GORHAM—Ram Sam Burghardt turned in the deciding factor vs. visiting Cheverus on Thursday evening, Oct. 12, tallying a surprise notch late in the first half. In an otherwise well-fought battle, then, Gorham ultimately emerged victorious over the Stags – and by the nailbiter score of 1-0, no less.
“We felt like we might want to use our size a little bit,” said Rams head coach Tim King, asked about Gorham’s strategy, heading into the contest. “Get some balls into the box, and challenge for those balls. We couldn’t get a lot of corners; we didn’t do a good job with our corners tonight – which I think we typically do. We wanted to make sure their counterattack, they couldn’t break out on us, because that’s typically what they like to do, and they’re very skilled down the middle of the field.”
King highlighted a few of the Stags’ players his boys needed to key on defensively: “Luc Dionne’s very good; [Mike Nason’s] really good down the middle, No. 9; Nolan Doherty, No. 4, in the middle – right down the middle of the field, they’re very strong. And we knew that coming in…In the end, we did a pretty good job with that.”
“We needed to watch out for Dionne,” Burghardt concurred. “He’s really good with his feet. He’s good at shooting. All the way down the middle, with the formation they have, that four-three-two-one or something like that; we just needed to control the middle. Force them out wide and stuff like that.”
“But I think a lot of times the tactical part is overblown a little bit,” King said. “If you win your 50-50 balls and you’re hard to the ball, you create more chances for yourself. That’s what we needed to do.”
The action seesawed up and down the field though the first half, both teams creating a chance here or a chance there, but neither team creating any great chances. Around 16:26, Ram Kevin Mollison somehow curled a header on net – from off the right Cheverus post, weirdly – but beyond that, there were no real close calls on either side.
Burghardt’s strike came out of nowhere with less than a minute to play before the break. Looking more for an opportunity to push inside than an opportunity to put a shot on frame, Burghardt, out past the top of the penalty area, suddenly found the ball at his feet and his angle on Stags keeper Kevin Ly mostly wide open. Burghardt described his perspective on the play:
“Basically, it just kind of landed on my feet; I put it in,” he said. “We really needed that goal, towards the end [of the half]; we needed our energy up for the rest of the game…It kind of picked up after that goal and we kept the pressure on.”
“I think someone tried a cross and it hit off someone’s foot,” Burghardt said of the moment leading into his shot. “It was like a 50-50 between me and him, and he backed off and I guess I took the opportunity…It was just their one stopper and the goalie, so I took a touch by him and put it in.”
“We needed the energy, we needed a big play to be made,” Burghardt said. “Once that goal happened, all of our confidence went up, and our motivation just pushed us through.”
“Early on in the game,” said King, “they were beating us to balls, and they put us under a lot of pressure…so that gave us some problems. And then we did – about halfway through the half – we settled down, we started getting better possession, we got better chances. We got a few chances that got in the box, and then Sam got one onto his right foot and broke in and finished it. He’s been a little bit snakebitten, so that felt good for him, I know for sure, and for us.”
The downhill half featured a handful of dangerous moments at both ends of the field. Just over 13 minutes in, the Stags generated a narrow miss on a free kick, the ball pingponging around in front of the net on a series of headers until finally it flew wide right. A couple minutes later, Gorham’s Kyle King knocked a header on-net, but Ly got a mitt on it and deflected it wide left. Finally, Cheverus set up a nice corner at 14:10, but Rams keeper Trevor Gray came up with the stop. From there, the clock melted away until the game landed in Gorham’s W column.
“We played at Falmouth on Tuesday night,” Tim King said. “We expended a lot of energy there. We knew it was going to be real tough to summon some more energy against [Cheverus], and they came hard at us, and gave us everything…and that’s what it’s going to be in the playoffs. It’s going to be one-goal games, it’s going to be somebody making a play here or there, and good teams going against each other.”
King took a moment to applaud a handful of his boys. “Sam had a goal – I thought Sam was better than he’s been in quite a while. I felt good about that. Our defense was pretty solid: Aaron Farr did a good job organizing things and clearing stuff out of the back. Cooper Lyons was really good in the back, too.”
Burghardt likewise had praise for a few of his teammates. “[Kyle King] and [Andrew Rent] did great this game, good effort. All of our four backs did great, really just distributing the ball…getting our crosses in. Cooper had some great balls in to Kyle. A little contact on the goalie, but that’s all right.”
“We definitely wanted the win,” Burghardt said, “just so we can stay in that fourth-seed spot, get a bye. And also we want a home game in the playoffs.”
The win bumped Gorham to 10-2-1. The Rams, who are indeed ranked fourth at present, close their regular schedule with a road bout at No. 11 Bonny Eagle (5-8) on Tuesday the 17th.
No. 5 Cheverus, meanwhile, slipped on the loss to 7-5-1. The Stags’ last game before playoffs begin also takes place on Tuesday, when they welcome Biddeford (16th at 1-12).
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
Gorham’s Sam Burghardt escapes from Cheverus’s Chris St. John.
Kyle King (Gorham) battles with Luc Dionne (Cheverus).
Andrew Rent boots the ball upfield for Gorham vs. visiting Cheverus.
Gorham’s Kevin Mollison shovels the ball away as Cheverus’s Tom Gordon slides in to interrupt.
Garrett Higgins blasts the ball away for Gorham.
Stag Mike Nason tries to control near the sideline, under pressure from Gorhamite Andrew Rent.