Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Paul Betit email@example.com
Can anyone stop North Yarmouth Academy's D.J. Nicholas from scoring goals?
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Yusuf Yama, Portland senior: Scored twice in a 4-0 win against Massabesic. Also scored in a 2-0 win against Deering and tied the score in a 1-1 match with Cheverus.
David Clemmer, Yarmouth senior: Scored with 29 seconds left to lift the unbeaten Clippers to a 1-0 win against Cape Elizabeth.
Robert Graff, South Portland senior: Twice turned steals into breakaway goals to lead the Red Riots to a 2-0 win against Windham.
Josh Emard, Noble junior: Scored twice in the 4-0 win against Thornton Academy and again in a 3-1 win over Bonny Eagle.
AREA TOP 5
So far this fall, the answer to that question seems to be a resounding no.
With six games left in the regular season, Nicholas, a junior striker, has scored 21 times to bring his career total to 59 goals.
At this level he's just too good for them to stop, and they're trying," Coach Martyn Keen said. "He's taken his game to another level and it's a beautiful thing."
Nicholas has been able to keep putting the ball in the net despite being triple-teamed and having to work against defensive traps.
"The great thing is he scores left-footed goals, right-footed goals, headers, shots from 20 yards out or dribbles the ball in and taps it in," Keen said. "He's a complete player."
Keen said Nicholas worked hard during the offseason to improve his soccer skills.
"He used to be just athletic," the coach said. "He's always had speed and athleticism, but now he's added elements to his foot skills."
And Nicholas has had help.
Midfielder Jackson Cohan-Smith, who has a team-high 17 assists, continues to find ways to get the ball to Nicholas.
"He's silky, silky player," Keen said.
Last Saturday, previously undefeated Sacopee Valley tried to use a defensive trap to force Nicholas offside when the Panthers went on the attack.
"Last Saturday, Sacopee Valley tried to play a flat back four," Keen said. "Jackie just threaded the ball through four times and D.J. just put the ball in the net."
The result was a 5-0 win for NYA, which ran its record to 8-0 with a 3-0 victory against Freeport on Monday night.
Nicholas and Cohan-Smith aren't the only reasons for the Panthers' early-season success.
The return of goalie Austin Kidder, who had been unable to play soccer for 10 months after suffering a concussion last October in a game against Brewster Academy, has helped the Panthers post five shutouts.
"I didn't know if I was going to have him this season," Keen said. "He wasn't cleared to play until the second week of this preseason."
The Panthers also have received a lift from the influx of rookies.
"I thought we were going to be very mediocre, but we have five freshmen who came in and they all can play," Keen said. "They're doing a great job."
YORK'S STRING of shutouts ended Monday night when Greely walked off with a 3-0 win in a Western Maine Conference game on the Wildcats' home turf.
Those were the first goals scored against the Wildcats this season.
Last Thursday, goalie Adam Legg made six saves to help the Wildcats forge their fourth consecutive scoreless tie.
York is 3-1-4 going into Wednesday night's game at unbeaten Yarmouth.
BIG MATCHUP: Gorham will be home against defending Class A state champion Scarborough on Thursday night in the second match of the SMAA's top teams.
Both teams are battling for home-field advantage at least during the first round of the regional tournament.
Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: