To Raiders’ Reilly, rebuilding isn’t a dirty word

Laconia High's Eli Nadeau, center, turns the corner on Lebanon's Austin Engert, left, while goaltender James Barnett prepares for a shot during the NHIAA Division III teams' April 17, 2024, meeting on Henry Emerton Field in Lebanon, N.H. Laconia won, 8-2. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Laconia High's Eli Nadeau, center, turns the corner on Lebanon's Austin Engert, left, while goaltender James Barnett prepares for a shot during the NHIAA Division III teams' April 17, 2024, meeting on Henry Emerton Field in Lebanon, N.H. Laconia won, 8-2. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

First-year Lebanon High boys lacrosse coach Dennis O'Reilly emphasizes a point during halftime of his NHIAA Division III team's 8-2 loss to Laconia on April 17, 2024, in Lebanon, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

First-year Lebanon High boys lacrosse coach Dennis O'Reilly emphasizes a point during halftime of his NHIAA Division III team's 8-2 loss to Laconia on April 17, 2024, in Lebanon, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

Lebanon High goaltender James Barnett looks for clearing options during his NHIAA Division III team's 8-2 loss to Laconia at Henry Emerton Field on April 17, 2024, in Lebanon, N.H. Barnett made 12 saves. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Lebanon High goaltender James Barnett looks for clearing options during his NHIAA Division III team's 8-2 loss to Laconia at Henry Emerton Field on April 17, 2024, in Lebanon, N.H. Barnett made 12 saves. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — Tris Wykes

Laconia High's Brody Rollins, left, holds off Lebanon's V.J. Sites during the NHIAA Division III teams' clash at Henry Emerton Field on April 17, 2024, in Lebanon, N.H. Laconia's Alex Richardson (5) and Lebanon's Benji Madory are in the background. Laconia won, 8-2. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Laconia High's Brody Rollins, left, holds off Lebanon's V.J. Sites during the NHIAA Division III teams' clash at Henry Emerton Field on April 17, 2024, in Lebanon, N.H. Laconia's Alex Richardson (5) and Lebanon's Benji Madory are in the background. Laconia won, 8-2. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

Lebanon High goaltender James Barnett (4) challenges Laconia's Paul Ganchi (3) during the NHIAA Division III teams' meeting on April 17, 2024 at Henry Emerton Field in Lebanon, N.H. Laconia's J.P. Harriman and Lebanon's Miles Saunders look on. Ganchi did not score, but his Sachems won, 8-2. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Lebanon High goaltender James Barnett (4) challenges Laconia's Paul Ganchi (3) during the NHIAA Division III teams' meeting on April 17, 2024 at Henry Emerton Field in Lebanon, N.H. Laconia's J.P. Harriman and Lebanon's Miles Saunders look on. Ganchi did not score, but his Sachems won, 8-2. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

Lebanon High's Evan George (28) throws a pass beyond Laconia's Brady Stevens (27) while the Sachems' Paul Ganchi (3) trails the play at Henry Emerton Field in Lebanon, N.H. Laconia won the NHIAA Division III teams' meeting, 8-2, on April 17, 2024. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Lebanon High's Evan George (28) throws a pass beyond Laconia's Brady Stevens (27) while the Sachems' Paul Ganchi (3) trails the play at Henry Emerton Field in Lebanon, N.H. Laconia won the NHIAA Division III teams' meeting, 8-2, on April 17, 2024. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-18-2024 5:56 PM

LEBANON — Dennis Reilly doesn’t shy away from the label “rebuilding season.” The first-year coach of the Lebanon High boys lacrosse team has a 26-player roster, and 19 are either freshmen or sophomores.

“That’s the definition of rebuilding,” said Reilly, the Raiders’ sixth coach in the last 13 seasons and who inherited a program that was 4-10 last spring.

Wednesday on Henry Emerton Field, Lebanon opened the scoring against NHIAA Division III foe Laconia and trailed the Sachems by only a goal at halftime. Reilly said the 8-2 final score revealed his team’s youth.

“Two games in a row, our first half’s been pretty even but we lose mental focus after that,” said Reilly, whose 0-2 squad lost its season opener to Bow, 11-2. “We have to build our fortitude up, because we make a lot of mental mistakes. Playing at the varsity level wears us down very quickly.”

Two years ago, Norwich attorney Cole Flannery led the Raiders to their first winning season since 2012. Flannery stepped down after last season, his fourth, opening the door for Reilly, the grandfather of Lebanon defenseman Danny Keefe.

An assistant professor of business administration at Vermont State University Castleton, he previously coached lacrosse in Florida.

“He’s been super constructive and teaching us how to work as a team,” said Lebanon goaltender James Barnett, who made 12 saves Wednesday. “Making sure every guy on the field counts.”

Laconia was the sixth-seeded team in the division playoffs last year and made a quarterfinal exit. It spent much of the afternoon in the hosts’ end of the field. That eventually wore down Barnett and his defense, especially a relatively inexperienced midfield.

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“They began to read our defense a bit better and find some holes,” Barnett said, stressing the importance of having the right defender in the correct location at all times. “There are still a few things we need to work on, and they capitalized on them.”

Reilly said the Sachems’ ability to pounce on Lebanon’s offensive turnovers and transition into a fast-break attack meant the Raiders couldn’t get their defensive midfielders off the sideline. That left offensively instructed players to try and defend as best they could.

“We have people who aren’t up to speed on the defensive maneuvers, and it puts us at a disadvantage,” the coach said, noting that his team staged only four outdoor practices before its first game. “We just have to work on drills and fundamentals on a lined field.”

Abe Pearson scored Lebanon’s goals. Reilly said the Raiders’ offense needs to slow down, but it’s easier said than done when you’re starting multiple freshmen.

“They get panicky and tight, and that stress comes through your hands to that stick, which is why we have so many dropped balls,” Reilly said.

Another factor is the absence of junior standout Otto Bourne, who has given up lacrosse to focus on soccer, a sport in which he has a clear future at the collegiate level. Reilly said he was impressed with Bourne’s maturity and thoughtful explanation in defense of his decision.

“I don’t have a right to squash that dream, and I support his decision 100%,” Reilly said.

Said Barnett: “It’s really disappointing that he’s not here, especially on clears. But we have to get everyone involved on them, cutting and passing. We can’t just rely on Otto, like we did the last two years.”

Lebanon, 49-113 the last 11 years, played the second of three games in as many days Thursday against 0-2 Bishop Brady. Friday’s opponent is Coe-Brown.

Notes: Laconia is 2-1. … Herb Hatch was one of the game’s two referees. He was previously Hanover High’s boys lacrosse and football coach and also coached the former sport at Kearsarge and the latter one at Lebanon. … O’Reilly said Keefe was a youth lacrosse goaltender until he took his grandson to an NCAA Division I game and the youngster saw the speed of attackers’ shots. … A JV baseball game occurred at the same time on adjacent Doug Ashey Field, and a foul ball landed in the midst of the lacrosse game during its action. Raiders defender Miles Saunders flung the horsehide off the field without a whistle being blown.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.