WATERVILLE — The key for the Erskine Academy boys lacrosse team, it seems, is to keep the kids away from caffeine. Coffee, soda, energy drinks laden with energy-boosting chemicals — all are off limits.

“I continue to talk to my kids about ‘relaxed play.’ If we relax and just catch and throw the ball, the other things start to take care of themselves,” Erskine coach Jason Wade said. “When we get really urgent, we get into big trouble… When we start to panic, we get in big trouble and that’s what we have to work on.”

The Eagles stayed out of trouble for most of Friday afternoon, putting together a solid, albeit unspectacular, 8-3 victory over Class A foe MCI-Nokomis at Thomas College’s Smith Field.

Senior midfielder Grayson Petty netted a hat trick and junior attacker Caleb Tyler had two goals and an assist, as Erskine (2-2 in Class B North) showed off its newfound ability to strike for scores out of both offensive sets and fast breaks. Gavin Blanchard had three assists, two of which came on the break.

“It comes along with spreading the field,” Petty said. “Passing instead of cradling the ball and looking for the goal all the time, you’ve got to wait for the opportunities and not force it. Patience can be hard to (learn).”

Petty scored both Erskine goals in the first quarter, staking the Eagles to a 2-1 lead, as part of a first half in which they never let MCI-Nokomis (2-2) find an offensive rhythm of its own. Clearances out of the Huskies’ half of the field were difficult to come by, with Erskine tracking transition effectively and scooping up ground balls, which they quickly turned into counter attacks.

After Chance Reed scored a man-up goal just 25 seconds into the second quarter, Seth Reed made it a 4-1 game for Erskine just 2:02 later. Reed picked up a ground ball near midfield, spun off two separate MCI-Nokomis defenders and went straight to goal for the score.

The Huskies answered late in the period with senior Hayden Boreham’s goal cutting into the Erskine lead, but goals from Tyler and Petty in the final three minutes of the half turned it into a 6-2 game.

“Our offense has stepped it up,” Petty said. “Our defense has been our main focus, because we’re not the strongest team in the class. Definitely spreading the field, working it around and looking for the slots, it creates those opportunities.”

Tyler’s goal came just 69 seconds after Boreham’s, with Blanchard directing the fast break in the middle of the park.

“We had some movement out there,” Tyler said. “I think it was our transition play. We’ve been working on it for a while, and we were able to capitalize on it today. You’ve just got to keep your head on a swivel and look around. If you do get the ball past someone, you still may not have a shot, so you’ve got to be looking around.”

The Huskies came out a much-improved side after halftime, more clinical in their clearances and better able to run their offense. The result: Bryce Henire’s goal in the first minute of the third quarter.

“Their defense kept our offense from being able to move the ball easily. They were aggressive and played good body position on us,” MCI-Nokomis coach Chris Hopkins said. “It took us some time to gain a little confidence and start playing together and communicating more.”

Tyler scrapped any momentum, however, with his second fastbreak goal of the day with 1:30 left in the third. Hunter Rushing capped the scoring for Erskine with the lone goal of the final period.

Huskies goalie Kolin Cobb, who was ejected with 47 seconds remaining for his role in a scuffle with Tyler, made 10 saves on the day. Erskine’s Noah Miller was tested far less often and ended with a seven-save effort.

In the end Erskine had a performance, at both ends of the field, that it could build off. And when its collective energy was focused, Wade said, there were good things to take away from the win.

“(MCI-Nokomis) didn’t get a lot of easy stuff. They had to work for it,” Wade said. “We tend to want to push, even if it’s not an organized situation, which is something we need to learn.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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