SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland and Gorham boys’ soccer teams, like many in the early season, are still experimenting and discovering what works and what doesn’t.

Thursday evening, the two squads who are expected to be among the contenders for the Class A state championship battled for 90 minutes before settling with a 0-0 deadlock.

South Portland Coach Bryan Hoy, whose team dropped a 1-0 decision to Gorham last year, was pleased with the result against the defending Class A South champion.

“We’ve got a long way to go; this is only our second game of the season and we still have seven or eight weeks before the playoffs,” Hoy said. “If we can go toe-to-toe with Gorham, obviously we can go toe-to-toe with any team in the league. So if we take care of business, we should be in good position in the playoffs.

“I have to give credit to their defense. I have to credit both defenses. Neither team really made the (opposing) goalie work that hard.”

Gorham Coach Tim King knows this version of the Rams won’t be the same as last year’s high-scoring squad.

Without Jackson Fotter, the Maine Sunday Telegram Player of the Year who now plays for the University of Massachusetts, and Kyle Patterson, who transferred to South Portland, the Rams will have to rely more on their defense. Gorham also was missing starting striker Kyle King because of a shoulder injury.

“We played scrappy tonight,” King said. “We had to adjust some things coming off a tough (2-1 win over Deering last week). (This game) was a good, hard-nosed soccer game.”

South Portland (1-0-1) came close to scoring nine minutes into the game on a free kick from 25 yards. The Red Riots’ top returning scorer, Charlie Cronin, took a shot that deflected off the wall, and keeper Trevor Gray (12 saves) was forced to tip the ball over the crossbar.

The best chance in the first half for Gorham (2-0-1) was a three-on-three rush. Sam Burghardt was the last to touch the ball, but his shot from 10 yards was a mis-hit and an easy save for Riley Hasson (14 saves).

Midway through the second half, Gorham’s Nolan Brown produced several threats in a 31/2-minute span. He unloaded a shot from the left wing that resulted in one of Hasson’s best saves, lobbed a dangerous cross that was cleared by middle back Riley Ellis, and placed a dangerous corner kick to the right wing that sweeper Sean Scott got out of harm’s way.

“I think we gave them a game they weren’t expecting,” Ellis said. “We came out strong and kept the intensity high.

“It’s hard to play 90 minutes and go scoreless. At the end of the day, we tried hard and played well.”

Both teams had golden opportunities in the five-minute overtime periods.

In the first overtime, South Portland’s Cooper Mehlhorn collected the ball to the left of the goalie and unleashed a hard shot from 10 yards that Gray deflected. The ensuing corner kick came out to Dylan Houde at the 18, but his volley sailed high.

With 2:30 left in the second overtime, Gorham’s Andrew Rent got his foot on a corner kick by teammate Cooper Lyons, but his deflection trickled just wide of the far post.

“They’re organized and do a good job of clogging things up,” King said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. Last year it was 1-0, and we had more firepower.”

Aaron Farr and Michael Knight led the defensive effort for Gorham.

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