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Unproven Panthers look to make name

Senior midfielder Brice Fontaine will look to add his leadership and his fair share of goals in 2014. James Barrett. (click for larger version)
August 25, 2014
LISBON — With a very competitive 2013 soccer season, the Lisbon Panthers boys' soccer team appeared to be on an upswing. The team finished with an 8-6-2 record that saw the team into a very respectable playoff seeding despite a very one-dimensional offense. In the end, it was not the offense that put them into a good spot for the future; it was the Panthers' ability to keep their opponents from scoring and to maintain possession of the ball for the majority of their games. This season the Panthers players and their head coach, Les Poore, will look to a similar category to once again prove they are upper echelon team in Division Four.

To open the 2014 season the Panthers continue on without key players such as Bryton Fontaine, Danny Plante, Jackson Smith, Josh Deem and Dominique McGuire. While all of the losses are difficult boots to fill, one pair of boots in particular may take an entire team to fill, and that is the boots left behind by perennial all-state goal scorer Smith.

"It really is a huge loss," coach Poore reluctantly admitted. "Jackson Smith scored nearly every goal for us last season, including every game-winning goal."

With Smith gone, Poore thinks that there may be a bit of a "break in process" for the team on the offensive side of the ball. However in time he thinks that the team has some "very athletic newcomers" that will help in that department and help the team turn the corner.

As for the returning players to the team, the Panthers are highlighted by a talented, yet "unproven group of seniors" that will need to step up. Coach Poore is hoping that someone will "take the reigns" and keep the team on track.

Defensively the Panthers are bringing back two seniors with John Brooks and Kyle Lyndes who look to fill the void left behind by the loss of Plante. To make things more difficult on the back end, the Panthers will look to an unproven senior goaltender in Jesse Jesseman.

"Our defense needed some fixing with our graduation losses," Poore started. "But so far this preseason Brooks, Lyndes and Jesseman have looked very good."

The last two returning seniors for the Panthers will look to solidify the middle of the field for a team that is in need of veteran leadership in the middle of the field. Both Tryston Clement and Brice Fontaine saw a good amount of playing time in 2013, however both were overshadowed by the play of Smith. Clement and Fontaine did their part in the 8-6-2 and likely picked up a trick or two from Smith's play.

The Panthers also welcome back a decent amount of juniors to the team. Nick Trahan, Aaron Burt and Gaige Pequeno are slated as forwards and will be looked to in some capacity to pick up the slack on offense. Zachary Smith and Griffin Romprey will be in the ever-important middy positions and Travis Gamache will be the lone junior returning to the fold as a defender.

The Panthers situation gets very interesting when looking through the roster and there is not a single sophomore.

"In small towns like Lisbon and a lot of other north country towns you can usually count on around four kids from each class," coach Poore noted. "It is just a strange occurrence this time around for us. We will work past it, but in the future we will have to rely on young guys to fill roles."

In 2014, Poore will need a decent sized class of freshmen to find their niche and make an impact. Parker Thornton, Chanse Vodvarka, Josh Woods and Keegan Burke are currently listed as forwards for the offensively deprived club. Myles Barnes is listed as a midfielder in addition to junior Teran Fontaine. Josh Brooks and Jake Peterson will look to round out the back end for the Panthers.

"This season will be a work in progress for us," Poore commented. "Not because we don't have the skill or the athleticism, but because we are looking for people to fill key positions for us."

Despite the difficult obstacle of searching for key players, Poore feels as though this season is "a glass half full" kind of season. With a defensive and possession style of play the big question remains of whether or not the "unproven" Panthers can tally enough goals to put together another winning season in Lisbon.

Garnett Hill
Martin Lord Osman
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