Blazes give Mt. Ararat a game, but can't take W

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Brandon Labbe carries forward for the Blazes vs. Mt. Ararat last Saturday.

WESTBROOK— Mt. Ararat’s Sawyer Watson piled a quintet of goals on Blazes keeper Ochan Ogak Saturday morning, April 29, leading the Eagles to a 9-7 victory. Watson added a pair in the critical first quarter, when his boys jumped to a quick 5-1 advantage on their hosts, and continued to pepper Ogak as the game progressed.

“He’s a leader,” Eagles head coach Matt Haskell said of Watson. “He’s a good dodger, a good finisher and a good feeder. He does a great job for us.”

Mt. A advanced on the result to 2-3 this spring; Westbrook, meanwhile, slipped to 0-3. 

Blazes head coach Pete Lyons took the long view of his team’s early-season struggles. “We’ll continue to learn,” he said patiently, “and get better and go from here.”

Mark Abreu tallied Mt. A’s first of the game, midway through the opening quarter. The Eagles built a quick lead after that, accruing four more in six minutes. Watson (assisted by Owen Kelly) struck next; Kelly (assisted by Connor Brown) followed him up. Orion Sargent then contributed one before Watson (assisted by Brown) capped the push. 

“They were effectively cutting to the crease, and we were ball-watching and turning our heads,” Lyons said of the opposition. “And our offense was stagnant; we didn’t create any good offensive movement.”

Westbrook wasn’t silent during that stretch, but nor were they particularly vocal, scoring just one, a Christian Childs point. They battled back a bit in the second, however: After Watson made it 6-1 roughly 3½ minutes in, the Blazes finally woke up, hashing three in a row – two by Ryan Shackley (the first on a feed from Brandon Labbe) and one by Grayson Post.

“Our second quarter, we played very well,” said Lyons. “We cut it 6-4, moved the ball, were unselfish …We made a ball game of it.”

“It felt like things were going good (in the first),” said Haskell. “We just couldn’t continue what we were doing there – cutting from the back side, and hitting our cutters. We kind of got away from that. And they made some good plays …  did a good job of winning possession, so we didn’t have the ball on offense.”

Westbrook pulled within one at 6-5 when, 44 seconds into the third, Jared Grant powered up the middle of the Mt. A zone, bounced off a defender or two and earned a head-on shot from 20 feet out.

But one goal down was as close as the Blazes would come to their guests: Watson struck again seven minutes later, setting the score at 7-5, and despite fourth-quarter goals by Post (assist to Grant) and Childs, Westbrook would find themselves behind at the buzzer. Watson (assist to Abreu) and Nick Conter both contributed to keep Mt. A on top and secure the W.

“It slipped away from us a little when they got up 9-6,” said Lyons. “They beat us up a little on the ground balls. They came up with more loose balls and made more plays in the midfield. We need to work on our ground balls, which is basic fundamentals.”

“You’ll take the win,” said Haskell, “but I thought we could’ve done a few things better there. They did a very good job of pressuring us and forcing turnovers when we were trying to peel a little time off the clock. We played a lot more defense in the fourth quarter than we wanted to.”

Mt. A might’ve defended more than they would’ve like, but at least they defended solidly. “Our defense did a very good job,” Haskell said. “[Westbrook has] a couple kids with cannons out there; we did a good job, for the most part, of getting out on their hands. Considering how much they had the ball, we did a good job limiting shots.”

Westbrook’s Ogak deserves special credit for his performance in goal; not only did he turn several key saves, he’s brand-new to the position. “Ochan has been a goalkeeper for a day and a half,” Lyons said. “In his first game, he did a nice job.”

The Blazes have been experimenting with different players in the cage after losing Alex LeBlanc, their standout for the past few years, to graduation last June.

“I think he’s got something we can work with,” Lyons said of Ogak. “He just played two full lacrosse games, and he’s got to go to work right now. He’s a hardworking kid.”

Lyons praised a couple of his other players as well. “I liked Hayden (Phelps) in the midfield, LSM; he played well. Ryan Shackley’s always scrappy and smart, attackman. Jared Clark is always solid for us.”

The Eagles hosted Cony on Thursday, May 4; they welcome Brunswick on Monday the 8th. Westbrook faced off with Biddeford on Tuesday the 2nd and Noble two days later. They visit South Portland this coming Wednesday.

Adam Birt can be reached at abirt@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME

Brandon Labbe carries forward for the Blazes vs. Mt. Ararat last Saturday.

Eagle Connor Brown and Blaze Jay Marean lock horns. 

Blazes coach Pete Lyons praised defender/long-stick middie Hayden Phelps for his play vs. Mt. A on Saturday.

Marcus Lawson fires off a bullet from the top of the zone vs. Mt. A on Saturday.

Jared Grant wins a faceoff for the Blazes vs. the visiting Eagles.

Ryan Shackley tallied two for the Blazes in their narrow loss to Mt. Ararat.

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