GRAY — In recent weeks, the Gray-New Gloucester boys’ soccer team has struggled with scoring.

You wouldn’t have believed that by watching them Thursday night.

The Patriots displayed no signs of a scoring drought in a 7-1 win over Poland. Gray-NG scored early in the game and then struck twice in 53 seconds on the way to a 4-0 lead by halftime.

“We’ve had some trouble putting the ball in the net lately,” Gray-NG coach Andy Higgins said. “We’ve got some favorable results. We just had trouble on the offensive side. We’ve made an emphasis on the last few games to get a little more dangerous and aggressive up front. It came together nicely in the first half.”

Liam Stewart had a pair of goals while Bryce Hayman and Rob Fernandez each had a goal and an assist.

“We just need to take more shots,” said Hayman, a junior midfielder. “We moved the ball well tonight. Everyone contributed today as a team and the goal kept coming for us.”

The Patriots, which have won five straight, have now scored 11 goals in its last two games, including a 4-0 victory over Fryeburg. Prior to that, the Patriots had gone five straight games in which they scored just one goal, going 3-1-1 during that stretch. 

Gray-NG got a little help. Two goals went in off Poland defenders while another pair went in off the Poland goalkeeper. The luck went both ways, Poland’s lone goal, breaking a four-game shutout streak, went in off a Patriots defender late in the game.

“It was a great team effort,” said Stewart, a senior forward-midfielder. “We had our heads up the entire time. It’s a rivalry game. So we came out strong and never let our foot off the gas.”

Gray-NG (7-2-1) scored just 6:02 into the game when Nick McCann put a header toward the net. It hit a Knight defender and went in.

The Patriots played fast and aggressive against the Knights (2-5-1). Though Poland was able to counter on occasion, Gray-NG’s ability to control the ball and push it the other way made it a challenge for the Knights to keep pace. The Patriots worked together well and utilized its speed and skill up front.

“Everyone worked together,” Hayman said. “When somebody had the ball, they always had an option off of the ball. The movement off of the ball was great. Everyone had a pass to play to.”

Two goals in less than a minute took the wind out of the Knights. Hayman’s corner kick was steered in by Fernandez in front for the 2-0 lead with 23:36 left. Then Josh Bouvier fed Stewart with a pass that sprung him for an opportunity.

“Josh got the ball and put a great cross in,” Stewart said. “I was just the first to it in the box.”

That came with 22:43 left. Then Stewart scored again with 6:56 remaining when his shot went in off the keeper.

“That’s the piece for these guys, working together — all in all the time,” Higgins said. “We worked together and everyone’s a piece of the puzzle and firing to make things go.”

The Patriots remained relentless in the second half and continued winning the ball. Fernandez put a shot toward the net where Brady Darnell put it home just 48 seconds into the half. Then at 4:35, Hayman put a shot off the crossbar. Nate Brindley was there for a shot that went in off a defender. Hayman made it 7-0 with 20:30 left when a shot off a dead ball went in off the keeper.

“I was more impressed with the way we came out in the second half,” Higgins said. “We had a little more fire. I thought we were a step slow and behind (in the first half). I was a little hard on them because I know what they’re capable of. They came out hard in the second half.”

Poland broke up the shutout with 4:02 left. A corner from Kyle Radziszewski went in off a Gray-NG defender.

The win finished a long stretch of seven games in a 14-day span, but the work isn’t over for Gray-NG. The Patriots host Cape Elizabeth Saturday and have Wells, Yarmouth and Waynflete left on the schedule.

“This piece of the schedule had me concerned, but right now, it’s OK. We have a big one on Saturday that we have to regroup for.”

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