang, not only in 2015 but in the past three seasons, as he and Peterson were the only two sophomores on the MAU varsity squad in 2013. Salem earned all-state accolades as a defender as part of the Patriot wall.
"They compliment each other perfectly and both are all-state caliber players," Molloy said. "Like Jack, Isaac is a leader on and off the field, and work extremely hard at all aspects of the game."
— Nate Mattison, Sr., Arlington
Mattison lost his main back line compatriots, Jacob Smith and Austin Hawley, early in the year, forcing Mattison to step up even more for Arlington coach Todd Wilkins.
"He had a freshman back there with him and he was impenetrable in some of the games," Wilkins said. "He just rolled with everything. We don't win the games we did without him and we lose more without him. He's our unsung hero back there."
In the playoffs, Mattison led a defense that only allowed two goals in four games and played Proctor to a deadlock tie in the state championship before the Phantoms won in PKs.
"He had to step up huge this year and he did," Wilkins said.
— Hunter Davis, Sr., Mount Anthony
Davis was a field player in his first varsity season and the backup goalie as a junior to Pat Cody, but according to Molloy, he's another player who committed to becoming the best at his position that he could.
More than half of his starts resulted in a clean sheet, with eight shutouts in 17 games and he was at his best in the postseason, making an amazing save on a penalty kick in the first overtime of a tie game against Burlington that helped send the Patriots to the D-I semifinal.
"Hunter is a three-sport athlete, plays basketball and lacrosse as well," Molloy said. "I told him that if he wanted to be the best goalie he could, he needed to commit to [soccer] as much as he could."
Davis went to goalie camp and from the start of the season the senior was on point, not allowing more than two goals in any game this season. His goals against average was 0.71.
"He was steady for us all year, sometimes he made regular saves, sometimes he made some brilliant ones," Molloy said.
— James Moore, Jr., BBA
— Josh McCart, Sr., HFCS
— Ben Winslow, Jr., MAU
— Garrett Derosia, Sr., MAU
— Digby Baker-Porazinski, Sr., Cambridge
— Max Ratelle, Sr., Cambridge
— Lucas Stroffoleno, Sr., Arlington