GRAY — Gray-New Gloucester moved the ball well against Leavitt on Saturday, shifting through the Hornets’ defense en route to a 3-0 win in a Class B South preliminary-round game. 

The passing was strong, quick, and showed flair and finesse, but it hasn’t always been that way for the Patriots. 

“It’s kind of grown as the season went on,” first-year Gray-New Gloucester coach Kyle Fletcher said. “With the new shape and everything, I think it took them a little while to get used to it. As the season went on, then we like to take more chances and be more direct. It’s been clicking lately and going well, so hopefully it goes well.”

The eight-seeded Patriots (8-5-2) scored early when Austin LaLiberty slithered down the left sideline through three Leavitt defenders before making a deft cross to the foot of Joshua Michaud in front of net for a goal. 

“I saw Josh on the backline, so I beat the last defender and really tried to get it to him on the back post,” LaLiberty said.

LaLiberty wanted to exploit the Hornets’ outside defensive backs, and did just that on the game’s first goal. 

“It was awesome work by Austin, then he cut it back and Josh was in the right spot at the right time,” Fletcher said. “The hard work from Austin was unbelievable.”

Leavitt hung tough for the rest of the first half, as the Hornets’ backline fended off the repeated Patriot attacks. Gray-NG did hold possession for much of the first 40 minutes by using its size and physicality to control play. 

“They’re a big team and very physical,” Leavitt coach Zac Conlogue said. “The keeper, whenever we had a chance, he came out and got it. … I think that’s what it came down to. We play some physical teams but not a ton, and they’re not only big and physical but they’re also skilled.”

Leavitt Blaine Clark made three of his five saves  in the first half. 

The Patriots’ offense kept its foot on the pedal in the second half. 

The half opened up with both teams spreading the ball around and both had a couple of counter-attacks that fell just short of resulting in goals. With 25 minutes left in the half, Gray-NG put a shot on goal, which was saved by a Leavitt defender sliding on the goal line. The ball bounced to the right, in front of Hunter Brown, who put a hard shot on the ball for the game’s second goal. 

“It’s been pretty balanced scoring this year, so that’s been nice,” Fletcher said. “Obviously, Josh has been our go-to scorer this year, but if he’s not having a great day then someone else can step up.”

The Hornets tried to get something going in the final 20 minutes, with players like Garrett Gaudin, Ian Redstone and Blake Springer forcing the issue on the offensive end. 

Leavitt put up a couple shots with about 16 minutes remaining, but Gray goalkeeper Bradan Craig was there every time for the Patriots. 

Craig also had help Saturday night from his backline, with Jacob MacCallum standing out the most for Fletcher. 

“He’s been really solid for us this year,” Fletcher said. “He has a big body, wins everything in the air, plays really well and is kind of like the quarterback of the defense.”

Gray-NG scored its final goal with 35 seconds left in the game when LaLiberty put the ball in the net from the left side of the penalty box. 

“I saw the last defender was off-balance, so I ran it in and chipped it over the keeper,” LaLiberty said. 

The Patriots will play No. 1 Yarmouth on Wednesday at 6 p.m., and will lean on the 1-1 tie they earned against the Clippers on Oct. 15 for confidence.

“We feel like we have really improved,” LaLiberty said. “We believe we can win now, and since we tied Yarmouth, the best team, we believe we can win now.”


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