Curtis Knapton notched another big game for the Blazes at home against Mr. Ararat on Friday, tallying five goals and an assist as Westbrook clipped the Eagles’ wings 11-6. Play remained close even into the early fourth quarter, but the Blazes assembled a powerful run to close the afternoon on top.

“Like I said before, mental toughness is our mantra this year,” said Westbrook head coach Josh Plowman. “We started slow – we had a tough game against South Portland on Wednesday; I think we’re still feeling the effects of that. Before the fourth quarter, we talked about closing out the team, playing good team offense, good team defense, and staying mentally tough the rest of the way.”

Knapton’s fellow sharpshooters Grayson Post, Tommy Kostopolous and Brandon Labbe each hashed a pair of goals in the win. Post also assisted twice, and Ryan Shackley assisted once.

“It was more all-around a team effort today; I don’t think any one guy really stood out,” Plowman said. “Alex [LeBlanc] played great in goal, our faceoff guy [Noah Oliver] did a nice job, but really, we shared the ball nicely and had some good looks, good team D for the most part.”

The Blazes improved to 4-1 on the victory, and currently sit second in A West, behind the South Portland (5-0) juggernaut. The reigning state champ Riots had their way with Westbrook, 17-5, on May 6 – but that’s perhaps not entirely a bad thing for the Blazes.

“You always want to win the game,” said Plowman. “But our helmets fit our heads a little bit better now, so to speak. [Losing to South Portland] makes our guys want to work harder, to get better.”

Westbrook pulled out a clean win against Mt. Ararat, No. 8 in A East (2-5) on Friday, though it may not have been the dominant performance the Blazes would’ve preferred. The scoring seesawed back and forth in the early going, and the Eagles even held a 3-2 lead at one point.

It was Knapton who balanced the scoreboard at 3-3 midway through the second, curling through coverage for a shot from wide-left, and Post who gave Westbrook the 4-3 advantage shortly thereafter, juking back and forth on the outside before finally cutting inward a step for the shot and the point.

The Blazes kept hold of the lead for the remainder of the game, but Mt. A trailed them closely until the pivotal fourth quarter arrived. The tally stood 6-5 as the final 12 minutes got under way, but in that stretch, Westbrook battered the opposition, banking five more to the Eagles’ one. Knapton, Labbe and Kostopolous all contributed to the run.

Mt. A redoubled their defense in the waning minutes, quieting the Blazes one more; they even added one final point of their own with just 55 seconds to play, but the damage was done, and Westbrook took the win, 11-6.

The Blazes traveled to 10th-place Massabesic (0-6) on Wednesday the 13th, after the American Journal’s print deadline, for a showdown with the Mustangs. They visit Morse, sixth in B East at 4-2, on Friday.

Westbrook are likely to face bigger challenges, though, as the season progresses. They still have tough matches to play versus Gorham, TA, Windham and others – and who knows how the postseason will shake out. Will they be ready for another go with Scarborough, whom they defeated 6-5 to open the year, or even South Portland?

“Sometimes when you have a big win,” Plowman said, “like the win we had over Scarborough, you get a little bit complacent, because you feel like, ‘All right, we’re at the top of the mountain now; we don’t have to keep working.’ Now we go out and get our butts kicked [against South Portland], we know we’re not at the top of the mountain; there’s a bigger dog out there and we need to catch him.

“I think it’s a mental thing, it’s just showing up and playing,” Plowman said of another potential contest with the Riots. “When we played them, we had a deer-in-the-headlight look when we were warming up. Start of the game, they scored four goals in the first two and a half minutes. Over the next 22 minutes, they scored six goals, so after we settled down, we started playing a little bit better defense.

“We’ve just got to play our game; that’s what it comes down to.”

This year’s Blazes are certainly white-hot with potential.

Westbrook’s Curtis Knapton tallied five goals in the Blazes’ win over visiting Mt. Ararat on Friday.Noah Oliver rips a shot toward Mt. Ararat keeper Charlie Gill.Westbrook middie Chad Pelletier tracks the action against visiting Mt. Ararat on Friday.Steve Shackley watches the nearby play in Westbrook’s 11-6 win over Mt. Ararat on Friday.The Blazes’ John Tibbetts outpaces a Mt. Ararat defender on Friday.Brandon Labbe of Westbrook tangles with a pair of Eagles in pursuit of a ground ball.


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