AUGUSTA — In any possession-based sport, it’s fairly easy to win the game when you control the ball the entire time.

That’s what the Gardiner boys lacrosse team did in its season opener Monday on a dreary spring afternoon — and it led the Tigers to a dominant 16-1 victory over rival Cony at Fuller Field.

Gardiner kept the ball near the Cony end of the field for virtually the entire game, getting hat tricks from three players and two-goal games from three more players. In doing so, the Tigers limited the Rams’ scoring chances while generating many of their own to weather two major first-half scoring droughts.

“It’s a possession game, right?” Gardiner head coach K.C. Johnson said. “We have a young team, so it takes us a little bit. We know we’re not there yet, but we’re getting there, and we did a good job of controlling it today.” 

Cole Brann, Cody Dingwell and Kole Johnson finished with three goals each for Gardiner, and Nate Luiz, Brayden Elliot and Casey Paul had two each. Elliot had four assists for the Tigers, who got their remaining goal from Kaden Weston. Josh Barrett had the lone goal on the day for Cony.

Gardiner (1-0) possessed the ball in the attacking half early in the game but failed to find a goal for much of the first quarter. With Cony goaltender Eli Beland producing a number of fine saves and Gardiner showing a lack of focus, the Tigers and the visitors failed to score for much of the opening quarter.


“Our guys came in thinking it was going to be a cakewalk, and it’s not,” said Johnson, whose team held a big personnel advantage with 30 available players to Cony’s 12. “You’ve got to show up every day, and you’ve got to be focused; it’s that grind. We weren’t very focused early.”

With just over a minute to go in the first quarter, Gardiner pulled ahead as Johnson assisted Luiz for the opening goal. Momentum from that goal seemed to carry into the second quarter as the Tigers got a goal from Cole Brann less than 30 seconds in and another from Dingwell with 9:57 left in the half.

Gardiner’s Kaden Weston Weston, left, fires a shot on Cony goaltender Elijah Beland during a boys lacrosse game Monday in Augusta. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

After a six-minute scoring drought, Gardiner added four goals in a span of 3:21 to take a 7-0 lead into the second half. They then added three goals early in the second half en route to a 12-0 lead through three quarters and netted four in the fourth before Cony (0-2) netted a consolation prize to spoil the shutout.

Some of Gardiner’s early struggles came as the Tigers found difficulties breaking down a defensive zone implemented by new Cony assistant coach Charlie Buckingham. The Rams used that defense to hold the visitors for a while, but a Gardiner team that dominated possession near the goal simply got too many opportunities.

“When you’ve got two kids on the bench going in and out, and it’s pretty tough on the middies that way,” said Cony head coach Kyle Gleason. “When you play a zone, it’s slow, so we sat there on the defensive end and tried to do  the best we can, but there’s only so much you can do.”

Cony, both coaches noted, was missing a large chunk of its roster with many players away on April vacation. Johnson said the Rams, who previously lost 14-0 in their season opener Friday against Mt. Ararat, will be an improved team at full strength in the coming weeks.

His team, meanwhile, now turns its attention to Messalonskee, which is a Class B championship contender. That Wednesday morning showdown in Oakland will be a major litmus test as to where a young-but-talented Gardiner team stands. 

“It takes a complete 48 minutes, and we’re about 42 right now,” Johnson said. “You have to keep that focus against a team like that because they’ll make you pay.”

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