Boys Lacrosse: Rams drop season-opener on the road at Thornton Academy

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SACO—The Rams fell behind early at TA on Friday evening, April 13, and continued to trail as the four quarters unfolded. Gorham showed a diverse attack – six different players scored for the team, including Chris Tucker with two – but simply couldn’t keep pace with the Trojans in the end. 16-7 the final.

“Execution cost us,” Rams head coach Clayton Jones said, echoing a common refrain among coaches at the outset of any season.

“But also the fact that everything’s new this year. I came in late; they’re new to me, I’m new to them,” said Jones, who just recently took over the reins at Gorham. “The offense is new, the defense is new. When you’re starting from scratch, it’s going to take a while to get up to speed.”

TA opened the scoring just over two minutes in: Noah Edborg hurled one past Rams netminder Joe Hepler from low on the left side for an auspicious Trojans start. 22 seconds later, Tucker Weeks made it 2-0 from high on the same side. Weeks’s shot actually pelted Hepler square in the body – somehow, though, the ball rode its last trickle over the line.

Jack Webb tallied TA’s third (at 7:23) before Gorham finally got on the board. Ben Nault did the Rams’ first honors: Lingering just out front of Trojans goalie Seth Fournier, Nault picked up a feed from outside, turned and pulled the trigger – a bounce shot for 3-1.

Hepler recorded a couple nice Gorham saves in the ensuing minutes, but Edborg also managed a second strike, beating Rams defender Cole Perreault on the left side to find the back of the net and 4-1. Not long after, Tucker responded. 4-2.

Jones elaborated a bit on Gorham’s rebuilding process. “Any time you get a new coach, there’s new terminology, you want guys in different places, stuff like that. The biggest new factor is they’re getting used to me as a coach, and I’m learning them, learning who does what well and what their styles are. So we probably won’t be using everybody as effectively as we can until the end of the season.”

Thornton kicked off the second quarter with another run – this one bigger still than their first-quarter push. CJ Labreck notched, as did Edborg (three times) and Webb, leading to 9-2.

“I’d say it was about 50-50, offense and defense,” Jones said, asked which aspect of the game cost his boys the most. “We had some great opportunities that we missed, we had some non-opportunities we tried to get, and those cost us possessions. And when [TA] has a lot more possessions, they’re going to score more goals.”

Finally, the Rams got back on their hooves and refocused a bit. Gorham defended ably for the remainder of the stretch, and earned two more of their own: Cooper Lyons capped a long, nimble Rams possession with an inside goal (assisted by Jake Dupuis), and Connor Doherty crashed the left side of the TA net for 9-4.

When the sides returned from halftime, the Trojans once again took the field looking dominant. Thornton battered Rams keeper Giuseppe Brown – now between the pipes in place of Hepler – for four more in the first five minutes of the third. Gorham, across the entire quarter, just couldn’t settle into an effective attack pattern, and thus managed nary a point.

Jones remarked on the Rams’ change in netminders: “The plan right from the start was: each of them plays a half,” he said. “They’re both really good goalies, both juniors. They both earned the right to do that.”

Indeed, as Hepler had, Brown also logged a handful of pretty saves against TA’s heavy pressure – still, his efforts wouldn’t suffice to save the day.

The Rams reversed their start-of-quarter fortunes in the fourth, picking up the stretch’s first three: Colby Gould added one, Tucker another and Dupuis yet another over the course of eight strong minutes for the team. TA, though, controlled the end of the game, matching Gorham’s trio with a trio of their own and closing the action at 16-7.

“We had a lot of jitters, a lot of nerves, early on,” Jones said of his boys’ turning the tables on the Trojans early in the last quarter. “[Thornton] won the beginning of the first quarter, they won the beginning of the second quarter. And that was really the difference at halftime. Then they came out and won the beginning of the third quarter. So it was pretty obvious what my speech was going to be after the third quarter: ‘That’s where we’re losing it. We’ve got to come out and be intense from the start.”

“I literally told them, ‘We have to win this quarter; I don’t care what the score is,’” Jones said. “And they did, which is good. We executed some things we’d been trying to execute all game long, and it finally came together in the fourth quarter. That’s probably going to be indicative of our season as a whole: getting together at the end.”

Doherty and Dupuis finished with two assists each for Gorham, while Tucker and Nault each added one.

The Rams picked up 28 ground balls total (10 in the first, six in the second, five in the third and seven in the fourth). They went four-and-four on clear attempts in the first, a mere 50 percent, but improved as they settled down, going 7-3 in the second, 5-2 in the third and 5-0 in the fourth.

Similarly, while Gorham couldn’t capitalize on their man-advantage chances in any of the first three quarters, they did so on their lone such opportunity in the fourth. They hashed 19 shots (5-6-3-5), and faceoff man Ben Smith won half, 13, of his battles at centerfield. Hepler recorded six saves and Brown 13.

Happily, the Rams played clean ball, picking up just three penalties.

Gorham, now 0-1, faces off on the 19th at Kennebunk, themselves 0-1 after suffering a 13-3 defeat to Falmouth on Friday.

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

Gorhamite Cole Perreault defends against TA intruder Jack Webb.

Gorham junior Joe Hepler manned the Rams’ goal for the first half versus TA on Friday.

Gorham’s Jake Dupuis unwinds into a shot.

Ram Cooper Lyons surveys his pass options as he works upfield.

Ram Connor Doherty gets a little love from a teammate after scoring in Gorham’s bout with TA.

Gorhamite Chris Tucker clashes with Thornton opponent Ean Patry.

Ram Colby Gould plays keepaway with a Trojans defender.

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