OAKLAND — As the Messalonskee boys lacrosse team learned last spring, it’s always better to start slow and finish strong.

The Eagles fought off a sluggish first half Friday afternoon with a barrage of six goals from six different goal scorers in a span of 5:06 in the third quarter to down Mt. Blue 16-4 in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference season opener for both squads. Senior Will Durkee had a four goals in the win, while junior Brady Brunelle had a hat trick. Walter Fegel, Bryce Crowell and Jack Kinney each added two goals for Messalonskee.

“We’ve all played together since the third grade and we’ve built chemistry,” Brunelle said of the plethora of attacking options for the Eagles. “There’s no selfishness on the offense or defense. We can have that extra pass where we have that chemistry, and no one is ‘I want the ball’ or ‘I need the ball.’ We’re all just ready to give it to the next person.”

Messalonskee led 4-1 at halftime, but Mt Blue senior Aaron Whitley (goal, assist) pulled the Cougars within two just 95 seconds into the third quarter.

It might have been the gut-punch the Eagles needed to get things rolling on an unseasonably warm April afternoon.

“I think it’s hard to come out and play at a high level in the first game,” said Fegel, who had a pair of assists in the win. “We wanted to make a statement again that we’re here, and we’re here to try and compete for a state championship again.”

Brunelle finished off a nice feed from Crowell for a man-up goal with 8:23 left in the third. By the time the Cougars had a chance to recover, Durkee, Kinney, Tyler Hansen, Tatum Doucette, and Fegel all found the back of the net to build a 10-2 Messalonskee lead with 3:17 to play in the period.

Messalonskee’s Brady Brunelle (1) battles with Mt. Blue’s Finley Ward (18) and Dustyn Hinkley (25) as he runs downfield during a boys lacrosse game Friday in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Mt. Blue’s Dustyn Hinkley responded less than 30 seconds after the Fegel goal with his first of two on the day; but it was too little too late for the Cougars.

Junior goalie Troy Hachey, making his first career varsity appearance, made eight saves for Messalonskee.

“We should have come out and played a lot better in the first half, but credit Mt. Blue for slowing things down and playing their style,” Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan said. “Once we start running in transition, we’re in our comfort zone,”

Last season, Messalonskee rolled into the Class B playoffs as the top seed and appeared poised to make the program’s first appearance in the state title game before Brunswick upset the Eagles in a state semifinal.

The Eagles hope they learned from last year’s painful lesson. Messalonskee got the jump on the rest of the field at the beginning of the year, only to fade out with whimper at the end.

“Our work ethic in practices before (the loss to Brunswick) was not there,” Fegel said. “I think we thought we had a straight path there to the finals, but we didn’t.”

“We looked into the past way too much last year, overlooking (weaker) opponents and thinking that’s how every game was going to be easy,” Brunelle said. “We just have to take it one game at a time and play to our best potential.”

Sheridan said that the message this year has been a simple one.

“You have to think of it as a ladder,” Sheridan said. “We talk about ladders a lot. Every step you take is one step up the ladder. But if you take a misstep, you fall all the way down. You have to keep getting back up again. That’s where we’re at now. We’re just going to keep going hard every day. There will be bumps in the road, but we want to be playing our best lacrosse at the end of the year.”

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