Shutout sends Raiders boys soccer on to NHIAA D-II Championship Game

  • Tommy Berthasavage, of Lebanon, heads the ball into the net off a corner kick over Ethan Wilson, 11, and goalkeeper John Kell, of Oyster River, during the NHIAA Div. II semifinal at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H., Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Eric Donovan, of Oyster River is at left. Lebanon won 3-0. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon Head Coach Rob Johnstone reacts after Tyler St. Martin, of Lebanon scored the third goal of the first half against Oyster River in the NHIAA Div. II semifinal at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H., Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Lebanon won 3-0. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jon Cloud, middle, celebrates with his Lebanon teammates after their 3-0 win over Oyster River of the NHIAA Div. II soccer semifinal at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H., Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon head coach Rob Johnstone congratulates Nathan Magari as the clock runs down during the Raiders NHIAA Div. II semifinal with Oyster River at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H., Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Lebanon won 3-0. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/6/2019 10:10:20 PM

EXETER, N.H. — Last year, Rob Johnstone wasn’t even coaching Lebanon High boys soccer. This year, Johnstone and the Raiders will be playing in the NHIAA Division II Championship Game.

Lebanon rode two goals less than a minute apart to a 3-0 win over No. 3 seed Oyster River on Wednesday night at Bill Ball Stadium. The NHIAA Division II semifinal win over the Bobcats sends No. 2 Lebanon to its first title game appearance since 2016.

“I love it (coaching) every single day,” Johnstone said. “Even during the dog days of double sessions, it’s just been great. But the puzzle, how do you solve the puzzle? There’s really good players, really good teams. I enjoy figuring it out.”

Headed into Wednesday’s matchup, Johnstone knew it would be crucial to play mistake-free soccer for the opening 10 minutes.

That’s when players are prone to miscues due to nerves, which can play a large role in losses.

The Raiders avoided a disaster in the first 10 minutes and more.

With 23 minutes to play in the first half, Lebanon setup for its third corner kick opportunity of the game. Logan Falzarano served the ball into the box and Tommy Berthasavage finished the play with a header for his fourth goal of the season.

Tyler St. Martin made his way through the Oyster River defense and netted Lebanon’s second goal less than a minute later.

With 6:50 to play in the half, St. Martin tallied his second goal when he crashed the box and put one past Oyster River goalie John Kell. The goal was setup up by a pass from Nathan Magari, who broke through two Bobcat defenders to get the pass to his teammate. St. Martin now has three goals in the postseason.

“We made three silly mistakes,” Oyster River coach Akan Ekanem said. “Lebanon is not a team that lets you make mistakes. Overall we had better possession, for the most part. But hey, the better team won the day.

“We should’ve marked up him up on the first goal. He came into the box, no challenge whatsoever. The second goal slip. The third goal slip. Done and done.”

Falzarano played a key role in Lebanon’s win. While on the stat sheet it shows that he only had an assist, the senior was all over the field.

With 19 goals for the year, Oyster River knew it would have to keep Falzarano at bay. But he made up for that by setting up goals and assists. When he couldn’t do that, his voice could be heard on the field directing players around.

“If we had analytics, if he had that bracelet on, it’d show he’s everywhere,” Johnstone said. “Truly for us, he’s involved everywhere. Even when he’s not directly involved, it’s his voice that’s giving directions. I think that’s critical too.”

The Bobcats had control of possession in the second half, however, the Raiders kept pace.

Jorgen Leuthauser made seven saves in net for Lebanon, marking Lebanon’s eighth shutout of the season.

When Lebanon qualified for the state championship in 2016, many of the current seniors experienced the 1-0 loss to Goffstown. That hasn’t been much focus this season because it’s been about focusing the present.

“Looking forward to it,” said Falzarano of Saturday’s game against ConVal at Manchester Memorial. “Obviously, making the finals is the goal. It’s on everyone’s minds, but really our goal is working together.”

NOTES: The last time Lebanon won a state title was in 1991 when the Raiders defeated Hanover 3-1. Saturday will also mark the first time since 2006 that both Lebanon and Hanover will be competing for a championship. Then in the same division, the Marauders edged out Lebanon 1-0. … Saturday’s state championship game starts at 4 p.m. ConVal beat Bow 1-0 in the late semifinal. … The Exeter High football team practiced throughout the game on a practice field. The Blue Hawks paused during the National Anthem and removed their helmets. … Two members of the Keene State College coaching staff attended the game for recruiting purposes. … Gary Walsh was the linesman for the semifinal matchup. He was the referee of Tuesday night’s Hanover semifinal thriller. Playoffs lend to a busy schedule.

Pete Nakos can be reached at pnakos@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.




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