OAKLAND — Tayler Croft, a backup goalkeeper for most of the season, played nothing like a reserve Saturday afternoon for the Messalonskee High School boys soccer team.

Croft made a number of point-blank saves to give the seventh-seeded Eagles a chance, but it was not enough as No. 10 Brewer High School broke through with a pair of late goals to take a 2-0 win in a Class A North preliminary contest. Croft — who finished with 11 saves — took over as the starter after an Oct. 11 loss to Lewiston after senior Dylan Jones was moved from net to the field.

“We had to move our starting keeper to center mid — Dylan Jones — and (Croft) played really well out there,” Messalonskee head coach Tom Sheridan said. “There were a couple of interesting moments out there but I think overall he played pretty well.”

Each team had their chances. The Eagles nearly got one off a flip throw-in during the 49th minute when the ball could not be corralled by Brewer goalkeeper Jonathan Wood. It was eventually cleared away, though, after a few unsuccessful attempts by the Eagles to get a good foot on the ball.

“There were a couple of chances we had to finish with some young people out there but we just didn’t put the ball in the net,” Sheridan said while also noting that he felt pretty good about the way his team played overall.

From there, though, it only seemed a matter of time until the Witches broke through. Brewer’s Matt Pushard got his heel on a well-struck ball at point-blank range in the 53rd minute but Croft made a quick reflex save to keep the game scoreless. A little over one minute later Cameron Oxley drilled one over the net from 15 feet away, while in the 61st minute Croft made another point-blank save on Pushard.

Brewer finally broke the scoreless tie in the 63rd minute when Gavin Matthieu pushed the ball out wide toward the end line and crossed it on the ground from right to left. The ball got through to the back post untouched, where Nick Charalamous was waiting to bury it in the back of the net.

“Every practice I think we talk about (getting the ball out wide),” Brewer coach Ben Poland said. “When we were in the middle we were very one-dimensional but when we started working the ball out wide that was when the opportunities started to come.”

The Witches added an insurance goal with 7:27 to play when Oisin Biswas floated a direct kick from just outside the 15-yard line over Messalonskee’s wall and into the top, right corner of the net.

“(Messalonskee) really pushed us,” Poland said. “They pushed the tempo, they definitely played a very physical game, which favored them in a lot aspects.

“We worked hard, we had some good combinations going … and we knew if we got through the first 40 minutes that in the second half we’d get our chances and put them in. We got lucky there at the end.”

Despite the early exit from the postseason, the future looks bright for the Eagles. They graduate just three seniors — Jones and defenders Taylor Turner and Jonathan Wilkie — from this season’s team.

“If they grow and mature together I think this can be a pretty good team,” Sheridan said. “(The seniors) will be tough to replace — especially defensively — but we have other guys that are capable and ready to come up.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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