Logan Falzarano

Lebanon High’s Logan Falzarano controls the ball during the Division II state final last fall.

When he entered high school, Logan Falzarano wanted to carve out a name for himself as more than an athlete.

Mission accomplished for the Lebanon High senior. He’s the valedictorian of his class, an all-New England selection in soccer, and he’s headed to prestigious Johns Hopkins University in the fall to play soccer.

Falzarano is also the New Hampshire male winner of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association/New Hampshire Athletic Directors Association scholarship.

“Often, athletes are labeled as sort of singularly athletic, or at least that’s the only part that shows: on the field,” Falzarano says. “For me, being successful academically was part of my identity and something that I embraced.”

It wasn’t an easy road that he chose, but Falzarano thrives on challenges.

“I’ve had a tough time balancing the two at times,” he says. “For one, there are some late nights academically so I had to manage my time.”

That wasn’t all he had to manage. The load of books from his demanding course load was so large, he took to using a rolling luggage bag to transport them.

“The joke was always I carried my books in a rolling bag.” he says, “because I didn’t want to mess up my back.”

Falzarano is a two-sport athlete. He started playing basketball at a young age and was coached by his father, Tad, and was a three-year starter for Lebanon. But soccer, he says, is his passion. He began playing for Lebanon Recreation and then the Lightning Soccer Club of Hanover. For an additional challenge, he then signed on with Global Premier Soccer in Bedford, and made the three-hour round trip three days a week.

“I have to thank my parents for doing all the driving, letting me sleep and do homework in the car,” he says. “I owe a lot to GPS to developing my skills and my soccer IQ.”

Rob Johnstone, boys’ soccer coach at Lebanon for 26 years, says that soccer IQ made Falzarano one of the best players he’s ever coached. Falzarano scored 20 goals and notched 19 assists in his senior season, both highs in Johnstone’s tenure.

“We crank out some good players in New Hampshire. We crank out good players in Lebanon, but the ability to deal with any kind of ball under pressure, that first touch to set up the next move” that Falzarano has, “is something that I haven’t seen,” Johnstone says.

Johnstone said Jason Stone, the head coach as Stevens of Claremont, said, “Logan has the best first touch of any high school player he’s ever seen. The kid’s technical proficiency is way beyond our typical high school level.”

Falzarano’s intelligence and ability to think the game are advanced for a high-school player, Johnstone said.

”He’s a gifted athlete but you combine the athleticism with intelligence with the drive or the curiosity to figure it out,” is what makes him great, Johnstone said.

Two stories sum up Falzarano’s contribution to Lebanon soccer, Johnstone says.

This past season, he says, Lebanon lost once in the regular season: at ConVal of Peterborough. The Cougars visited Lebanon later in the season, and the game was scoreless at half. Johnstone, whose team plays the same formation in every game, decided to change things up for the second half. He bounced his idea off Falzarano.

“It was almost like I was talking to another coach at halftime. We came out in the final 40 minutes and we won 2-0,” Johnstone says. “He took that message and he’s the guy on the field, he’s the guy getting the most touches on the ball. It’s just those little things as far as that liaison between me and the team, while still dealing with getting kicked and marked and dealing with all the things the great players deal with.”

The other story deals with practice. Johnstone teaches school in Windsor, Vt., and travels across the Connecticut River to Hanover for practice. With Falzarano as a team leader, Johnstone says, he never had to worry if the team would be ready for practice when the coach arrived.

“When I get there, they’re ready to go. I pull out of my car and practice is ready to go,” he said. “That’s the leadership. That’s the example.”

Falzarano is a “competitive dude,” Johnstone said, even in practice. But that pays off. “Man, is that contagious. If the best player, whose got the sorest legs and the most bruises and cuts, is out there trying like its the World Cup final in practice,” Johnstone said, it sets a tone.

”You don’t get many kids like this but what you do get after you have a Logan, I am going to get the 35 kids that are returning in our program. What I am going to get is this is how you approach practice, this is how you play the game. I’m telling you, man that, stuff snowballs. That culture establishing that model.”

Falzarano said the competitiveness “comes from my dad. He was always very competitive, and played a bunch of sports when he was growing up.

”I think that the competitive nature that he instilled in me spilled over into academics as well,” he said.

Falzarano played four years of varsity basketball, and was a starter at point guard for three years. Kieth Matte, who’s coached the Raiders for 20 years, says that first season, when Falzarano didn’t play very much, said a lot about the player’s character. He never complained, practiced hard, and was a great teammate on a squad that won the Division II championship.

“You can learn more about a kid’s integrity and character when he’s not playing,” Matte says. “It was a great four years to have him.”

“He’s super athletic. He’s a great defensive player. He’s so intelligent. The game slows down for him. He makes decisions quicker than the rest of us,” Matte says. “Logan understands better than the rest of us. He’s just a very smart basketball player.”

“He’s also the valedictorian by a mile. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a kid lock it up that early,” says Matte, who is the assistant principal at Lebanon. “He’s a special kid. I don’t think he’s had a free moment since he was 8 years old. He’s a very serious, intense kid. He’s driven. ... I don’t know anybody like him.”

Remember the luggage carrier? Matte uses that to tell a story about how Falzarano leads by example.

“He’s got so many textbooks he would use an airport luggage carrier. So other kids started doing it. Now the place looks like an airport,” he says.

“I’ve had some super smart kids and kids with super high character and kids who played four years of basketball who were pretty good,” Matte says. “I don’t know that I’ve had any who check all those boxes.”