Year in Review: Arlington clinches first crown since 1995
In early March, the small town of Arlington was hit with some heart-breaking news.
Longtime former soccer coach and community stalwart John Werner had passed away after a long battle with cancer.
The whole town, along with so many of his closest friends and family, mourned the late coach's death and a celebration of life ceremony held in his honor only exemplified the love he gave throughout his life.
As boys soccer coach at Arlington, his teams compiled a record of 346-108-31 in 31 seasons and won seven Vermont state championships. He also served as athletic director at AMHS and established a popular soccer camp in Arlington.
Werner's last title at the helm of the Eagles came in 1995.
Todd Wilkins, who played for Werner in high school and is currently the coach of the Arlington boys, knew his 2018 team had a chance to be special.
In an interview with the Banner before the season, Wilkins didn't mince words. He stated confidently that he believed this year's group could win a state title, the first one in 23 years.
Wilkins had well-warranted confidence in his team. With veteran players like Jack Lane, Chase Hoyt, Wil Stewart and Kolby Wilkins, among others, leading the way, the Eagles were going to be ready for whatever challenge came their way.
Add in underclassmen like Lewis and Dominic Whalen and Arlington had an intriguing mix of pieces to make some noise in Division IV boys soccer.
The regular season produced many ups and downs for the Eagles. For much of the season, the Eagles were floating around the .500 mark, but staying in striking distance of top D-IV teams like West Rutland and Rivendell Academy.
Arlington headed into the playoffs with an 8-6 record, but with multiple games against Division I opponents early in the season, the Eagles were a much stronger team than their record showed.
Arlington handily got through its first two opponents to set up a Division IV state title game with the heavily favored Golden Horde.
Once again, the Eagles remained confident because they knew they could play with anyone and also were the only team to beat West Rutland in the regular season.
In a hard-fought contest, the teams played to a tie through 80 minutes of play.
Ninety seconds into overtime, Lewis Whalen sent Arlington into a frenzy.
Whalen put a shot past Golden Horde keeper Kyle Laughlin and clinched the title for the Eagles.
Just like Werner's Arlington squad of 1995, these Eagles were champions, and a few hours later, they saw their female counterparts reach that same pinnacle.
The year of 2018 brought a ton of highs and lows for the community of Arlington, but for three months this fall, a pair of soccer teams playing at Werner Field took them on a journey and gave the town something to believe in.
Story in November 5, 2018 Banner:
By Adam Samrov
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.
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," said Arlington coach Todd Wilkins. "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.
The leader of the defense for the Eagles was Jack Lane, someone who has been guarding Maxham pretty consistently over the past three seasons.
"He's a great player and he always makes it fun for me to guard him," Lane said. "There's no one else like him in the state and it's fun to go against him, he's just a great player."
"We've been strong defensively most of the year against some good opponents, so holding [Eric] scoreless for 82 minutes is big," Wilkins adde. "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.
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