OAKLAND — In a game that needed an ounce or two of desperation from the Messalonskee boys soccer team, it was the oppostion from Mt. Blue that provided it.

“We knew that if we lost, it would definitely hurt us,” Mt. Blue junior striker Sam Smith said. “It wouldn’t necessarily keep us out of the playoffs, but this win would keep us just as close (to sixth-seeded Mt. Ararat).”

Firmly entrenched in one of the eight available tournament spots in Class A North, the Cougars played like the team whose season was on the line, scoring four first-half goals en route to a 4-1 win over Messalonskee in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A game at Veterans Field. Smith finished with a hat trick.

The loss likely ended any hope the Eagles (5-6-2) had of clinching one of the final postseason spots in the region.

“We knew what we were up against and what we had to do today,” Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan said. “We knew we had the whole month of October and we had to go through and win them all. Unfortunately, we just didn’t get the result we wanted today.”

Mt. Blue (8-4-1), which has now won three straight since back-to-back losses to Lewiston and Bangor last month, the top two teams in A North, played on the front foot from the opening whistle. They were fast, attacked quickly with width and purpose, provided physical presence in the midfield and limited Messalonskee to only a handful of dangerous scoring chances.

By the time Cougar goalkeeper Tucker Carleton made a diving save on Elijah Caret in the 34th minute, Mt. Blue had already staked itself to a 4-0 lead.

“All season long we’ve talked a lot about process and making sure that we approach every game the same, so we’re not in that ‘Oh, today’s must-win,'” Mt. Blue coach Joel Smith said. “We really try to be all about every day’s the same — whether it’s practice, whether it’s game, whoever the opponent, we really try to make sure we have the same approach every day.”

The visitors took the lead through Sam Smith in the seventh minute, when he used body position to corral the ball at his feet inside the 18-yard box before turning to goal and wrong-footing Messalonskee keeper Chase Warren.

Eight minutes later, an own goal by the Eagles made it a two-goal game, but it was Smith’s second of the day that likely sealed the Eagles’ fate. Smith’s second free kick in a 60-second span, from dead-center 25 yards out, curled into the upper left corner for a 3-0 lead on 27 minutes.

“He’s been pretty lethal on his set pieces this year,” Joel Smith said. “He’s been a pretty good little sniper out there.”

“That was definitely a great finish by Sam, and I’ve got to give him props for that one,” Messalonskee captain and center back Cole Smith said. “But I feel like it’s just one of those games where bad bounces happen. We hit the post, their keeper made a good save at the end of the first half.

“A couple of those bounces go our way, and it could have been a completely different game… That’s soccer.”

The hat trick hero Smith scored his third of the day off a brilliant feed from freshman Adam Loewen in the 31st minute.

“We didn’t get a hold of the momentum and do good things in the first half,” Sheridan said.

Credit Messalonskee for trying to find a way back into the contest in the second half against a convservative defensive approach from Mt. Blue. The Cougars’ 11 second-half fouls provided an avenue for the Eagles, who got Cole Smith’s free kick in the 74th minute.

“It’s obviously disappointing,” Cole Smith said. “You do all this work through October to really go on a run and try and keep our playoff hopes alive, just to have some bounces not go your way. But those things happen.”

For Mt. Blue, since squandering a 2-0 second-half lead to Lewiston on Sept. 28, the Cougars are 3-1-0 and have outscored opponents 11-2 over the course of the current three-game winning streak.

“We’re really starting to pick up,” Sam Smith said. “Early in the season, we weren’t as strong as we are and we didn’t play up to what we could be. But as the season’s gone on, we’ve gotten better and better.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC