Long Trail boys soccer breaks through
For the school that sits at the crossroads of a gravel road in Dorset, the first 14 years of the program's history were marked with moderate success.
But in that time, the Mountain Lions — formerly the Lynx — had only won three playoff games, none past the quarterfinal round.
With nine seniors leading the way, Long Trail broke the mold this year, going 14-3-1 overall, winning their first-ever semifinal and making the Division IV final for the first time.
The season was full of firsts, including winning their first ever Marble Valley League Division D championship, an award that will find a place with the team's second-place trophy.
As great as their regular season and subsequent No. 2 seed in the Division IV playoffs were, the real dramatics came in the second season.
After dispatching of No. 15 Chelsea 7-0, LTS hosted No. 7 Cabot and used a goal off a corner by senior Levin Coe to reach their first semifinal.
There, they faced No. 3 South Royalton, a two-time state champion with a program history that goes back to the 1950s.
The Mountain Lions were unfazed, with leading scorer Will McCullough giving LTS the lead and then assisting on sophomore Oisin Harrington's game-winner in the second half to reach a game most of them had dreamt about.
The final opponent was Rivendell, another first-time finals participant, and the Raptors took the early lead with a goal in the 11th minute. Long Trail made run after run at a tying goal in the next 68 minutes, but was stopped each time by the Rivendell defense and goalie Dash Fukushima.
While the season didn't end with the storybook finish they wanted, the future is bright for the Mountain Lions, with three sophomores and a junior expected to return in 2018.
"The senior class has built a really good foundation for student athletics at the school," coach Tim Smith said. "I'm excited to see what happens and I'm happy with the way things are going. The school has been around for 42 years, varsity soccer for 14, this is a great step in the right direction."
Story from Nov. 6, 2017 Banner
RANDOLPH — The Long Trail boys soccer team was in unchartered territory on Saturday, a Mountain Lions team in the state championship for the first time in any sport.
Their opponent in the final was Rivendell, another first-time finals participant.
So it was destined that the team who broke through the soonest might make the difference.
The Raptors scored in the 11th minute on a Charlie Bradley goal and that was the only score in a 1-0 win to win its first-ever Division IV title.
"It was a hard fought game by both teams, each is the class of the field in Division IV," said Long Trail coach Tim Smith. "Someone had to lose, they got the break and we didn't. I thought we outplayed them, but they got the break and that's the beauty and the beast of high school soccer. These guys have battled, so it's tough to see my nine seniors go out this way, but I have a lot of respect for those kids and I'm proud of their efforts."
Bradley scored on a play where senior Owen Pelletier crossed the ball toward the net and Long Trail keeper Luc Carmel ended up on the ground.
"I was uncomfortable with the way the throw-in happened, I even told my coaching staff, I have a bad feeling about it," Smith said. "The keeper moved forward then backward, I thought, if we don't clear it, it could be dangerous."
After that Long Trail made run after run in the next 68 minutes, but was stopped each time by the Rivendell defense and goalie Dash Fukushima.
With 4:30 left in the first half, Mountain Lions senior Levin Coe nearly headed in a corner kick from Will McCullough, but the finish was wide, and a frustrated Coe put his head in his hands.
In the second half, Long Trail started out firing. A pair of Rivendell defenders collided, giving McCullough a chance at a shot, but he put the try high. A couple minutes later, Fukushima made a diving save on a corner and then punched away a second opportunity.
With 17:30 left, McCullough received a precise pass on a through-ball, but he was called offside on a close call that the Mountain Lions' fans thought was incorrect.
Hanging on for dear life, Rivendell continued to live on the edge. Franco Cassotti's shot from close range was just over the frame and then with five minutes to go, Coe's shot was stopped by Fukushima.
"These kids arent quitters, there's not one on this team," Smith said. "You have to take some chances when it's a 1-0 game, you have to gamble against giving up a breakaway and it almost paid off. Their keeper made a handful of terrific saves."
Long Trail threw the proverbial kitchen sink in the last couple of minutes, doing anything they could to tie the game and send it to overtime. Ben Boggio had a shot in the last two minutes that Fukushima came out and grabbed and a last-ditch effort from Boggio in the last 10 seconds was wide, setting off a celebration from the Raptors and their fans.
Long Trail finishes 14-3-1, while Rivendell ends up 16-1-1. Even though the Mountain Lions came up one game short, they still made a lot of history this season, winning the MVL for the first time and making its first appearance in the semifinal or final.
"This one is going to sting for a little while, I really wanted this one for a couple of different reasons," Smith said. "The senior class has built a really good foundation for student athletics at the school, we've made some really good hires in coaching, over the last couple of years, and we have an administration that supports us. Even with all the seniors, I start three sophomores and a junior, so we'll be competitive next year too. I'm excited to see what happens and I'm happy with the way things are going. The school has been around for 42 years, varsity soccer for 14, this is a great step in the right direction."
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