Cooper McGray of Leavitt Area High School gets a shot past Poland Regional High School goalkeeper Trevor Robbins during the second half in Poland on Saturday. McGray’s goal was one of four second-half goals scored by the Hornets. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

POLAND — Whatever was said at halftime, it did a world of good for the Leavitt boys soccer team.

There was a change in the Hornets’ attitude and style of play, and it all culminated in a come-from-behind, 4-3 victory over Poland on a warm Saturday morning. 

The Knights built what looked like a sturdy 3-0 lead at halftime before the Hornets swarmed Poland with an unanswered, four-goal outburst.

The Hornets dealt with temporary coaching substitutes when Leavitt girls coach Chris Cifelli stepped in for boys head coach Zac Conlogue, who had a prior commitment. Then junior varsity boys coach Todd Johanson showed up in the second half and joined Cifelli.

But Johanson insisted his presence had nothing to do with the Hornets’ rally in the second half.

“To be honest with you, it wasn’t me. It was the kids,” Johanson said. “Yeah, I helped with the subbing, but the kids know the game. They have been playing together since they were in middle school.

“They knew they were flat. It has nothing to do with Chris or myself. They wanted it. Their credit, not mine.”

Johanson was not surprised at the Hornets’ temerity and tenacity in the second half.

“It is always in this group; it is always in this group,” he said. “When they decide to play and decide to play the small, touch pass, they play really well. I would be happy to go to any field with them on any day of the week against anybody when they play well. They decided they wanted this and it showed.”

Poland Regional High School goalkeeper Trevor Robbins makes a save as Tanner Sawyer, right, of Leavitt Area High School and Aiden MacFawn of Poland zone in on the ball during the second half in Poland on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“That’s what we teach them — never get down,” Johanson added. “That’s why you play the whole 90 minutes. Sorry that Zac Conlogue couldn’t be here to see this one.”

Everything came together for the Hornets in the second half.

Nathanial Clifford triggered the rally after he scored Leavitt’s first goal on an assist by Cooper McGray in the second half.

McGray did the scoring on the Hornets’ second goal, using a Zack Morrison assist. 

The Hornets kept closing in on the Knights and tied the game at 3-3 when Ethan Weston scored the tying goal on Robbie Gladu’s assist. Weston wasn’t done lurking near the Poland net. He punched in the game-winning goal on a corner kick from Garrett Gaudin. The one-goal lead held up and Leavitt came away with a 4-3 win.

“”We were upset with ourselves, not playing how we can, and decided to go out there and show them how we can really play,” Weston, a senior center midfielder, said. “We play like that, I think we will be winning a lot of games.

“(Two goals) is pretty good for me. I am not usually a goal scorer. Last few years, I kind of sit in the middle — make some plays, play some defense, but it was different. I love these guys —all of them. I think we work hard together. Once we clicked there was really good chemistry out there.”

In the first half, Poland took advantage of a Leavitt team that appeared to miss its wake-up call on Saturday morning.

Poland’s Collin Carrier scored back-to-back goals on assists from Lucas Kelly and Benjamin Lasselle. Keenan St. Pierre topped off the Knights’ three-goal lead with his unassisted strike. It appeared Poland was heading for a victory.

“We played a good first half. We did everything we were practicing and we just didn’t do it in the second half,” Poland coach David Coyne said. “We let them get in our heads and that was it. Again, they allowed themselves to get emotionally attached and once that happens…”

Garrett Gaudin of Leavitt Area High School controls the ball while being defended by Tim Gray, right, and Brady Martin of Poland Regional High School in Poland on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Mitchell Bean, left, and Keenan St. Pierre of Poland Regional High School talk during Saturday’s game against Leavitt Area High School. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Ethan Weston (5) of Leavitt Area High School celebrates with Ryan Thibeault (8) after Weston punched in the winning goal on a corner kick against Poland Regional High School on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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