Lebanon gets its kicks in title victory

  • Lebanon’s Easton Wykes runs off the field with Krists Putans after Putans scored the final penalty kick during the NHIAA Division II boys soccer championship game against Oyster River High School at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H., on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. Lebanon won in penalty kicks. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • Lebanon players celebrate after winning the NHIAA Division II boys soccer championship game against Oyster River High School at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H., on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. Lebanon won in penalty kicks. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report for America photographs — Alex Driehaus

  • Lebanon’s Griffin Auch and Oyster River’s Hunter Perry go up for header during the NHIAA Division II boys soccer championship game at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H., on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. Lebanon won in penalty kicks. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america — Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/5/2021 11:22:53 PM
Modified: 11/5/2021 11:23:03 PM

NASHUA — When Lebanon High boys soccer played Oyster River in late September, the Raiders were riding high. They had won seven straight games to open the season and had averaged nearly six goals per game.

The Bobcats knocked Lebanon from the ranks of the unbeaten that afternoon, and Raiders coach Rob Johnstone said Oyster River’s high press got to his team right from the start.

In Friday night’s rematch to decide the NHIAA Division II championship, No. 3 seed Lebanon (17-2-0) was far more prepared. The Raiders came out the aggressor against the No. 1 seed Bobcats (17-1-1) and held Oyster River’s explosive offensive scoreless for all of regulation and two overtime periods.

That set the stage for a dramatic penalty shootout, and senior Krists Putans put home the winner in the fifth round to give Lebanon its first state title in 30 years. The Raiders won the shootout, 4-3, and the game will go down as a 1-0 victory over the defending champs.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Putans, an exchange student from Latvia, said. “I was pretty calm. When I scored, I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was dreaming. It was a fantastic feeling for me.”

For a scoreless match, both teams had plenty of chances from start to finish. Lebanon looked like the better offensive team for the first 25 minutes, as Putans had three good looks at the net early. But Oyster River settled down and began to play some offense of its own, with five corner kicks in the last 15 minutes of the first half.

“We tried to manipulate the tempo of the game,” Johnstone said. “We tried to slow it down just a little, because they’re a run-and-gun team.”

The second half and the extra periods were similarly open. Senior Simon Amaro whiffed on a shot from point-blank range in the 56th minute, and sophomore Nicholas Brill had a good opportunity in the 76th, but still neither team could find the back of the net.

Lebanon took the lead in the shootout in the first round. Junior goalkeeper Easton Wykes began the season as the team manager and was thrust into the starting spot after senior Colbie Delisle broke his ankle on Sept. 21. And he came up huge Friday night, making a save on Oyster River’s first penalty attempt.

Senior Daniel Mladek and freshman Otto Bourne scored for the Raiders in the first two rounds, and both teams missed their attempts in the third. After the Bobcats evened things with their fourth try, senior Ryan Oliveira put Lebanon back in front moments later to set the stage for Putans’ heroics.

The Raiders had appeared in the state finals five times in Johnstone’s 28 years and lost them all, most recently a 1-0 defeat to ConVal in 2019. With alumni from all over the East Coast in attendance, he finally closed the deal this year.

“I’m just so proud of our program,” Johnstone said. “We had guys fly up from Philadelphia, from Washington, D.C., just to be here. It’s truly emotional because I had so many phenomenal people come through here who have left this venue with a tear in their eye.

“Now they have a tear in their eye, too.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.




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