Mt. Blue’s Eli Yeaton takes control of the ball while Maranacook’s Aric Belanger defends Tuesday at Maranacook Community High School. (Jennifer Bechard photo)

READFIELD — The Maranacook boys’ soccer team continues to be the measuring stick by which the rest of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference finds out how they stack up.

For the second straight game, the Black Bears knocked an opponent from the ranks of the unbeaten Tuesday, scoring two goals less than five minutes apart midway through the second half in a 3-1 win over Mt. Blue at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams.

Richard Down, Carter McPhedran and Wyatt Lambert all scored for Class C South-leading Maranacook (6-0-0) after the Cougars (4-1-1) took an early lead through Chris Marshall’s 21st minute goal.

“I was worried about what we’d do when the chips were down, and I think we answered that today,” Maranacook coach Don Beckwith said. “And I wondered about how hard we’d work when we were down, and I think we answered that question, too. It’s something still to build upon. I don’t think this is as good as we can be.”

Maranacook beat Medomak Valley last Thursday in a meeting of then-unbeaten teams.

The Black Bears and Cougars were locked in a 1-1 draw marked by unflappable defensive efforts at both ends when McPhedran’s left-footer curled home at the 64-minute mark to put Maranacook ahead. Five minutes later, Lambert’s header back across the goal tucked inside the far post to double the lead.

Both goals were second-ball tallies, McPhedran’s after a long throw-in from the right flank stretched the Cougar back line when it was flicked across the top of the 18-yard box, and Lambert’s off the head of Aric Belanger in heavy traffic.

“We work on that quite a bit, being second in and winning second balls in the air,” Beckwith said.

“Our goal is always to win that second ball in the air and get to that second one,” Belanger said. “We want to be aggressive, winning the ball in the air. Their defense kind of stayed back, so in order for us to create those opportunities, we had to be strong both on the ground and in the air.”

Mt. Blue coach Joel Smith thought the second-half goals the Cougars conceded were emblematic of a larger problem for his charges Tuesday. He felt his team was simply outworked.

“I felt like there were points in the middle of the field where it felt like they had an overload, and I had to check. It wasn’t that, they just were working really hard,” Smith said. “They worked harder, they were tougher on every single ball than we were.”

Final scoreline aside, the contest played out much the way all involved had expected it would. Maranacook had the better of the play in the midfield against a deep-lying Mt. Blue back four, but scoring chances straight out of those possession wins were hard to come by for the Black Bears. The Cougars, meanwhile, were lethal when they were able to find seams against Maranacook’s own back four.

Maranacook senior center back Garrett Whitten’s role in quieting Cougar striker Sam Smith was rivaled only by Mt. Blue left back Eli Yeaton’s ability to disrupt the play of Black Bear attackers Down and Mitchell Root.

Shots — and, more significantly, scoring chances — were at such a premium that the Black Bears ended up with only six on target across the 80 minutes. Mt. Blue managed just five.

“It’s always good to control the midfield,” Belanger said. “The team that controls it the most will usually win the game. I think we controlled it pretty well, and we played to feet and looked to turn when we had the space.”

Maranacook’s Brady Stockwell heads the ball over Mt. Blue’s Adam Loewen and Maranacook’s Carter McPhedran, left, and Aric Belanger, right, Tuesday at Maranacook Community High School. (Jennifer Bechard photo)

Mt. Blue’s Christopher Marshall tries to take control of the ball while Maranacook’s Coleman Watson defends Tuesday at Maranacook Community High School. (Jennifer Bechard photo)

Maranacook’s Aric Belanger celebrates after scoring on Mt. Blue’s goalie Caleb Talbot on Tuesday at Maranacook Community High School. (Jennifer Bechard photo)

Mt. Blue’s Eli Yeaton and Maranacook’s Bryce Trefethen battle for the ball Tuesday at Maranacook Community High School. (Jennifer Bechard photo)

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