The pass came from near the corner flag and rolled directly toward the oncoming Andrew Rent within 10 feet of the near post. A defender and the opposing goalie positioned themselves between Rent and the goal, prepared for the inevitable shot.

A funny thing happened as Rent strode toward the rolling ball and set up to boot it. He whiffed. Rather, he let it run through his legs and continue on its course toward the far post, where teammate Kevin Mollison easily tapped it into the net.

How could Rent, with his back to Mollison, possibly have known his teammate would be there?

“It was completely blind,” Mollison said afterward. “I don’t – well, he probably knew someone was back there – but I don’t know if he knew it was exactly me.”

Mollison and the rest of the Rams are learning that if they put themselves in the right position, Rent will manage to get them the ball. A starter since his freshman year on a Gorham team that reached the Class A state final in 2016 and the regional final in 2017 – both championship games decided by penalty kicks – Rent enters his junior year as perhaps the premier playmaker in the state.

Last fall as a sophomore midfielder, Rent scored six goals and set up nine. He played left back as a freshman, and still managed a goal and two assists.

“I think a lot of our offense is going to come through him this year,” said Gorham Coach Tim King. “We’re going to have to try and diversify a little bit, but I can see that’s what’s going to happen. He’s that good.”

Gorham opens its season Thursday against Westbrook. Last week the Rams beat Cape Elizabeth 1-0 and Waynflete 2-1 in a pair of one-hour scrimmages. All three Gorham goals went through Rent, who delivered perfect crosses from each side of the net as well as the defender-freezing, sleight-of-foot to Mollison on the corner pass from Cooper Lyons.

Afterward, Rent admitted he wasn’t certain Mollison would be in the proper position but trusted someone would be and took the chance. That ability to size up a situation and sense the spatial relationship between defenders and teammates, all of them on the move, is rare among high school soccer players. What’s more, Rent not only knows where people are, he has the technical skills to maneuver the ball through and around the ever-changing slices of open space.

“Or if it’s not there,” King said, “he creates one and goes through it. He’s quite a player, no doubt about it. His vision and his sense of where people are and how to get to spaces is really impressive. It’s some of the best I’ve seen.”

Rent started playing soccer in Gorham’s Saturday morning recreation program when he was in kindergarten. Then came travel soccer and eventually Rent landed with Global Premier Soccer, a year-round training club that afforded him opportunities for regional, national and even international competition.

In the eighth grade he was on a national GPS team that played in Spain. The following summer he played in Ireland. This spring there was a tournament in Germany. Sprinkled in between were events in Las Vegas and San Diego.

“You go down to South Carolina every year in February,” said the soft-spoken Rent, 16, who captains a GPS Maine team that plays a spring schedule in New England. “If you make the national team, they offer different select international or domestic tournaments.”

Rent isn’t all soccer all the time. Last winter he played basketball for Gorham High. In the spring he teamed with Brady King – Tim’s son – at second doubles for the tennis team. Each summer Rent accompanies the Kings on a camping trip to Sebago Lake State Park. Brady and Andrew have been friends since elementary school.

“He’s always been the best player on any team I’ve been a part of with him on it,” said King, a junior back. “He’s got such a quick first step. He’s so strong, intelligent and he’s really hard-working, too. He’s always trying to improve.”

Trevor Gray, Gorham’s senior goalkeeper, said Rent’s quiet nature and lack of imposing physical presence – he stands 5-foot-10 and weighs about 160 – can sometimes mask his talents.

“He’s not super tall but he can go up and win a header against anyone else in the league,” Gray said. “He can fight off three defenders at a time and get away. It’s not all flashy about him so not as many people notice, but his on-ball ability is just insane.”

With his club team, Rent plays in the back third and excels as a defender. With Gorham, he plays an attacking midfield. His versatility adds to his appeal for college coaches, who can be in contact with him after Sept. 1.

Already Rent has attended a pair of college showcase camps, at Tufts and the University of New Hampshire. Dartmouth is another school that interests him. He has solid academics and takes advanced level classes.

“He’s a very humble kid,” Tim King said. “He doesn’t draw a lot of attention to himself.”

Two years ago, after the state championship game against Bangor remained tied through two overtimes, King selected Rent as one of Gorham’s five players to take a penalty kick. King did so again last fall in the regional championship game against Portland. Rent’s shot against Bangor was saved. As a sophomore he scored. Seeing both high school seasons end in excruciating fashion has not been easy.

“It’s tough because you know you didn’t really get beat,” Rent said. “At least if you lose in regulation, you can say you got beat by a better team. With (penalty kicks), I guess there’s some skill involved, but it’s kind of a flip of the coin sometimes.”

Some of the better teenage soccer players in Maine are opting to forgo their high school teams to train year-round with clubs or academies. Rent said such a choice might be beneficial to his soccer development “but I just love playing high school, for the town and stuff, just the atmosphere at games,” he said. “I think it’s really fun and exciting.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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