FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — A steady rain was met with a steady stream of smiles and comments — “Can you believe this?” — as the Lewiston High School varsity boys soccer team arrived as guests of honor Sunday at the New England Patriots game at Gillette Stadium.

The Blue Devils, winners Nov. 11 of the Class A state championship, were invited by the Patriots last week to Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers. The feting began when the team’s charter bus received a police escort from the highway exit to the stadium’s doorstep.

What had been a relatively quiet morning bus ride, turned into gasps and chatting as the bus turned a corner and the stadium came into view.

Head coach Dan Gish said all the support the team has received since it completed a championship run, while trying to provide some joy to the community in the wake of the Oct. 25 mass shooting, has been “overwhelming” and “hard to put into words.”

Receiving recognition like what the team got from the Patriots on Sunday “shows you there’s good people out there,” Gish said.


What followed the ride to the stadium was a private meeting with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Two players presented Kraft with a Lewiston Blue Devils scarf — a tradition in soccer

“This is just one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” said Lewiston senior captain Payson Goyette, who was one of the players to present the scarf. “I mean, I watched the Patriots my whole life. It’s just cool to be able to see all the Super Bowl trophies, wear the rings. It’s something I’ll never be able to experience again.”

Goyette took his time trying on the ring from the Patriots’ sixth and most recent Super Bowl victory.

Fellow senior Obed Antonio, the other player to present the scarf to Kraft, admitted he let Goyette do most of the talking to Kraft and that he did not know much about him or the Patriots’ recent Super Bowl success until after the team received the invitation last week.

“I really didn’t process it until they told me who Robert Kraft is and how big the team is, because I don’t really follow football,” Antonio said. “So I was like, ‘Wow!’ I was very excited to come.”

Lewiston High School soccer players and coaches get together for a team photo Sunday afternoon prior to the start of the Patriots game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Antonio said he took Kraft’s words to heart.


“I felt like the way he was just, like, proud of us, it made me feel special,” Antonio said. “I liked the way he was comparing their championships to our championships, even though theirs are way bigger than ours. But I like the feeling that, like, we’re both winners. We’re both a team that likes to win championships.”

Gish said Kraft told the Blue Devils: “I’m glad you’re here today. We could use some good luck.”

The festivities continued when the team was brought into the Patriots’ practice field house, where a pregame tailgate gathering was taking place. Gish went into coach mode, huddling up the team and giving the game plan on what he expected in the next part of the day.

As the players — all wearing matching blue team jackets — took their seats and filled their plates with food, they were greeted with pockets of applause from other attendees in the field house. They were introduced by the master of ceremony, which brought more applause, and then they took photographs with two Patriots cheerleaders.

Walking onto the field sideline and looking at the sprawling stadium opened the players’ eyes. They first caught the attention of Patriots running back Ty Montgomery, who, after some prodding, gave the Lewiston players a wave.

Lewiston High School soccer players and coaches endure a steady rain Sunday afternoon during the Patriots game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

A few minutes later, the Blue Devils got who they wanted when New England receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, the player the Lewiston athletes said they most wanted to see, came over and took a picture with the team. The soccer players were left buzzing as Smith-Schuster returned to his pregame routine.


Last came the crescendo, with the team taking a ride up an elevator to the observation deck of the new, 218-foot Gillette Stadium Lighthouse.

Senior player Aristarque Meli admitted to being afraid of heights, but he was chosen by his teammates to be the first player to ring a bell on the observation deck as “Keepers of the Light.” Meli said he was honored to be chosen by his teammates, who gave him words of encouragement before stepping out onto the deck.

Goyette and fellow senior Nolan Cote followed in ringing the bell, which came after a video montage of the team winning the state championship was shown on the massive video board below and then by an eruption of applause from the crowd.

After all the pomp and circumstance, the team took in the game from the stadium’s club seats.

For many, it was their first Patriots game. For all, a lasting memory.

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