OAKLAND – The Cony and Messalonskee boys soccer teams met Thursday night for a chance to bolster their position in the Class A North standings.

By the end of the night, not much had been resolved.

The Rams and Eagles played to a scoreless tie under the lights at Messalonskee High School, even as the hosts upped the pressure in the second half and several times appeared on the verge of breaking through on the scoreboard.

Cony’s Bryton Kieltyka, left, battles for the ball with Messalonskee’s Justin Sardano during a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A game Thursday night in Oakland. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

Messalonskee, which began the night in sixth in Class A North, moved to 4-3-2. Cony, which entered in 12th place and three spots out of the final playoff spot, went to 2-4-3.

For the Rams and coach James Gay, a scoreless draw on the home field of a quality opponent was a good result.

“I’m really proud of the boys, I think they’ve come together,” said Gay, who’s in his first year. “New style, new coach, everything is new. … The defense is really stepping it up and playing great. I’ve been really proud of the way they’re playing.”

Eagles coach Tom Sheridan knew his team had enough chances to come away with the win.

“Cony did a nice job defensively of packing it inside. … Possession-wise, we had some really good chances and good looks at the goal, we just didn’t put it in,” he said. “We threw a lot of different looks at it tonight, we just didn’t get it. … It’s not the result we wanted, but sometimes it happens that way.”

Messalonskee had a golden chance in the first half when Gabe Katz hit the left post in the 22nd minute, but the Eagles upped the volume of scoring opportunities in the second. In the 44th minute, Nathan Milne played a ball from left to right and found Hunter Smith with a straight-on look at the goal, but the Rams – who were disciplined in their end all night – were in position to block the kick.

The chances continued for the Eagles, first when Smith had a header on a long free kick that was saved by Cony’s Calvin Dacus in the 46th minute, and again when Jacob Perry’s own header try sailed left in the 57th.

In the 66th minute, Milne had the ball on his left foot from 30 yards out but his strong shot zipped wide left of the goal. One minute later Matej Zadny had a good look of his own, but missed high from 25 yards out.

In the 68th minute Smith had a pair of cracks at the net, but his first shot from in front of the keeper was blocked, and after the regained the ball, his follow-up attempt flew high of the crossbar.

Sheridan said a formation change at halftime helped spark the Messalonskee offense.

“We came out and did a little 4-3-3 in the beginning of the second half, and it was kind of like ping pong, balls bouncing everywhere, we didn’t really get good control,” he said. “We went back into a 4-4-2 and did a nice job with that. … Eventually we had some chances in the latter part of that second half, but sometimes it’s just that way in soccer.”

Gay praised his defense for holding up, as it has most of the season – the Rams have allowed only 11 goals in nine games.

“They’re making fewer mistakes as we progress through the season,” said Gay, who mentioned Kam Douin, Justin Pare and goalkeeper Dacus as players on the defensive side who stepped up Thursday. “It’s pretty consistent. Defensively, they’re doing well.”

In overtime it was Cony’s turn for a close call. The ball was sent in and took a high bounce over to Bryton Kieltyka, who was alone to the right of the net. The senior had to rush his try with the Eagles defense bearing down on him, however, and the try flew high of the goal.

Cony junior striker Bryton Kieltyka leaps over Messalonskee goalie Andrew Mayo during a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A game Thursday night in Oakland. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

The Eagles had a final try at the win, when Jacob Perry got the ball at the top of the box as a Cony defender came to break up the possession. Perry maintained control of the ball, but his kick skipped wide of the left post just before the final buzzer sounded.

The Eagles never landed the winner, but Sheridan said the team has made evident strides after last year’s 2-12 season.

“It’s coming,” he said. “From where we were last year to where we are this year, and it’s a lot of the same kids that are out there, it’s come a long way.”

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