Whalen strike clinches Arlington's first crown since 1995
WESTMINSTER — The longer the Division IV title game between No. 3 Arlington and No. 1 West Rutland went scoreless, the bigger the chance that a weird bounce or a defensive lapse could make the difference.
As the game entered overtime, the game could end on a Golden Goal, and either the Eagles or the Horde would reign supreme.
Ninety seconds into the extra session, Arlington's Lewis Whalen had the biggest goal of his life, poking a shot past West Rutland goalie Kyle Laughlin for the winner and the Eagles' first title in boys soccer since 1995.
"It's just incredible to see this community support," said Arlington coach Todd Wilkins. "They've rallied around these kids and it couldn't have ended any better."
Whalen's goal wasn't a pretty one on a day when rain turned the Bellows Falls field into mud, but as long as it went in, it didn't have to be pretty.
"I told them going into overtime, we have to hit the through balls and work out tails off up front," Wilkins said. "We needed to settle the ball down and be the first to the ball and he was the first one to it. It wasn't going to be pretty, a toe poke, a head, anything to get on it and that's exactly what he did."
Whalen seemed to be stoic about the moment.
"I saw the goalie was out and we did what we needed to score," Whalen said. "We had opportunities the whole game, I shot it and it just went in."
Arlington controlled most of the second half, getting a handful of chances but not capitalizing on any of them. Three minutes in, Dominic Whalen fired one that went off the post that Laughlin corralled for the Horde.
West Rutland and all-time leading scorer Eric Maxham had a few chances, but the Eagle defense and goalie Linus Bialojan kept them at bay.
On one, Maxham had a terrific look at a free kick near the box, but Bialojan punched it out. Moments later, the Horde had another try end up at the far post, but the shot was wide.
"We've been strong defensively most of the year against some good opponents, so holding [Eric] scoreless for 82 minutes is big," Wilkins said. "Linus has gotten better every game, improved every game, every practice, he just goes back and does his job. He was knocking down shots and keeping them away so West Rutland couldn't get second chances and keeping the others tight to him."
In the final minutes, an Arlington corner went begging, as did a Maxham shot with 45 seconds left.
As the overtime started, Maxham hit a shot from midfield — something he used to do damage earlier in the year — but Bialojan stopped it, setting up Whalen, who made his way past two defenders and sent the Arlington crowd into a frenzy.
"It's tremendous for this community, for them to rally and focus on these kids, these 40 between the boys and girls teams and put all of the energy into that and for the kids to come out and play as hard as they can, each and every night, it's an awesome feeling," Wilkins said.
For more on this game, see the print edition of the Bennington Banner on Monday.
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