SOUTH CHINA — A classic rivalry and the opportunity to pick up some coveted Heal points in the season’s final week spurred Maranacook and Erskine to overcome intermittent showers and a slick pitch for some playoff-caliber soccer on Tuesday.

Paul Martha’s goal 5:05 into the second half gave the Black Bears a crucial 2-1 victory over the Eagles in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B nail-biter on Tuesday.

Maranacook (12-0-0), which is 46-0-2 since its last loss — to Falmouth in the 2012 Western B semifinals — needed the win to help hold off Yarmouth for the top seed in what is now Class B South with two games remaining on their respective schedules.

“That’s always the goal, always, to get No. 1,” said sophomore midfielder Silas Mohlar, who scored the Black Bears’ other goal. “We’ve got good potential. We’ve just got to put it all together.”

The Black Bears put a strong rush together to get Martha in the open field on the right wing with a defender and Erskine goalie Denver Cullivan to beat. Cullivan charged out of the goal and went to the ground to arrive at the ball simultaneously with Martha, but the ball squirted several feet towards the middle of the field.

As Martha beat the defender to the ball, Cullivan got to his feet quickly and got back between him and the goal. But the senior striker still squared up and lofted a shot over his head and into the upper-left portion of the net for what proved to be the game-winner.

“I feel like I got kind of lucky beating the defender,” Martha said. “I almost hit it over the net, too.”

Erskine (8-4-0) took the lead 8:29 into the game on a similar goal to Martha’s. Luke Peabody took a through ball from Trevor Hubbard along the right sideline and got behind Maranacook goalie Justin Freeman as the latter charged and slid to try to smother the ball near the 18. Peabody found the far corner to make it 1-0.

The Black Bears had a chance to respond moments later when the Eagles were called for a trip in the box, but Cullivan denied Hayden Elwell’s penalty kick to the inside post to temporarily preserve the lead.

Maranacook, which was playing without senior captain Chris Beckwith, controlled most of the rest of the half and finally tied it with 9:02 left until intermission when Mohler headed in Zack Godbout’s cross through heavy traffic in front.

“I saw the gap and just looked to finish it and flicked the head,” Mohlar said.

Maranacook edged Erskine in shots (9-7) and corners (5-4), but the Eagles weren’t without their chances to tie the game. Maranacook defenders Elwell, Jackson McPhedran, Mark Buzzell and Adam Dunbar minimized the pressure with deflections and clear-outs.

“I thought we carried the play the last 15 minutes to get the opportunities we needed,” Erskine coach Phil Hubbard said. “We had three good clean ones, especially the one where we got it on the back side, it deflected and we got a corner kick. There were a couple of times where (Trevor) Hubbard got freed up in the middle and just didn’t get a foot on it. Peabody got freed up. They were there, we just didn’t finish. Credit to (Maranacook) on deflecting some of those things out.”

“We’ve got to finish stronger than this,” Maranacook coach Don Beckwith said. “I didn’t think we generated enough offense today. But the wet ground had something to do with it.”

The Black Bears end their season with home games against Lincoln Academy and Leavitt. Win out, Beckwith said, and they will likely clinch the top seed even if Yarmouth wins the rest of its Western Maine Conference games.

The Eagles finish with a home game against Spruce Mountain and a road game at Gardiner, and hope to secure a home preliminary round game in Class B North.

“We wanted a playoff game (Tuesday). That was a playoff atmosphere game to get them ready for the stretch,” said Hubbard, whose team lost to Maranacook, 3-1, on Sept. 22 in Manchester. “I’m pleased with the effort. They did what they needed to do. We just didn’t put the ball in the back of the net. We limited them to two goals. Not many teams have done that.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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