AUGUSTA — Cony’s speed and depth caught up to Gardiner in the second half as the rivals squared off Tuesday at Kennebec Savings Bank Field for the first time in a couple of years.

The Rams spotted the Tigers a first-half goal but came on strong in the second half, scoring three times en route to a 3-1 victory.

The win leaves Cony at 3-1-2 in Class A North, while Gardiner, which competes in Class B North, falls to 0-4-1.

Jackson Tweedy scored for the Tigers in the first half while Simon McCormick, Hussein Alabraihi and Alex Cousins scored in the second for the Rams. Cony coach Jon Millett ran in six new players every 10 minutes while leaving his defense on the field and the strategy eventually paid off.

“It’s a process but this was arguably the best game we’ve played,” Millett said. “When we are clicking, we’re tough. I don’t know how much of that is clicking or the fact that we’ve got two units and we run people into the ground.”

The Rams took control of midfield in the second half behind seniors Brad Houston and Vlastimil Horak. Millett double-shifted Horak at center midfield in the second half, keeping the exchange student from the Czech Republic on the field for about 30 minutes. He set up the game-tying goal when he slipped a deft through pass to McCormick behind the Tigers defense. The sophomore trapped the ball and one-timed it past Gardiner keeper Alic Shorey.

“He’s got great imagination out there,” Millett said. “He’s a facilitator. He’s becoming the guy that a lot of our offense and defense and play-calling goes through.”

The Tigers played a strong first half and were rewarded for it when Tweedy’s shot from 20 yards slipped the through hands of Cony keeper Nick Robinson (five saves).

“I’m never going to complain about our effort,” Gardiner coach Nic Wallace said. “I thought we played really hard. I thought at times we lost our composure a little bit and tried to play too many balls in the air. That’s not our strength.”

Shorey, a senior, finished with 10 saves, several of them clutch. He came way out of his goal to smother a breakaway bid by Cousins at the 26 minute mark and keep the game tied at 1.

“Alic’s been a big surprise,” Wallace said. “He’s never played soccer before this year. He’s a great athlete, always wants to get better, always wants to learn.”

Hussein scored the go-ahead goal at the 25-minute mark after James Olivier fed him a pass down the left side. Hussein did the rest.

“One of the defenders headed (the ball) and I headed it again,” Hussein said. “Then I just followed through when the keeper was on the ground.”

Gardiner’s best chance to tie the game came four minutes later when Marshall Clements rung a hard shot off the crossbar just inside the right post. Cousins scored an insurance goal with just under seven minutes to play when Horak dribbled through the defense and drilled a point blank shot off Shorey and he was there for the rebound.

“If they can keep fresh legs in, we’re going to wear down eventually,” Wallace said. “I think all three of their goals came on counter attacks. A lot of times it happened because we made a mistake at midfield and allowed them to gain possession early and we never recovered.”

The rivalry has wavered since the teams play in different classes but it’s not lost on the players.

“It matters a lot ,” Houston said. “It’s the first time in a couple of years we’ve played them in a true varsity game. Personally I do not want to lose. It means a lot to play community to community.”

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