PROCTOR — The list of players and coaches contributing to the Proctor High School boys soccer dynasty is a long one. But perhaps nobody has contributed as much to those 19 state soccer championships than Kixie Austin and Kevin Ratti.
The 19 state crowns in boys soccer have ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation in different years and that number has consistently had the Phantoms somewhere in the top five.
Austin and Ratti have added to the legacy as both coaches and players. Austin, a 1972 graduate, played on state championship teams in the sport in 1968 and 1970. He coached the Phantoms from 1977 through 1983, taking them to the finals seven years and winning five state crowns — 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983.
Ratti played on title teams in the sport in 1980 and 1981 and coached the Phantoms to back-to-back soccer state championships in 2011 and 2012.
But what they recall even more than the titles is the way the community embraced soccer.
“We would be on the bus on the way to the state championship game when I was coaching, and there would be all these texts from alumni throughout the country wishing us good luck. That is what makes this town special,” Ratti said.
Austin fondly recalls his 1980 team and its accomplishments as one of the highlights of his coaching career. That team went 17-1 on the way to the title and the only game where the Phantoms allowed the other team to score was against Otter Valley.
But what really made that year stand out from the others, in his mind, was that the Phantoms, the Division III state champs that season, defeated Burr and Burton and Mount Anthony; Mount Anthony went on to win the Division I state championship and Burr and Burton the D-II state crown.
“Three state champions from the Marble Valley League — I don’t know how many times that has been done. That was the highlight of my coaching career,” Austin said.
Ratti played on Austin’s 1980 team, starting on the left wing. He wound up with 49 career goals.
That 1980 team rang up 17 shutouts and Austin gives much of the credit for that to his assistant coach Dave Morgan.
Morgan was a great player himself who had two goals and an assist for Vermont in the 1976 Lions Twin State Soccer Cup against New Hampshire.
“Dave Morgan coached the defense that year. You could call him the defensive coordinator,” Austin said.
One of Austin’s most memorable moments came in a tournament game — he believes it was a semifinal — and the team was going to a golden goal overtime.
He had a player named Joe Stratton who had club feet and he had to tape them before every game.
Stratton played the sweeper position but Austin looked at him in the huddle before the teams went onto the pitch for the overtime session and said, “Joe, get a (expletive) goal.”
Stratton scored the golden goal off a corner kick.
“That is one of my favorite remembrances,” Austin said.
They both love the Proctor traditions and how important the game is to the community.
“In the sixth grade, we would all fight to be the ball boys for the games,” Austin said.
When Ratti was in junior high, he was a ball boy.
Proctor’s coach then was Lee Orvis, and Ratti remembered that Orvis rewarded those junior high ball boys by giving them a seat on the bus when the Phantoms traveled to play in the postseason.
“I did exactly the same thing when I was coaching,” Ratti said.
Ratti recalled that when he took the coaching job at Proctor for the first time, he immediately went to Austin for advice.
“We had a clinic on my back porch with a six-pack of beer,” Austin said.
Ratti said a highlight of his coaching tenure came in the state championship game of 2012 when the Phantoms defeated Twin Valley 4-3 in overtime. John Connell had three goals including the tying and winning score.
Austin was a player on the 1970 team that defeated CVU 2-0 for the right to go to the first New England Tournament.
There, the Phantoms lost to Chicopee of Massachusetts in a great back-and-forth game that saw Chicopee score a fluke goal late in the contest to win 1-0.
“Lyman Morgan (of Proctor) was the best player on the field that day,” Austin said.
Austin is 65, retired from General Electric, and recently stepped down as a high school and college soccer official.
He is quite certain he is done with being active in the sport.
Ratti, 55, works in the insurance business. He said he might go back into coaching if exactly the right situation presented itself.
Neither will ever lose their zest for soccer.
The Phantoms and all the other teams in Vermont start formal practices for the season on Thursday.
Ratti and Austin will be hoping the 2019 edition of Phantom soccer can add more luster to the program in a community the fans love to call Title Town.
Ratti and Austin certainly did more than their share to carve out the town’s soccer legacy.