Lisbon’s Mike Heath follows his shot as Woodsville goalie Tom D’Angelo makes a save in the mud at Woodsville High last Friday. Charlie Lentz/The Littleton Courier. (click for larger version)
October 24, 2012WOODSVILLE — Lisbon lined up for a team picture near the sideline at Woodsville High last Friday to commemorate a regular season record of 16-0 but coach Les Poore declined joining the photo opportunity.
In his 25th year at the helm and despite coaching the Panthers to the first perfect regular season in his tenure — Poore was in no mood for the camera's flash after a 2-0 victory over the Engineers. Instead his thoughts flashed back to a less than picture-perfect moment — after going 14-2 in the regular season last year and earning the No. 2 seed for the Division IV Tournament — Lisbon was ousted by No. 7 Wilton-Lyndeborough in the quarterfinals
"Last year we learned a lesson — even though we had home field (in the playoffs) for two games — and I think that these guys were hungry after that," Poore said. "We're on a mission to make up for what happened."
Wilton-Lyndeborough went on to capture the state championship after defeating Lisbon 3-1 last season.
"Look what happened last year. The No. 7 seed won the tournament. The 1, 2, 3, 4 (seeds) got knocked off," Poore said. "So just because you're 1, 2, 3 or 4 — you've got home field advantage but that's what you've got it for. You've got to take advantage of it and most years we have. This year we're hoping to take advantage of that in two games and then see what happens in the playoffs."
Poore gladly accepted the division's No.-1 tournament seed that accompanied the Panthers regular season performance. But the coach likely won't pose for any Kodak moments unless they're snapped on the afternoon of Sunday Nov. 4 — the date for the Division IV Tournament championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester.
"Championships aren't won in October. They're won in November," Poore said. "That's the way it is. I'm sure they're happy at 16-0 but to be honest it doesn't mean much. It doesn't mean a darn thing really — take that back — it's a good thing but in their minds there's more to do."
Against Woodsville the Panthers overcame a steady downpour and poor footing to put two goals in the net. Lisbon's Mike Heath opened the scoring at 9:30 of the first half. Derek Roberts tallied at 23:12 of the second half to push Lisbon's lead to 2-0.
"If we keep playing with this much confidence and our horses keep pulling us through — we've got role players that are coming along and doing what we have to do — we've got three or four All-State players that we can just put guys around, it makes their game better," Poore said. "That's been the key to this team."
Lisbon goalkeeper Josh Deem made three saves in last Friday's win. Woodsville keeper Tom D'Angelo finished with seven saves. Lisbon led 11-7 in shots and 12-4 in corner kicks.
Lisbon scored first in 15 of its 16 victories this season. The Panthers trailed only once — falling behind Profile 1-0 on Oct. 5 before rallying for a 5-1 win. Yet Poore said the North Country schedule has been a tough test.
"The environment that we play in and all these great teams that we face — like today, facing (Woodsville coach) Mike's (Ackerman's) team. You know darn well we're going to get every bit of those guys as we will with Littleton, Profile, Woodsville — I can go on — that's what makes the northern teams really hungry. When they get in the playoffs they're all battle tested," Poore said. "We all respect and admire each other and we all wish each other luck. It's a good fraternity."
Coach Ackerman's Engineers will likely be the No. 10 seed for the tourney. Profile is the likely No. 7 seed and Woodsville will travel to face the Patriots for a 3 p.m. game Thursday. Woodsville and Profile split their regular season series.
"I think the tournament's wide open. Lisbon's definitely a step ahead of everybody else," said Woodsville's Ackerman said. "They played hard. They played well and Les has done a heck of a job with them. I really compliment him and their team."
Ackerman's defense has been stout this season — at one point getting seven shutouts over an eight-game stretch — but he said they've got to put the ball in the net in the opening round of the tourney.
"We've got to score some goals. That would be nice," Ackerman said. "We get around the goal and nobody's going hard to the goal. And we've got to control the midfield which we haven't been doing."
Lisbon will play host to a first round tournament game at 3 p.m. Thursday. The Panthers likely opponent is No. 16 Pittsburg/Canaan (2-14). If Lisbon wins in the opening round it will host a quarterfinal game at 3 p.m. Sunday at Lions Club Community Field.
"What this (Woodsville win) does is it puts us in a position to have home field two games," Poore said. "That's what we go for every year."
Poore said 16 wins mark the starting line rather than the finish.
"We don't get too excited about the regular season," Poore said. "That's not our deal."
Here's the deal. After a Lisbon victory on the first Sunday of November — Poore will probably join the team photo. He might even smile.
"Sixteen and O can be very good but you have to be hungry at the same time," he said. "And these guys are hungry."