WEST RUTLAND — The Proctor and West Rutland boys soccer teams battled with an intensity normally reserved for Nov. 2.
That will be the day of the state championship games. But when these teams get together, it is just as important as the state title games. Nobody could settle the issue on Saturday, the Phantoms and Golden Horde went toe-to-toe through 110 minutes of scoreless soccer.
West Rutland was without injured starters Liam Beaulieu and Ryan Smith. The Phantoms seized the advantage and tested Westside goalkeeper Kyle Laughlin repeatedly.
He responded with highlight-reel saves.
"Playing goalie is really about positioning and reacting," Laughlin said after the game.
It didn't take long for the Phantoms to test Laughlin. Conner McKearin got his head on Joe Valerio's direct kick in the early minutes, directing it on goal. Laughlin made an outstanding save in heavy traffic.
Joel Denton then got off a hard shot for the Phantoms that had Laughlin diving but it was inches wide of the post.
Proctor had more quality chances, but it wasn't like the Golden Horde was without an attack. They also had legitimate scoring bids. Tyler Serrani made some great runs and unloaded testing shots. Tim Blanchard and Drew Frankenbeg also go off some threatening serves.
Valerio's corner kicks and direct kicks were a catalyst for Proctor's attack, but defenders like Austin Gallagher, Patrick Smith and Kenneth Lynch were stout for the Horde and Laughlin was on his game all day.
Proctor goalie Ian French did not face the heavy pressure Laughlin did, but he was good when he had to be. French made an especially big play late in the game when he charged out of the net and beat Serrani to the ball.
Both teams had their opportunities in the 20 minutes of golden goal action.
"We had our chances," Laughlin said.
"He is a great keeper. He has been All-State the last two years," West Rutland coach Dillon Zaengle said of Laughlin. "We have got great confidence in him. He is a senior leader."
"Both teams played with grit," Proctor coach Chad Wilson said. "It was a typical Proctor-West Rutland game. "There were a lot of great plays made by both teams."
"I think everyone counted us out in this one," Zaengle said.
Zaengle praised Blanchard for his role in containing the dangerous McKearin, who has rung up three four-goal games this season.
"Tim Blanchard did a great job on blocking down on McKearin," Zaengle said.
One of McKearin's strongest bids came with just 5 seconds remaining in the first of the two 10-minute overtime stanzas. It was a direct kick ticketed for the corner but Laughlin denied him with a diving deflection.
The tie keeps the Phantoms unbeaten (4-0-1) and they get ready to host Otter Valley on Friday. That game has been moved up from Saturday.
The deadlock against a top tier team figures to do wonders for West Rutland's psyche.
"We got off to a rough start," Zaengle said, referring to a 2-0 loss to Arlington and 2-1 setback to Rivendell, both teams expected to be Division IV title contenders.
West Rutland moves to 1-2-1 and travels to Twin Valley on Tuesday.