WESTMINSTER — West Rutland’s Eric Maxham ended his high school soccer career as Vermont’s all-time leading goal scorer with 128 goals, but the thing he really wanted eluded him Saturday. That vanished just 1:38 into the sudden-death overtime when Lewis Whalen put the ball into the net to give Arlington a 1-0 victory over Westside in the Division IV state championship game.
Maxham and many of his teammates were distraught, lying on the ground in disbelief.
The immense respect the Eagles have for Maxham quickly became evident as several of them went over to console him.
Arlington’s Jack Lane, a senior like Maxham, has drawn the defensive assignment of covering him through the years.
“He has been the greatest player in Division IV for four years,” Lane said of Maxham. “It has been an honor to guard him. He always made it a fun battle.”
Both teams had numerous chances during regulation time. Maxham had several screaming drives he either put on goal or that went went inches wide.
But as much as the teams pushed, they could not finish. Much of that was attributable to goalkeepers Kyle Laughlin for West Rutland and Arlington’s Linus Bialojan. They were sensational all day.
Laughlin had three highlight-reel saves over the first 15 minutes.
Bialojan, an exchange student from Germany, also came up big time and again.
“He was good in preseason and he just kept getting better,” Arlington coach Todd Wilkins said of his keeper.
Due in large part to the efforts of the keepers and their defenses, the game went to overtime. Two 15-minute OT stanzas were slated before the teams would have to resort to penalty kicks as the tiebreaker.
But the overtime didn’t last long at all.
“I told them before the overtime, ‘work your tails off.’ That’s all I had for them,” Wilkins said.
“We said, let’s just get this done in the first minute,” Lane said.
It didn’t take much longer than that.
“I saw that the goalie was out and over to the left. I just shot,” Whalen said.
Pressure in the game’s early minutes was applied by Arlington. Mathew Ritchie made a strong bid with a shot just over the bar.
Wil Stewart and Chase Hoyt also made strong scoring bids for the Eagles.
Maxham did most of the sniping for the Golden Horde but Timothy Blanchard also had a dangerous looking cross that Bialojan had to tip over the bar.
Tyler Serrani also had some testing shots for West Rutland.
That’s the way it went with each team knocking and knocking, keeping Laughlin and Bialojan scrambling.
Yet, all that knocking produced nothing until Whalen ended the game.
Arlington had an 18-15 edge on shots on goal and the game was probably more even than that.
It was also the swan song for West Rutland’s Scott Maxham, the veteran coach who breathed plenty of life into the program, making the Horde a perennial threat.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” coach Maxham said.
“Their goalie did a fantastic job and my keeper did, too.
“It was an exact replica of our regular-season game with them.”
Arlington won that game 3-2 in overtime for No. 1 West Rutland’s only loss of the regular season.
“It has been a fun ride,” coach Maxham said. “I am happy with their success this year. There is nothing to be ashamed of. We created a lot of opportunities.”
“We thought it might be a game of keepers,” Wilkins said.
Of the three incredible saves Laughlin made early in the game, perhaps the best was one that came against Stewart from point-blank range off Lane’s direct kick. The reaction time was almost nothing and somehow Laughlin was able to make the stop.
One of Maxham’s serious scoring bids came with 18:30 left in regulation, a screaming 20-yard drive that Bialojan made a spectacular diving stop on.
One of Arlington’s best threats came with 11:30 remaining, but Matt Harte, a cornerstone of the Horde defense all year, made a stellar defensive save.
West Rutland closes the season at 14-2. No. 3 Arlington closes out at 11-6.
It was a picture of contrast in the aftermath, the Westside players lying on the ground in disbelief and hurting, the Eagles exploding into a jubilant celebration.
Then the Arlington players went to console those in the green and gold uniforms, the respect evident between the teams.
They had played in a classic that will long be remembered by those in attendance.