Bobwhites Hold Off Thunderbirds in Opener

County Courier


ST. ALBANS – It was a perfect night to kick off the 2021 fall sports season when the BFA-St. Albans and Missisquoi boys soccer teams faced off Friday night.

In front of a packed crowd at the Collins Perley Sports Center, both teams had big moments that brought their respective crowds to their feet.

In the end, the Bobwhites capitalizing on a few more chances was the difference on their way to a 3-1 win over the Thunderbirds.

“This was an awesome atmosphere tonight with the student sections being full,” said BFA-St. Albans coach Luke Laroche. “The fans were in it which was great with the sidelines packed with parents. It’s great to see all the fans to come out and be loud unlike last year when we were limited by the number of people and with the masks and everything, so tonight was awesome.”

Three different seniors scored for BFA with Connor Leach, Cameron Currier Blaney and Logan Lavery tallying scores.

BFA-St. Albans’ Connor Leach (2) and Joey Nachaczewski (23) keep the ball away from Missisquoi’s Hayzen Luneau during Friday’s game. (Anthony Labor Jr. Photo)

After conceding two goals in the first 15 minutes of the game, including one on a penalty kick, the Thunderbirds settled down nicely and had their chances.

They made it a 2-1 game early in the second half and had their own chance at a penalty kick, but it was saved before BFA tacked on the insurance goal.

“The PK seven minutes into the game was a real killer and seemed to drop our spirits a little,” said Missisquoi coach Matt Chevalier. “We knew we were going up against a bigger school, but the jitters went away and our guys settled down nicely from there.”

The Bobwhites jumped on the board six minutes into the game when they were awarded a penalty kick after a Thunderbirds defender was called for covering up the ball in the penalty area. Currier Blaney lined up the kick and buried it into the net for the early 1-0 lead.

Less than 10 minutes later, Joey Nachaczewski put a perfect through ball past the defense onto the feet of Leach who sent a shot by charging Thunderbirds goalkeeper Ethan Bushey-Hansen (three saves) and into the net for the 2-0 lead.

BFA controlled the play for a bit longer from there getting two more quality chances, including a point-blank shot that was saved by Bushey-Hansen. The Bobwhites also had another chance from the top of the box, but Luc Fournier was in the right spot to make a kick save and clear the ball out of trouble to keep it a 2-0 game.

“I thought we moved the ball very well,” said Laroche. “It was good to see the guys playing together, we passed the ball when we should have and moved off the ball well early in the game.”

With just over 11 minutes to go in the first half, the Thunderbirds started to find their rhythm and were awarded their own penalty kick when Hayzen Luneau was brought down in the penalty area. Ashton Chevalier took the kick, but BFA keeper Connor Morin (three saves) made the big save and held on.

The Thunderbirds didn’t waste much time in the second half to get on the board. After being awarded a corner kick, Logan Martell put a perfect ball into the penalty area and Luneau was there for the header into the net to make it a 2-1 game shooting a bolt of life into the Thunderbirds and their crowd.

“The way we started moving the ball in the second half was great playing with a little more patience and playing calm,” said coach Chevalier. “We had some good opportunities once we settled into the game we wanted to play and Hayzen with a header on the corner was a phenomenal goal.”

Missisquoi’s Hayzen Luneau (left) celebrates with teammates after his second half goal against BFA-St. Albans on Friday. (Anthony Labor Jr. Photo)

After a collision near the net shortly after Missisquoi’s goal, Bushey-Hansen was forced to leave the game with an injury. Lucien Bushey (four saves) entered the game for the Thunderbirds.

The Bobwhites found their insurance goal shortly after when Lavery made a move to get behind the defense and slipped a shot past Bushey’s reach to make it a 3-1 game.

“We pressed and pressed and pressed trying to find that insurance goal,” said Laroche. “That was a nice play and that 2-goal cushion was much nicer than one.”

Both keepers stood tall from there, as Morin made a point blank save late in the game and Bushey saved a penalty kick to keep it a 3-1 game.

Bushey also made a couple more key saves late in the game to keep the game in reach for the Thunderbirds.

“The one goal against him was unfortunate that their guy got behind the defense, but other than that he saved a PK, had some good point-blank saves and played well on the corners,” said coach Chevalier. “I was very proud of Lucien coming in cold and not having many reps at this level, so for him to come in and play the way he played was amazing.”

Missisquoi’s Lucien Bushey makes a save on a penalty kick during the second half of Friday’s game against BFA-St. Albans (Greg Lamoureux Photo)

On the opposite end, Laroche was impressed with the night Morin had while starting in his first varsity game as a junior.

“With it being his first varsity game, he did what he needed to do tonight,” said Morin. “He played better than I’ve seen him in the past, so it’s been great to see him work hard, listening in practice and he is the only goalie we have. Even though he knows it’s his job, he’s not being complacent or anything and has been working hard. It’s great to see him have this game and start building his confidence off of this game.”

It was a good first test for the Thunderbirds to kick off the season and there were a lot of things they could take away from the game.

Even though it’s coach Chevalier’s first year at the helm of the Thunderbirds varsity program, he has been around the players as a helper with the team last year and also coaching a number of them throughout club teams. He thinks the familiarity with the players has helped everyone through preseason and will be a big benefit going forward. The Thunderbirds (0-1) will have a week off before traveling to Enosburg on Friday.

“For about eight or nine years, I have coached about eight or nine of these players, so those relationships are already established and even some of the ones I haven’t coached, I have known them from watching them,” he said. “That was a big benefit for all of us on and off the pitch, so those will definitely help us in the long run.”

It was a good start for the Bobwhites (1-0) in front of their home crowd. There was a lot of positives they can take away from Friday’s game going into their next game Thursday when they travel to North Country.

The Bobwhites, who have 14 seniors on the team, are hoping to improve from where they ended last year when they were 5-8-1 and fell in the first round of the playoffs.

“You should come to practices, these guys really enjoy being around each other and they played together all summer,” said Laroche. “Last year wasn’t where we wanted to be, so it was good to get that first goal and break that tension early on and get that out of our mind.”

BFA-St. Albans’ Cameron Currier Blaney, right, is congratulated by teammate Matt Merrill after his goal during the first half of Friday’s game against Missisquoi. (Greg Lamoureux Photo)