Show of sportsmanship shines through after title win
Battling for 82 minutes, the Arlington and West Rutland boys soccer teams left it all on a soggy Bellows Falls Union High School pitch before the Eagles' Lewis Whalen scored the game-winning goal to send Arlington to its first title since 1995.
Immediately after the winning goal was scored, the Arlington players got into a group to celebrate with hugs and high-fives, while many of the West Rutland players lay on the wet field in various places, some sitting with head in hands, others laying flat on their stomach.
It would have been easy for the victorious Eagles to forget their counterparts in the excitement.
But seeing a pair of Horde players sitting on the grass near midfield, Matthew Ritchie came over to console them. Shortly after, a few more Eagles did the same.
Later on, senior Jack Lane met with a couple different players, giving the West Rutland guys a couple words of encouragement.
None of it came from a coach telling his guys to do it. They did it on their own, showing empathy for those who they had battled not only for 82 minutes on Saturday, but in some cases for the past four years.
It was toughest on the West Rutland seniors, Eric Maxham, Matt Harte, Phillip Wedin and Michael Barrett, who knew the loss would be their last high school game and possibly their final competitive soccer game.
The Arlington seniors — Lane, Wil Stewart and Chase Hoyt — knew that a single different bounce or a shot an inch one way or the other could have sealed the same fate for them.
It was impressive to see the sportsmanship in action, something that both boys coach Todd Wilkins and athletic director Reg Trayah said is something they teach the kids when they start playing sports.
It's ingrained early on.
Arlington principal Sarah Merrill posted a photo on Twitter on Saturday of a player bending down to talk to a West Rutland player with the caption,
'Today was a game of determination, skill and passion which had to end with a winner. In the midst of celebration, our boys demonstrated true class supporting their opponents in a tough finish. #classact #eaglepride'
Merrill told the student body that she received emails from West Rutland faculty and parents praising Arlington's post-game sportsmanship.
Even the faculty at Fisher Elementary School are using the example to teach. Charlie Cummings used it as a teaching tool in sportsmanship for his fourth graders on Monday, showing some of the photos that the parents took of the Arlington players consoling and checking on the West Rutland players.
At the beginning of the day on Monday, both the boys and girls teams walked through the elementary school, as kids from kindergarten through sixth grade watched them come through with the VPA championship trophies.
The little kids look up to the older ones, they want to be ball boys and girls and eventually, they'll be the ones on the field wearing the maroon and white. By setting an example of empathy and sportsmanship, the Eagles will continue to be at the top of their game for years to come.
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