by Ken Brown
MARSHFIELD – Despite Mother Nature relegating the Twinfield-Cabot boys’ soccer team to practicing on goal less farmland and robbing them of home matches this fall, the Trojans remain loaded with talent and are poised to make a third straight appearance in the Division IV Final Four.
Head coach Peter Stratman enters his fifth season at Twinfield-Cabot this fall and has quickly turned the boys’ varsity soccer program into a perennial power. The Trojans’ 39 wins over the past four years is a school record, breaking a 21-year-old drought of Final Four appearances in 2021 along the way. They were a bounce away from beating top seeded Rivendell Academy last year in the semifinals. A state championship match is the only thing missing on Straman’s impressive resume and though he believes he has the talent on the field to finally break through this season, that is the last thing he wants to talk about.
“Last season was 10 months ago. I’m proud of what these players accomplished the past two years, but this is a new year with new challenges. Our first scrimmage last week was the first time we’ve practiced or played with goal posts on the field. We are still trying to find our footing as players and as a team and it’s my job to create an environment, atmosphere, and culture that helps us grow into the best team we can be by the end of the season. The floods this past summer have created so many challenges for so many people in our communities and with our fields at both schools being destroyed, we are going to have to overcome some of our own challenges. This team has so much talent and potential, but we are in the earliest stages of our season and you have to be mindful as a coach that in the end, these are just kids. We have a long process ahead of us to come together tactically, fitness wise, and emotionally to get to where we want to go,” said Stratman.
Stratman will have holes to fill with graduation losses of four seniors, including All-Mountain League First Team Selection Neil Alexander. Alexander was emerging as one of the top goalkeepers in the state and Stratman will have to find a solid replacement to navigate the rigors of the Division III rich Mountain League. Scoring goals hasn’t been an issue for the Trojans the past three years and with the return of two-time Vermont All-State selection Meles Gouge to patrol the midfield for his senior campaign, that shouldn’t change this fall. Gouge has led Twinfield-Cabot in scoring the past three years and his transition to the midfield last season opened up a new tool of weapons for Stratman’s offense. Sophomore Tej Stewart and junior Darshan Eddleman enjoyed breakout seasons alongside Gouge last fall, earning them Mountain League Second Team honors. Seniors Cooper Bernatchy and Silas Robbins were also Second Team selections and return to anchor the Trojan defense. Cabot’s Dominic Hale was Alexander’s backup last season and will return as a starter to shore up the last line of defense.
“Meles, Silas, Cooper, Dom, and Sam Russell are our senior leaders and they all started with me here at Twinfield-Cabot as freshman. They are a special group and they set the tone for us in practice, scrimmages, and games. Meles is so athletically gifted and occupies a lot of space. Our team is at our best when he is the play-maker and he sets a very high standard for himself and his teammates. TJ and Neil are tough players to replace. They communicated and positioned our defense extremely well and we’ll rely on Cooper, Silas, Sam, and Dom to continue to develop our backlines into that. We are very fortunate to have Dom back and as he gets his feet under him and gets some matches under his belt, I think he’ll find what his own style is back there in net. Tej and Darshan are extremely quick and athletic for their size and they can become as good as they want to be. We have a great group of young kids who have a lot of potential and I’m excited to watch how this team grows together. Our first two scrimmages against Burke Mountain and Hazen were good tests and we had some good moments and some messy ones, which is expected this early in the season. We still have a lot of things to work on and a long process ahead, but when this team is on and looks good, they look really good,” said Stratman.
The Trojans tied Burke Mountain, 3-3, and edged Hazen Union, 4-3, in their two scrimmages. They are scheduled to open the season on the road against Division II Lyndon Institute on Saturday before hosting defending Division III state champion Peoples Academy next Tuesday at Danville.