Greely senior Eric Kinkead heads the ball away from a Gray-New Gloucester defender during the Rangers’ 1-0 home win Monday.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
CUMBERLAND—Monday evening’s home contest against Gray-New Gloucester was a microcosm of what Greely’s season has been and perhaps what it could become.
As they have most of the autumn, the Rangers struggled to seize control in a showdown of two Class B South boys’ soccer contenders, but in a promising sign of the possibility that awaits, Greely found a way to get the job done.
After hitting the crossbar and having a penalty kick turned aside in a scoreless first half, the Rangers continued to press in the second half to no avail, but with 11:16 remaining in regulation, senior Will Pidgeon scored his latest big goal to put his team ahead.
Greely’s always-strong defense slammed the door from there and the Rangers held on for a 1-0 victory.
Greely won its third game in a row, on its Senior Night no less, evened its record at 6-6 and dropped the Patriots to 6-5-1 in the process.
“We traditionally play better in the second half of the season than the first,” said longtime Rangers coach Mike Andreasen. “As long as we can defend, we can play with anybody. It’s a more defensive league this year.”
Both teams have been in their share of competitive games this season.
Gray-New Gloucester started 5-0-1, tying Kennebunk, 0-0, and downing York, Wells, Poland, North Yarmouth Academy and Freeport. Three straight one-goal losses followed, as Gray-New Gloucester was bested by York, Fryeburg Academy and Cape Elizabeth. The Patriots then blanked visiting St. Dom’s, 2-0, but lost at Yarmouth, 2-0, last Tuesday.
After dropping its opener, 1-0, at Falmouth, Greely lost at York, 2-0. Wins at home over Kennebunk (2-0) and at Fryeburg Academy (7-0) followed. After a 1-0 home loss to Cape Elizabeth, the Rangers upset visiting Falmouth, 2-1. Losses at Cape Elizabeth (2-1) and at home against York (3-0) and Yarmouth (4-1) followed, but Greely turned things around last week by blanking host Kennebunk (3-0) and visiting Poland (9-0).
Last year, the teams settled for a 1-1 draw in Cumberland.
Monday, the Rangers needed just one goal and after a long wait, got it.
Greely had ample opportunities to go ahead in the first half, but couldn’t finish.
Early on, the Rangers were stymied by Gray-New Gloucester senior goalkeeper John Henry Villanueva, who stopped shots from senior Dylan Fried and Pidgeon.
After senior Henry Melville shot just wide, freshman Matt Kramlich launched a shot high.
With 14:31 remaining, it appeared the Rangers were going to take the lead, as senior Hunter Graham set up senior Owen McIntyre on the doorstep, but McIntyre’s shot sailed, hit the underside of the crossbar and wound up being cleared.
After Fried had a shot saved, Pidgeon was denied on a free kick.
Then, with 6:08 left, Pidgeon raced after a ball in the box while Villanueva came out. Pidgeon couldn’t reach the ball and had his legs taken out by the keeper. Play was stopped, Greely was awarded a penalty kick and by rule, Villanueva had to come off for the play.
Enter backup keeper, sophomore Brannon Gilbert, who got a break when Pidgeon’s shot was low and right at him, allowing him to make the save and steal the show in his short cameo appearance.
“My initial thought process was to go down the middle and hopefully he’d dive out of the way, but he didn’t dive out of the way,” Pidgeon said. “It was tough for me, but I had to keep going.”
Down the stretch in the first half, Pidgeon sailed a shot high and the Patriots earned a corner kick, but couldn’t get a shot on frame.
Early in the second half, Melville tried to serve the ball to Pidgeon in the box, but it went just over his head, senior Eric Kinkead had a shot saved by Villanueva and Gray-New Gloucester senior Bryce Hayman missed a shot just wide.
With 30:49 to play, Graham set up a streaking Pidgeon, whose left-footed shot rolled just wide of the far post.
A minute later, Pidgeon appeared primed to break the tie as his shot was ticketed for just inside the near post, but at the last second, Patriots freshman back Tristan Fogg cleared it away.
With 27:39 remaining, a left-footed blast from Melville just outside the box sailed high.
Fried tried a long blast with just over 20 minutes to go, but Villanueva was able to come down with the ball.
A minute later, Graham eluded two defenders, but couldn’t get past a third and had the ball taken away in the box.
After senior Alvaro Obregon sent a one-timer wide, senior Will Borden’s long shot was saved by Villanueva and the keeper leapt to snare a corner kick.
“Their goalie is All-Conference and he showed it,” Andreasen said. “We were trying to beat him with high crosses which is like trying to shoot over Yao Ming.”
Then, with 11:16 left, the Rangers finally broke through.
Graham got things started by firing a shot which was deflected. The ball took a friendly hop right to Pidgeon and Pidgeon one-timed a low blast past Villanueva, who dove to his right to no avail, and Greely was up, 1-0.
“We just have to stay positive,” said Pidgeon. “No matter chances we have, we have to keep working. The ball came right in my path and I just poked it home. I just shot it. I just focused on getting it on target. I saw a little gap between the post and the keeper and aimed for that and it found its way into the back of the net.”
“Will has been opportunistic,” Andreasen said. “He sneaks up on you. He’s scored some big goals for us this year. We’ve moved him out wide and he does better with more space.”
Late in regulation, Gray-New Gloucester got a shot from senior Josiah Carter, but Greely junior goalkeeper A.J. Eisenhart made an easy save.
The Patriots then earned a free kick, which was knocked out by a Rangers defender for a corner kick. The corner kick was also knocked out, giving Gray-New Gloucester one final chance, but senior Chris Borden headed it out of the box and that did it as Greely held on to prevail, 1-0.
“Winning on Senior Night was awesome,” Pidgeon said. “We couldn’t let ourselves lose on our last game here. We came out with a goal to win and luckily, we did. Everyone back there on defense works really hard in training and it shows out here. We don’t give up many goals.”
Both teams have work to do to finish as high as possible in the standings.
Gray-New Gloucester (now seventh in the Class B South Heals at press time) hosts Falmouth Thursday and closes at Wells Saturday.
Greely (sixth in Class B South) has two tough road games remaining, against red-hot North Yarmouth Academy Saturday and Yarmouth Tuesday of next week.
“We want to hit our stride going into the playoffs and play our best soccer later on,” Pidgeon said.
“This time of year is great,” Andreasen said. “Our losses are to the number two teams in Class A, the number two team in B, two to the number two team in B and two to the number four team in B. We’re losing to teams who, on paper, are better than us. We have to find a way to beat those teams. We have to do better.”
Greely senior Jack Saffian plays the ball while Gray-New Gloucester sophomore Nick McCann defends.
Greely senior Lucca Pfruender and Gray-New Gloucester senior John Phillips meet in the air.
Greely senior Alvaro Obregon boots the ball away from Gray-New Gloucester sophomore Nick McCann.
Greely senior Hunter Graham beats two Gray-New Gloucester defenders.