by Ken Brown
RUTLAND – Head coach Peter Stratman’s Twinfield-Cabot boys’ soccer team finally found their signature win with a first-round road upset over Mount St. Joseph’s Academy (MSJ) last week, but fell to defending Division IV champs Winooski in the quarterfinal round, ending their season at 7-9.
Sophomore Zepherin Hebert buried the game winner with just under a minute in regulation to lead the Trojans to a 2-1 first round upset over MSJ in the first round of the Division IV playoffs last Tuesday.
Brayden Schutt finished a feed from senior Malcolm Whitman midway through the first half to give the Green Wave an early 1-0 advantage. The Trojans dodged a bullet minutes later when another Schutt rocket banged off the post and harmlessly out of play.
Stratman’s squad battled MSJ without his top two scorers in senior all-stater Meles Gouge and junior Darshan Eddleman. Gouge was forced to sit the first round after being issued a pair of yellow cards in their regular season finale against Oxbow and Eddleman was dealing with an illness.
Twinfield-Cabot got their legs underneath them after a long bus ride and found the equalizer with three minutes left in the half when Sam McLane finished a nicely weighted through ball from fellow sophomore Eli Russell.
With just over 12 minutes to play in regulation, MSJ goalkeeper Dom Phillips denied a Tej Stewart header off a corner kick. With time running down, the match seemed destined for extra time, but Hebert finished off the biggest goal of his young career to help the Trojans advance.
Senior Dominick Hale made one save in the win and Phillips made six stops for MSJ as their season came to an end at 7-6-1.
“With two of our leaders not on the field, we needed our young players to step up and they certainly did. We didn’t know much about MSJ going in, but the plan was to maintain our same tactical approach with the guys we had on the field. We held off the surge from them early in the match and thought we did a nice job of controlling play the rest of the way. Our seniors Sam Russell and Cooper Bernatchy did a great job holding shape in the middle of the field and our young guys on the wing really stepped up in big moments. It wasn’t pretty, but I’m really pleased the way the team battled to get the win and happy that Meles and Darshan got another opportunity to compete in the next round,” said Stratman.
Abdoul Lailati drilled home the game-winner late in the first half for the third time this season against the Trojans as Winooski survived 1-0 at home on Friday to advance to the Division IV Final Four. The 11-3-1 Spartans have defeated Twinfield-Cabot by the same score three times this season and advance to defend their state title with a stingy defense that has recorded seven shutouts this fall.
“We were shorthanded against them for the third time this season with Tej Stewart out, but we had our chances and just couldn’t quite seize the moment. Lailati is an exceptional player and I thought Sam and Cooper did a really nice job of tracking him all match. He doesn’t need much room to get a shot off and made his only attempt of the match count. The boys competed hard and with all of the adversity they fought through all year, it was a good season.”
Stratman will lose the leadership of Gouge, Bernatchy, Russell, Hale, and Silas Robbins to graduation, but returns a talented core that looks poised to take the next step in 2024. His team battled injury, illness, and displacement this season. The historic floods from the summer destroyed both competitive fields in Cabot and Marshfield and left his team to compete on the road in all 15 of their matches.
“I’m proud of the way this team battled through obstacles this season. We practiced on two-thirds of a half of a field all season, played every match on the road, and the boys still competed at a high level with integrity, character, work ethic, and leadership. That is a testament to our seniors and I trust they will take those same attributes into the next phases of their life. The program we’ve built here is about soccer and it’s not about soccer at the same time and I’m proud of this team,” said Stratman.
Winooski hosts third seeded Grace Christian and top seeded Twin Valley hosts fifth seeded Rivendell Academy on Wednesday for a chance to advance to the Division IV state championship match on Saturday.