Deluge of goals propels Lebanon to state boys soccer title game

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/3/2021 9:19:54 AM
Modified: 11/3/2021 1:30:51 PM

NASHUA, N.H. — It took a full half for Lebanon’s powerful offensive attack to produce a goal.

But once it started to rain, it quickly began to pour.

The No. 3 seed Raiders (16-2-0) scored in the opening minute of the second half and kept adding on from there, defeating No. 10 seed Kingswood 4-0 in the NHIAA Division II semifinals to advance to the final on Friday, also at Stellos Stadium.

“(The first half) was absolutely frustrating, but not unexpected,” Lebanon coach Rob Johnstone said. “We knew they were going to defend with a block of nine guys very tight and very deep. Even though you prepare for that, as the minutes tick away, it becomes frustrating.”

Kingswood (8-9-0) had used its defensive strategy to perfection in an upset win over No. 2 seed Milford last Friday, advancing on penalty kicks. For 40 minutes, the Knights were on their way to doing it again.

The Raiders dominated the shots and possession in the first half, but had few good looks at the net. Lebanon’s best scoring chance came in the 7th minute when freshman Otto Bourne headed a corner kick toward goal, but Kingswood goalkeeper Healy Larson made a great save.

The opening goal completely changed the complexion of the game. Lebanon quickly came on the counterattack, and senior Griffin Auch made a cross into the box for senior Ryan Oliveira. Oliveira headed it in for his team-leading 20th goal of the season.

“Griffin and I have great chemistry,” Oliveira said. “I just looked at him and he saw me, and I knew he was going to cross it right there. I saw the ball right in front of me and headed it in.”

Now trailing, the Knights were forced to ditch their defensive alignment and play more bodies forward in search of an equalizer. But this left Kingswood’s defense exposed to the Raiders’ explosive offense that came in averaging 4.7 goals per game. And that offense was just getting warmed up. Lebanon doubled its lead in the 57th minute on a goal from junior Birhanu Harriman, and the Raiders were still far from done.

Sophomore Nicholas Brill scored the last two goals, bringing his season total to 18. The first came on a solo breakaway, when he outsprinted a trio of Knights to the box. After his initial shot hit the right post and caromed straight back to him, Brill put home the rebound to make it a three-goal game. He added an unassisted goal a couple minutes later to complete the scoring.

“The first goal was so critical, because then Kingswood had to come out a bit,” Johnstone said. “Now they were extending against us, and suddenly those seams and lanes are there. Then we started to get chance after chance after chance.”

Lebanon will face either No. 1 seed Oyster River, which handed the Raiders one of their only two losses, or No. 5 seed Coe-Brown Northwood in Friday’s final. Oliveira said the loss to Oyster River, which was Lebanon’s first after seven straight wins to open the season, was a wake-up call for his team.

“It brought us down to Earth when we lost that game,” Oliveira said. “I remember telling everyone, ‘remember this feeling.’ I hate losing, but I’m glad we lost that game because it helped us improve as a team. We got better after that game.”


Rob Johnstone is the co ach of the Lebanon High boys soccer team. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect first name.

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy