GRAY — Homecoming is a time for old friends to reconnect. Unfortunately for Gray-New Gloucester’s current boys’ soccer players, connecting was hard to do.

By the time the Patriots did start putting passes together, they were down 2-0 and visiting York held on at the end for a 2-1 WMC victory at Myles Burbank Memorial Field on Saturday.

“We were just disconnected, and had to tighten some things up,” Gray-NG (5-1-1) coach Andy Higgins said. “We had guys too separate, too far apart from each other, so when the ball got played into one it was tough to combine with someone. Their pressure did that to us.”

The Wildcats (4-3) got on the board early thanks to a lack of communication by the Patriots. A bouncing ball made its way between the last defender and goalie John Hnery Villanueva, but neither made a hard charge for the ball. York freshman Matt Graziano did, and poked the ball past Villanueva 14 minutes in.

“Graziano’s was just an effort goal,” York coach Eric Martens said.

That 1-0 score stood at halftime, despite four shots on goal by the Wildcats. Graziano’s was the last one, and it went in. York’s first shot of the second half also went in. A free kick pulled Villanueva out of position, and Alex Nickerson got to the loose ball and put it into the open net less than five minutes in.


“A ball bounced around in the box, and we got six guys watching it,” Higgins said. “It is what it is. We gave away two goals, and at the end that hurt us.”

Martens was happy his team was able to score on a “dead-ball” play, and was even more happy that his defense stood strong.

“Our struggle has been defensive,” Martens said. “We felt like if we didn’t allow goals that we would find a way.”

The Patriots started to put together an answer as the second half ticked on. They finally found the back of the net with 12 minutes left. Oliver Grant split two defenders streaking up the right seam, then beat goalie Brett Smith before striking a shot into an open net.

“We had to settle down and change some things in the second half, and we were a different team in the second half,” Higgins said.

Grant wouldn’t be beaten a second time, despite a couple quality scoring chances by the Patriots. With less than four minutes left the junior goalie stopped a solid Bryce Hayman strike, then recovered to knock away Josiah Carter’s rebound try.


“He’s got great reactions,” Martens said. “That’s what you expect a keeper to do, keep you in the game a little bit longer. He helped us out there.”

Grant also missed on a one-timer in the box from Cam Usher with 10 minutes left.

“We knew the chances were going to come,” Higgins said. “We had to make the best out of them. They did come. We didn’t put them away.”

Despite losing their first game of the season, the Patriots are still in good shape, according to Higgins.

“We still have seven games to go, and if you’d have told me at the beginning of the season, ‘You’re going to be 5-1-1 halfway through the season, will you take that?’ Yeah, I would take that,” Higgins said. “I think it tested our character. I think they responded pretty well. The disappointment on their face tells you how much they care.”

For the Wildcats, the win provided some measure of revenge after a 1-0 home loss to start the season.

“I think it was just a mentality that we felt like we should win. We felt like we let one slip the last time we played them,” Martens said. “The Xs and Os weren’t pretty, but kind of that just little bit of effort to put us over was good today.”

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