PORTLAND—Gorham and Cheverus battled to a 1-1, double-overtime draw at Fitzpatrick Stadium on Thursday night, Oct. 10, matching each other on second-half goals by Stag James Shimansky and Ram Andrew Rent. The result leaves Gorham, now 12-0-1, atop the standings still – they’ve been there all season long – but bumps Cheverus, now 8-3-2, up from third place to second.
“Their defense,” Gorham head coach Tim King said of the Stags, and tying with them, “they’re very tough in the back, too, and so it takes great plays to beat them. We created some great chances, and just couldn’t quite get that extra one.”
“On paper, it doesn’t look as good,” Rent said, asked about the tie. “But we can definitely build on it. It will help us prepare for the upcoming playoffs. It gives us that experience, overtime, and that’s something we’ll definitely benefit from. I’m not disappointed, but I’m not pleased.”
The Stags held a narrow advantage in the early action: They couldn’t pin Gorham all the way back in the Rams’ end – Gorham’s too talented, too ferocious, too experienced for that – but they did manage to keep play largely in the Rams’ half of the midfield.
Eventually, however, Gorham pushed back, and by the final minutes before the break, were applying substantial pressure. Kevin Mollison logged a near miss from on the Stags’ doorstep around the six-minute mark, for instance, and Ryan Farr logged one not long after, firing off a solid shot from outside-left on a feed across by Rent.
Still, the Rams couldn’t get on the board. And Gorham didn’t do all the attacking: Cheverusite Jack Mullen pressed forward up the right side with just 2:16 left on the clock and pulled the trigger on a hard shot from outside. Luckily, Rams ace keeper Trevor Gray stood strong, made the stop.
Gorham adjusted during the break, and trotted onto the field for the second half fired up.
“We talk about this a lot: When we don’t play aggressively and win 50-50 balls and we’re on our heels and then we can’t really access what we think is a pretty skilled team,” King said, asked what needed to change for his boys. “We need to be more aggressive – and they were more aggressive, they took it to us. We felt like that was the case the other night when we played Falmouth.” (Gorham bested Falmouth 2-1 on Tuesday, Oct. 9.)
“I was pretty pleased with the way we reacted,” King went on. “We played a really good second half. We gave up a goal and we were able to fight back and tie it up, and I thought we had some really good chances down the stretch, and I thought we had some really good chances in overtime. And that’s all you can ask for. That’s a really good team we’re playing, and we kind of took it to them toward the end. We couldn’t put one in, so a tie’s a tie.”
Early in the second half, Rent recorded the best chance – by either team – of the game to that point: Rent broke away from the pack and tapped the ball swiftly past Cheverus keeper Harrison Bell – but uncharacteristically hit the post with his shot.
“That was unfortunate,” Rent said of the posted ball. “I wanted that one back. I had the angle right, and Harrison came out. He cut the angle pretty good, so I tried to lift it to his side, and it just curled the wrong way, so it hit the post and didn’t go in off the post, it came out.”
The action seesawed back-and-forth for the next 23 minutes or so – until, with a mere 13:20 to play, Shimansky put the Stags out front, tallying a redirect goal at the left side of the Rams’ net on a feed from the right corner.
The moment seemed to light a fire under Gorham’s butts. King noted as much: “Yeah, I think it probably did,” he said. “We were down 1-0 to Portland earlier this year, and we responded, so we haven’t been behind much. But this group can fight, and they’ve got a lot of heart, and they showed that tonight.”
Rent concurred. “Yeah, I think so. I think after that we sort of picked it up and realized, ‘We need to actually go out and score now.’ We did it against Falmouth, Tuesday, so I think we knew how to do it, and were able to eventually do it.”
“We’ve been a good second-half team all year,” King said. “Our kids just are able to find another gear, and I don’t know if we’re in good shape or what it is, but we play really good second halves. We did that tonight, and that started with winning some of those 50-50 balls in the midfield.”
The Rams’ strength in second halves, combined with their renewed vigor, hit a peak less than three minutes after Shimansky’s notch. Brady King, who takes the team’s corners because he drops in a lot of perfect set-ups, belted in a beautiful alley-oop from the Stags’ left nook. Rent connected with a hard header, and the ball zipped past Bell for 1-1.
Rent described his vantage point on the goal:
“We’ve had quite a few corners all game, and Brady was putting in pretty good balls, and I just got a good jump, I think, put it back across the goalie, and it went in.”
“We’ve got what I would think is the best player in the State,” Coach King said, referring to Rent. “And he made a great play and tied it up – he makes a lot of great plays, and he scored that goal on the header, so that was good.”
Rent’s goal proved the last of the outing, though both teams turned in further chances. The Rams perhaps turned in most of those, but Cheverus undoubtedly turned in the most spectacular, the most dangerous: With just four seconds remaining in regulation, the Stags, deep in Rams territory, fed a cross-ball from the right side through the center and over to the left, where they volleyed a blistering shot toward the Gorham net. Were it not for a thrilling, diving save by Gray, the Rams would’ve lost in the final moments.
In a 90-minute outing that ends at 1-1, defense is clearly key. Coach King remarked on his boys’ protection, as well as on their efforts to break through Cheverus’s imposing back line:
“From our end, it starts with our goalkeeper,” he said. “Trevor’s so solid, he’s so athletic, and he makes great plays all the time. So he gives us great confidence. Our other four back there are all first-year starters, and they’ve just gotten better and better and better as the year goes on. We like to try to build some of our offense from the back, and get our outside backs up the field, and we were able to do that.
“But at the same time, they’ve got a real dangerous striker up there, and I thought Grant Nadeau did a good job of really hanging with him. Grant’s a big, athletic kid, and that kid was as well, that Mullen kid, and he was sticking with him.”
Gorham closes their regular season with a home bout vs. Bonny Eagle (13th, 2-6-4) on Tuesday, Oct. 16. Cheverus caps their schedule with a road contest at Biddeford (17th, 0-12-1), also on Tuesday the 16th.
Almost 200 additional photos can be found here:
Gorham’s Kevin Mollison rips a shot toward the Cheverus net.
Andrew Rent scored the Rams’ goal off this header.
Matthew Phinney battles for an airball near the Cheverus net.
Javin Stickney crashes the Cheverus net.
Colby Christakis settles a ball for Gorham.
Brady King outpaces a Cheverus opponent.
Ram Kyle Hamblen settles a ball.
Brady King faces off with a Stags opponent.
Andrew Rent crashes forward for the Rams.
Gorhamite Brendan Waterman and Cheveruser James Shimansky clash.
Alex Burghardt wrestles a Stag.