AUGUSTA — One goal.

A series and a season were decided by just that. The score — a header by Hunter Smith — was the difference for the Messalonskee boys soccer team Tuesday in a 1-0 win over Cony at Kennebec Savings Bank Field.

The win ensured the Eagles (7-5-2) will head into the Class A North playoffs with some momentum.

Con’s Federico Barzasi, top, heads the ball in front of Messalonskee senior Cameron Croft during a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A game Tuesday in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

After playing to a 0-0 tie Oct. 3, the victory also gives Messalonskee a 1-0-1 regular season series edge over Cony (3-6-5).

“We kind of knew today was a big game, because (a win) would put us in the top five,” Smith said. “That was one of our team goals, top five in the conference. I’m glad we got the win today.”

Lastly, the result all but dashed Cony’s playoff hopes.

“I take my hats off to Cony, that’s a very good team,” Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan said. “It’s unfortunate if they don’t make the playoffs. I’ve been there, we’ve been there before — we were 2-12 last year —and (the Eagles) have come a long way since last season. They worked hard, and it’s kind of shown the work they’ve put in.”

Smith’s goal came with 30 minutes remaining in the second half. Battling in a mass of bodies in front of the net, Smith was able to jump and meet the ball with his head, knocking it over Cony goalkeeper Calvin Dacus and into the net for the 1-0 score.

“It was one of those chances where you’re in the right spot at the right time,” Smith said. “I just kind of put it away. And I knew I had to do it, because we weren’t getting other chances (to score), really, so I kind of knew that was going to be the one that could get the win.”

“(Cony) packs it in tight defensively, and it’s hard to get anything through,” Sheridan added. “They put some really good athletes on back. We do, too, but they definitely key in a lot on that, and it’s just the way they play. The first game, we had a lot of possession with the ball, we just couldn’t finish. Tonight, we were able to finish, and that was good. We had some good chances, and kids stepped up, which you like to see.”

Messalonskee kept possession in its favor for much of the remainder of the second half, never giving Cony a strong opportunity to tie the game. The Rams came out strong in the first half, showing strong passing, setting up opportunities for forward Uday Najar to have some uncontested shots against Eagles goalkeeper Andrew Mayo. Najar missed shots wide on each side of the net, and a shot that rolled to Mayo for a save, before having to leave the pitch before halftime with an injury.

“I felt really good about (the game),” Cony coach James Gay said. “They put in the effort. I feel as though they’ve definitely improved (throughout the season). We’ve had our struggles throughout the season, but they’ve been able to play with everyobody we’ve played, all year long. We haven’t gone into a game and got blown out, not once. I’ve been really pleased and proud of the boys of their effort and their growth.”

The Eagles will enter the playoffs on a three-game win streak — all shutouts — after not picking up a win in the four previous matches before the streak.

“The last three games we’ve called ‘playoff games,'” Smith said. “To get that mentality of every game being a must-win game, that kind of set us on the right path to get the last three wins.”

Dacus had eight saves to pace Cony.

“(The seniors are) special kids, it’s a really good group,” Gay said. “There’s some phenomenal kids in that class and they’ll be really, sorely missed…Hopefully they learned a little about life. Maybe a little about soccer, but more importantly, lessons in life and the whole idea of work ethic and playing together as a team.”

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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