With the start of preseason, the team had a poor tryout turnout with only around 24 players showing up for tryouts. Both JV and Varsity had very little players. But with a low number came a team that could accomplish so much.
The Raiders lost games 1,3,4 and 6 in the first half of the season. Their first win was against Woodstock who had knocked them out of the semi-finals last year. All of their losses came from strong teams from D-1 and Stowe. They racked up a record of 3-4 in the beginning of their season. But then things changed, and the Raiders haven’t lost a game after September 22nd.
There were a few injuries along the way with senior Sam Thompson, junior Gus Obeldobel, junior Seamus Beall, and sophomore Harrison Bushnell all receiving ankle injuries.
The Raiders started the second half of their season strong by scoring goals and winning games. Their first test as a team was when they had a three day game schedule, all in one week. The Raiders won all three games playing against Montpelier on the third game. That was a huge win.
“Winning against Montpelier meant that we can go far in the playoffs,” said junior Altan Cross, “Montpelier was one of our biggest threats moving into the playoffs and having that confidence going in was a huge factor to our success.”
The only D-II team the Raiders took a draw to was Harwood. The Raiders came in strong and were down a goal for a little bit. The game went into double overtime with the Raiders having a huge chance in winning the game with a penalty kick. “I think we just got a little nervous,” said Thompson, “for most of us on the team the Harwood coach is our club coach and we had friends on Harwood as well. I think with most of our passes we were overthinking what we should do with the ball. It got really hectic towards the end. We didn’t play our game, which is possession.”
With the last game of the regular season the Raiders played People’s, who in the beginning, stayed level with the Raiders. Junior Noah Elmore stepped up his game in the second half and scored 4 goals in approximately 9 minutes. “Their defense was weak and kept trying to pull an offsides trap,” said Elmore, “I knew I could just outrun them and score goals but the offsides trap kept me from doing so in the first half.”
The Raiders finished the season in 6th place after that game.
The Raiders first playoff game in the round of 16 was against GMVS who they had already played in the regular season. The game ended 2-0 for the Raiders with a close call where a GMVS player took a free kick and scored. The goal was called back due to the player not listening to the official’s directions properly.
“It definitely wasn’t our best game.” said senior Jacob Kellett, “We didn’t play off of each other and most passes turned into hospital balls, but otherwise I’m glad we got the win.”
Their real test came when the Raiders played third seed Montpelier, in Montpelier. The game was close, with the Raiders putting pressure on Montpelier’s defense most of the game. It went into double overtime and ended going into penalties.
Sophomore Ethan Scharf stepped up as keeper and saved the day. “Watching Ethan save those goals gave me so much confidence for going to the finals,” said junior Gus Obeldobel, “knowing that our semifinal wouldn’t be as tough as this game, I knew we could make it.”
One of the closest games came when the Raiders played against Lake Region in the semis. The Rangers took an early lead scoring 2 goals in the first half. The Raiders had troubles finding the back of the net until the last 5 minutes of the first half. In the beginning of the first half the Raiders scored again to tie it up. In the last 14 seconds the Raiders hit it home to qualify for the championship. “I just knew the ball would come to me,” said Scharf, “It feels really good to have scored the game winner.”
The competition in the championship game was Woodstock. It was the 6th seed team (U-32) versus the 1st seed team (Woodstock). The game went back and forth for both halves and many chances were created on both sides. Woodstock’s biggest chance was when they flicked the ball towards the goal but senior Derek Cote denied their biggest chance with a one-handed diving save. The end of normal time and no goals issued the beginning of overtime.
The Raiders kept up the pressure and in the end, Obeldobel crossed the ball to sophomore Harrison Bushnell. Woodstock’s keeper went for it but lost it and Bushnell capitalized and scored the game winner. “I can’t believe we made it,” said Cross, “I’ve dreamed about this moment ever since I was a kid.”
The Raiders finished off their season as champions. They brought home the title for the first time since 2008.