GORHAM and BATH—Ryan Farr pushed the Rams past the visiting Bulldogs in Wednesday night, Oct. 31’s A South Regional Final, scoring the game’s lone goal in the 67th minute. Alas, Gorham couldn’t pull of another win in the following Saturday’s State Final, where they succumbed to Lewiston 1-0.
Wednesday’s bout for the A South crown was the third in as many years to pit the Rams against the Bulldogs. Two years ago, Gorham won; last year, Portland.
“This is the rematch of a rematch,” Rams head coach Tim King said. “This is three years in a row. Two years ago, it was a 1-0 game; last year it went to overtime, and then went to penalty kicks and they beat us; and then this year it’s a 1-0 game. So I guess it’s that close. Two quality teams and they just fight hard.”
“They’re tough, and we had to fight for every inch we got,” King said of the Bulldogs. “And that’s all we got, was that extra inch to score the goal, I guess.”
Portland began the game applying pressure, but Gorham’s standout defense – relatively inexperienced – held the Bulldogs at bay, with ace netminder Trevor Gray making every play he was called upon to make. In the seventh minute, for example, Gray turned in a leaping, one-handed deflection on a hard Portland shot from outside-left; the ball sailed high and right of the goal.
“We’re confident with our defense,” King said. “And Trevor’s such a good goalie, he just gives our defense so much confidence. And all those four back there – Brady (King), Grant (Nadeau), Travis (Matheson) and Brendan (Waterman) – are all first-year starters, so we’ve just got better and better as the year’s gone on.”
“I think we had great communication in the back,” Farr said, asked about the defensive fire the Rams needed to hold the Bulldogs scoreless. “Trevor, always keeping us organized. And we have everyone back – no one just being lazy.”
Shortly, Portland banged the left Gorham post with a shot – but posting a ball isn’t good enough. The Rams cleared, and pushed back up the field, where Javin Stickney generated a couple of top-quality opportunities: one (with 29:50 on the clock) on a header past the Bulldogs’ goalie that a defender managed to save, and another (less than a minute later) when Stickney pounded past the last Portland defender, only to find himself stymied at the last step by the team’s keeper.
So the contest unwound as a stalemate until deep into the second half. Finally, with a mere 13:45 left in regulation, Gorham coverted.
The goal began when star junior Andrew Rent took a foul near the right sideline. Brady King – who serves a mean ball – delivered the ensuing kick. Rent connected with a header maybe 20 yards out from the Bulldogs’ goal, and Farr pounced after that. “Andrew got a little flick on it, looking for someone at the back post,” Farr said, “and I just stepped in front of my defender and luckily got a foot in, and scored.”
“He comes and goes,” Coach King said, asked if he gets much production out of Farr. “This is his first year as a starter. He’s had some real moments of brilliance. Sometimes, he lacks confidence. When he plays confidently, he can be one of our best players, so I was really glad to see him pop that goal in tonight. Maybe that’ll give him a little confidence for Saturday.”
Gorham has often shown themselves to be a so-called second-half team. “I thought we did, for a little bit,” King said, asked if his boys played better in the downhill minutes against Portland. “Probably the first 15 or 20 minutes of the second half, we started playing better. But we never could get a good rhythm going tonight.”
“That’s because of Portland,” King said. “They don’t allow you to. They’re quick to the ball, they’re strong, they’re physical; they’re a good team. With that said, we fought. And that’s what I told my kids that championship teams do, they fight. We weren’t at our best, but we did what we had to do and we got the victory.”
Farr took a moment to praise a few of his teammates. “Definitely our two center-backs,” he said, asked who played well, “Travis and Grant. And our goalie, as always, Trevor. Those three have been just fantastic all year long.”
“Everyone had a little bit of nerves coming in,” Farr said. “But once we got settled in, I thought we played pretty well and confident in the second half…And then when we got the goal, we locked down, defended hard, and luckily came out with the result. It’s always great to beat Portland, because they’re a great team.”
In Saturday’s matchup, the Rams found themselves on the other side of a 1-0 result. The Devils’ Suab Nur tallied for his boys in the 68th minute to secure the W – and the State title.
“I knew they would possess the ball against us,” King said. “They’ve got great individual talent. I was hoping we could frustrate them a little bit, and play more of our game. And I think we did that a little bit in the first half. We kind of hung on for the first half, and then stabilized a little bit. And I thought we played a great second half.”
Lewiston launched into the attack to start the outing, but – as they’re known to do – the Rams’ back line held up: Gray didn’t face even a respectable shot through the stretch. Finally, Gorham began to warm up, pushing the action back to midfield and into the Devils’ end at times.
Still, Lewiston continued to press at every opportunity. Gray logged a spectacular diving save near the left Gorham post with 23:45 remaining before the break.
The Rams found a groove early in the second half: Gorham hammered Lewiston in their end for 10, 12, maybe 15 minutes, hashing half a dozen corners or more and a couple of top-shelf chances out of scrambles. The Rams came especially close to getting on the board in the 45th minute, when they caught the Devils’ keeper a little too far out of the net.
“I felt like there was that opportunity there, for 10 or 15 minutes, where we had them on the ropes,” King said of Gorham’s most fiery stretch vs. the Devils. “We just couldn’t quite get one in. And actually, we played a good second half. They just snuck down and got a counter on us – they’ll do that, they’re dangerous. They’re going to create chances, and we just couldn’t come up with that ball, and they scored, and that was it.”
Rent, a standout among standouts, faced heavy coverage throughout the game. But then, he’s faced heavy coverage all season (really, his entire high school career), and often produced regardless.
“That’s expected; he’s dealt with that all year,” King said. “We probably didn’t play as composed as we could have at times; I think we were a little panicked by their speed. But…Andrew had a couple of chances too. He’s just such a great player, that he’s hard to keep down.”
But it was Lewiston who earned the day’s only goal. With 12:45 remaining in regulation, Nur picked up a pass from center at the outside-right; Sur’s shot proved picture-perfect, sailing across to the far side, the left side.
Lewiston no doubt played the moment perfectly, and Nur’s shot was laser-accurate. But Gray played the moment as good as any goalie could have: He dove left, arms fully extended, and appeared to even get his fingers on the ball, deflecting it – he just couldn’t deflect it quite wide of the net. But again: Probably no one could have. A soccer goal is just too huge a target for one keeper to fully defend sometimes.
“It was a good shot,” King said. “What’re you going to do? Sometimes you tip your cap to that.”
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
A disconsolate Andrew Rent sits, slumped and defeated, on the field following the Rams loss to the Devils in Saturday’s State Final.
Trevor Gray boots a goal-kick away.
Brendan Waterman takes a touch on an incoming ball.
Cooper Lyons attacks for the Rams, splitting a pair of Devils defenders.
Sebastian Irish presses for the Rams.
Brady King unwinds into one of several rapid-fire Gorham corners, early in the second half vs. Lewiston.
Andrew Rent fires off a ball for the Rams vs. Lewiston.
Michael Knight controls for the Rams in the State Final.
Andrew Rent zips ahead of a Bulldogs opponent.
Cooper Lyons controls for the Rams vs. Portland.
Rams Captains Andrew Rent (left), Trevor Gray (middle) and Cooper Lyons (right) happily accept this year’s A South Championship plaque.
Gorham’s Javin Stickney vies with a Portland opponent for a header.
Ryan Farr runs toward his teammates on the sideline just after scoring Gorham’s goal against Portland.
Grant Nadeau sees a lot of time at back for the Rams – despite being just a sophomore.