A first-half notch by the Panthers’ Thomas Pitts proved the sum total of goals either team would put up when Freeport dropped by NYA for the annual McDougall Cup game on Friday afternoon.

Despite his squad’s defeat, Freeport head coach Joe Heathco was satisfied with much of their play.

“That was probably the best game we’ve played all year. I was pleased with our movement, especially at the midfield. We got really dangerous: Chandler Wyman had a couple really good shots on goal, we had three or four really good opportunities to score, late in the game – one went over the crossbar on pretty much an open net.”

The Falcons dropped to 2-6-1 on the loss. The team is 10th in B South, one place back from Leavitt (3-5-1) and one ahead of Cape Elizabeth (4-4). The Panthers improved to 6-3 in C South. NYA is second to Monmouth (9-1) in that division, and inches ahead of Waynflete (6-2).

Pitts earned the tally midway through the early going.

“We had a little bit of a misplayed ball in the back,” said Heathco. “I think our goalie kind of was sitting back, thinking, ‘My back has it,’ and…we were going to transition to offense and the ball got away from us, went to the other team. They made kind of a clumsy touch into the box, but our goalie wasn’t quite ready for it.”

And despite the chances Freeport generated, they couldn’t quite convert. “We really wanted the win,” said senior back Caiden Shea. “We just couldn’t put one in the back of the net.”

The team was down two key men, though, including Jack Davenport – a force on offense – who was out of town.

“We were pushing our defense way up, hoping to use that to our advantage, but we were missing our leading goal-scorer, too,” Shea said, referring to Davenport.

The McDougall Cup is named in honor of Sean McDougall, who grew up in Freeport and attended FHS, graduating in 1995. McDougall played soccer, of course, standing out in goal; he went on to play in college, at West Virginia Wesleyan.

McDougall’s connection to NYA came in the fall of 1999, when he started working there as an assistant varsity coach for the boys team. As the plaque on the Cup itself states, “Sean’s Dream was to be a soccer coach.”

The following summer – the summer of 2000 – McDougall perished at sea, a tragedy the two communities observe and reflect upon yearly when the Falcons and the Panthers collide in the regular season. In 2014, Freeport won the battle, so NYA’s victory this time around sends the trophy back to their display case for the next 12 months.

“They’re a very good defensive team,” said Heathco of the Panthers. “They’re quick, especially in back. That’s tough for us to match up with anyway. They’re certainly a solid team, very well-coached, well-organized.”

Heathco looks forward to seeing his boys continue to improve. “I feel really good about it. If we keep playing like that, start executing a little better – yeah, I feel very good.”

The ball squirts away when Freeport back Evan McKittrick clashes with an NYA attacker in Friday afternoon’s McDougal Cup game.Freeport middie Quinton Libsack heads the ball away, defending his net against NYA pressure.Freeporter Nate Smail cuts as a Panther pounces his way near midfield.NYA’s DJ Nicholas settles an incoming ball against visiting Freeport on Friday.

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