Gray-New Gloucester’s Nathaniel Brindley gave his boys the lead over visiting Lincoln early in the second half on Saturday afternoon – then gave them the win late in the second round of overtime PKs.

Brindley beat Eagles keeper Karan Nair to end the hard-fought match at 3-2, to bump the fifth-ranked Patriots to 9-5-1 in 2015 and secure their place in Wednesday, Oct. 28’s, tournament quarterfinals. That game, at Mountain Valley (No. 4 at 12-2), fell after Current Publishing’s weekly print deadlines.

“We’ll take the win, that was great,” said G-NG head coach Andy Higgins. “[Lincoln’s] a quality team for a 12-seed; they made things difficult on us.”

Nick McCann scored the bout’s first point with 7:35 to play before the break. Bryce Hayman lobbed a corner centerward and Ben Rogers headed the redirect into a scramble at Nair’s feet, where McCann pounced for the shot and 1-0.

Lincoln’s Nate Simmons balanced the scales roughly five minutes into the second half, but Brindley grabbed the lead back for GNG three minutes later. An Eagles attempt to clear bounded straight to him, dead center and 35 yards out, and he whipped the ball back on net, scoring low-right.

The Eagles tied things up again with 26 minutes remaining, and the game eventually devolved through two – count ’em, two – scoreless 15-minute OTs, then into penalty kicks.

Higgins wasn’t without his critiques of his team’s effort, of course; no good coach would be. “We left a lot of stuff out there today; hopefully it’s just a little bit of [postseason] jitters.”

“They made a couple of changes,” Higgins said of the Eagles in the second half, when they especially managed to stymie the Patriots’ attack. “And we were kind of flat-footed; I think we thought when we got to one, that was enough. It isn’t.”

Hayman and Brady Darnell scored for the Patriots in the first round of five penalty kicks, but Lincoln matched the effort, John Henry and Aaron Verdaguer-Gonzalez both managing to get balls past GNG keeper John-Henry Villanueva.

In the second battery of PKs, Josh Bouvier gave GNG a quick 1-0 lead, which the team held onto when Villanueva saved Bouvier’s Lincoln counterpart. Patriot Ben Rogers made the tally 2-0, but his Eagles opponent matched for 2-1. Matt Gurney next missed for GNG, allowing Lincoln to level the tally at 2-2. Josiah Carter then inched the Patriots ahead once again – only, this time the Eagles failed to answer. 3-2. If Brindley could make his shot, he would wrap up the game; if not, Lincoln would have an opportunity to stay alive, to force the game still further onward. Brindley, though, found the back of the net for the second time that afternoon, sending his squad into a frenzy – and on to the next round of the postseason.

“Good,” Higgins said, asked how he felt about advancing. “Better than not being there. It wasn’t our best performance, and we’ve got some things to work on and fix – I haven’t seen the stat-line on it yet, but we had plenty of chances to score and we didn’t put ’em away. If we finish those offensive chances, we don’t get to this point, it’s not nearly as nerve-wracking.”

Lincoln, who entered the playoffs as the 12-seed, retires for the year at 6-9.

Patriot Nick McCann had his team’s first goal on Saturday afternoon.Bryce Hayman butts a header in action against Lincoln on Saturday.Brady Darnell wallops a header in Saturday’s prelim versus visiting Lincoln.Josiah Carter gets plenty of air over his Lincoln opposition in pursuit of a header on Saturday.Patriot Liam Stewart splits a pair of Eagles on Saturday.


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