GRAY—When Nick Pelletier cut the Patriots’ two-goal deficit vs. visiting Freeport in half with roughly 30 minutes left to play last Thursday, Aug. 30, his boys looked like they stood a fighting chance of coming from behind – even claiming a W. But the day went against G-NG, as Falcons Jake Dumont and Wes Goodwin scored the game’s remaining points to secure a 4-1 triumph.
The Patriots knew Freeport would be a tough challenge, even before the bout, both teams’ season-opener, began:
“[Freeport’s] a very talented team,” Patriots head coach Andy Higgins said. “They’ve got talent all over the field. You know, Yarmouth has won four straight titles and however many games in a row; they’re clearly the class of our league. These guys are right behind them.”
“We knew they were going to be technically strong, they were going to move the ball well,” Higgins said. “So we tried to make them as predictable as possible, just get pressure and help on the ball, and make the field smaller so they couldn’t spread out. And in spurts, we did that.”
The action in the uphill half tilted slightly in the Falcons’ favor. Freeport logged a bit more time on the attack, and Will Winter earned a critical penalty kick around 10 minutes in.
Winter got the better of Patriots keeper Brannon Gilbert in the showdown, putting the Falcons out front 1-0. 20 minutes later, give or take, Winter struck again, taking advantage of a G-NG defensive lapse to duck in from the left side of Gilbert’s territory and roll a quick ball across to the right corner of the net. 2-0.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Freeport, because they’re a good team,” Higgins said, “but the four goals they scored were off our mistakes. When you play a good team and make mistakes, they’re going to capitalize on it…It was nice to see them, to see where we are, and maybe we see them again at the end of October, early November.”
“If we clean some things up, maybe that’s a little bit of a different game,” Higgins said.
The Patriots stanched the bleeding after that, and the half concluded. Then, when the sides returned for the downhill minutes, G-NG finally got on the board: Following a corner, the ball banging around out front of Freeport keeper Atticus Patrick, Pelletier battled, toppling one in after several tense seconds.
“It was one of those ones where you felt it was coming, just in that sequence,” Higgins said of the goal. “We hit off the post, we had a strike, the keeper made a nice initial save and then there’s a rebound and we got a strike; it bounced around and then Nicky P came flying in and just buried it in and tucked it in and it was great.”
“We had a lot more energy in the second half,” Higgins said, “and we changed some things and put more pressure on them.”
G-NG’s strategy to start had been to load the defensive end, to “pack it in,” in Higgins’s words. But that meant their efforts to ratchet up their offense drew men from the backfield forward – which of course opened Gilbert to additional dangers. To protect him adequately against such a strong opponent, his teammates who’d pushed ahead needed to leg it extra-fast back whenever Freeport won the ball in the midfield. It was the only way G-NG could hope to thwart the Falcons’ offense.
That approach worked, and didn’t work, for the Patriots: It helped them score, but Freeport’s attack proved too potent in the end, as they tallied two additional goals – Dumont’s with 20 minutes left to play, and Goodwin’s nine minutes later – for the 4-1 final.
“They opened us up at the end,” Higgins said, “but we also tried to push forward, when it was 2-1, to get the equalizer. So we conceded some space… We pushed an extra number forward; we started the game one forward, then switched to two, and we went three late, to try to get it to even. We had to push numbers forward.”
Higgins remarked on the Falcons third and fourth tallies. “Unfortunately, they get a corner kick, and we left a guy unmarked at the top of the box,” he said. “And we had just a frustration foul at the end, and they scored again.”
“It’s been a little bit of a mix,” Higgins said, asked if his boys looked about what you might expect for the very beginning of the season, or perhaps a little better. “There were some areas we exceeded in. One of the things we needed was strong leadership, and Nick McCann and Jake Kackmeister provided that. Their work-rate was through the roof today. They set the bar.”
“[We coaches] got into [our guys] a little bit at halftime, because I think they don’t see what we see,” Higgins said. “We look at them, and that’s a team that can compete with everyone, and we need them to believe that. And they’re going to, and it’s going to be a good year. We’ve got a long way to go and a lot of work to do. But we’re going to get back here tomorrow and make it happen.”
G-NG travels to York (0-1) on Sept. 11. Freeport, meanwhile, hosts Greely (0-0-1) on Wednesday the 5th before dropping in Lake Region (0-0-1) on Saturday the 8th.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Higgins said of the long interlude between the Patriots first game and their second. “That’s a lot of time that we can work to fix some things before we dive into another strong WMC opponent.”
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
Patriot Kyle Mercier defends the G-NG goal.
Patriot Alec Brooks tracks a Falcons opponent up the sideline.
Logan True heads an incoming ball away for G-NG.
Patriot Jake Kackmeister boots the ball ahead.
Nick Pelletier scored the Patriots’ lone goal vs. Freeport on Thursday last.
Patriots keeper Brannon Gilbert steps in front of a ball.
Patriot senior Captain Nick McCann vies with a pair of Falcons.
Andrew LaCerda shovels the ball away in G-NG’s season-opener with Freeport.
Patriot Tristan Fogg watches, guards a Falcons attacker.
G-NG’s Keegan Brooks and Freeport’s Eriksen Shea go shoulder-to-shoulder, chasing down a runaway ball.
Patriot Nick McCann embraces teammate Nick Pelletier after Pelletier scored the team’s second-half goal.