NEWPORT–Just like many of the other sports teams from North Country, the boys' soccer team also lost a large chunk of their roster to graduation.
Ten players departed the squad with a diploma while one member transferred to another school.
While coach James McKenny has almost a whole new roster to work with, one thing still remains the same; defense.
"It is a different team than last year, but we are smart out of the backfield," he said. "We've got Logan in net and I'm looking forward to a lot of the knowledge and leadership he brings to the game as well the two guys who will be working together in front of him, Adam Viens and Zach Tweed."
Indeed Logan Fortier is back between the pipes for his senior season, and if some of you remember a portion of the antics he displayed, you may be saying 'leadership from Logan?', but the tall netminder did a lot of personal work this summer that has helped him center himself and channel his energy in a positive manner.
And who was one of the people responsible for the transformation?
"She really kicked my butt, but she helped me focus a lot," said Fortier. "We spent some good time together, and it helped me mature as a person."
Fortier also did a lot of officiating this summer, which his coach believes gives him a better perspective of the game and will help improve his overall mental approach.
As mentioned before, Tweed and Viens, the latter having missed the majority of last season with an injury, will be the anchors in the backfield.
"They are both really smart players, guys who lead by example and go out there and get it done," said McKenny.
The coach hopes that their intelligence and drive will filter throughout the team in so far as the players take care of the little things like keeping their shape together, and ultimately executing on the field.
There was not a lot of scoring to be had for the Falcons in 2011, and despite the relative age of the team, McKenny understands how much a lack of scoring can impact a team playing in the Metro Division.
"It is one of those things that needs to happen to compete in the Metro and Division One. You need to produce goals. If you can't, your not going to win many games, and that was the case last year."
Looking to remedy the situation, North Country will have a lot of focus directed towards junior Nate Marsh up top as the go-to guy.
"We will try to move the offense a lot through him, whether he is on the scoring or setting up end," said McKenny.
Working with Marsh will be a rotating group of players including Travis Tetreault, Kody Halikas, as well as some looks from other players.
One thing that McKenny mentioned that seems very appropriate coming off of last year, is having the team get a few wins underneath their belt right off of the bat.
Part of the problem last season is that as the Falcons losing streak dragged on and got longer, the energy, focus and to an extent, effort, seemed to wain as the season marched on.
That is not something McKenny wants to see again.
"If you get a couple (wins) early in the season, it builds confidence within the team.
"Hopefully that is contagious and a lot of guys get a hand in the scoring end of things."
One factor that could be as big as the on-field efforts of the offense is new assistant coach Tim Stanley, a former Falcon in his own right and an All-American at Plattsburgh State.
"He brings a lot to the table, and it allows us to move throughout practice, say with me working with the defense and he with the offense."
North Country will get their season underway this afternoon in what is sure to be an ornithologist's dream match-up as the Thunderbirds of Missisquoi Valley take on the hometown Falcons in a battle of the birds.
Game time is 4:30.