FREEPORT -First-year coach Freeport coach Bob Strong has been working with his squad to find consistent scoring.

Freeport’s Owen Howarth (16) beats Traip’s Ryan Perkins (12) to ball before lofting it over the keeper for his first varsity goal on Saturday. (Eric Maxim / The Times Record)

On Saturday, the Falcons took advantage of a sluggish first half by Traip Academy, scoring four times in the opening frame en route to a 4-1 Western Maine Conference victory in boys high school soccer action.

The win boosted Freeport to 5-1-2 and near the top of the Class B South Heal Points, while Class C Traip fell to 4-4.

On a blustery afternoon at Joan Benoit Samuelson Track and Field, the home team received solid play from both sides of the ball and were able to spread the scoring around with four different players notching goals.

“They need to start scoring goals so they feel confident,” Strong said. “The wind was a factor today for both teams. We wanted the wind at our back in the first half so we could put pressure on them early.”

With the wind at their backs, the Falcons put pressure on Traip goalie Jayce Nielsen. After making saves on Freeport’s first three shots, Nielsen allowed a Wes Goodwin header at 28:40 off a corner kick from Jesse Bennell for a 1-0 Falcon lead.

Seven minutes later, freshman Owen Howarth earned his first varsity goal when he out-hustled the Traip defense and lofted a shot over the keeper.

“I just wanted to get to the ball first,” Howarth said. “It was pretty great scoring my first varsity goal.”

“That’s one thing he brings,” Strong said of his player’s hustle. “He has athleticism and speed and he can finish. As a freshman, that’s pretty good.”

At 15:22, a Traip defender was called for a trip inside the penalty box and Freeport’s Caleb Arsenault blasted the penalty kick into the lower right-hand side of the net.

“That’s the first goal we’ve scored off a set piece this year, so that was pretty nice to see,” Strong said.

Ericken Shea (3) of Freeport battles with Traip’s Will Davis (13) for the ball near the sidelines. (Eric Maxim / The Times Record)

Traip hit the back of the net at 5:55 when Alessandro Pulzato took a Hasan Shaikh pass and beat Freeport keeper Atticus Patrick, cutting the deficit to 3-1.

However, Freeport answered a few minutes later when Eriksen Shea sprinted down the field with the ball and registered an unassisted goal on the breakaway, putting the Falcons up by three goals.

The score stood at 4-1 entering the halftime break. Freeport outshot the Rangers, 12-4, and held the advantage in corner kicks, 9-1, in the opening frame.

The visitors opened the second half more aggressive. With the wind now at their backs, the Rangers were able to apply more pressure on the Freeport defense. They immediately put shots either on goal or in the general vicinity of the net in the opening minutes, but only to be turned away from the backs and Patrick.

The Traip defense did the same, keeping the speedy Freeport midfielders from any scoring opportunities.

Behind the leadership of both (Eriksen) Shea and Shea Wagner, Freeport was able to keep the Rangers off the scoreboard in the second half.

“Eriksen did a great job up top for us and Shea has a big body and surely knows how to use it,” Strong said.

“Our leadership from the upperclassmen has been doing a really good job with this team,” Howarth added. “They know what to say or do and when to do it.”

Freeport’s Wes Goodwin (8) beats Traip’s Ryan Perkins (12) to the ball during the first half of a WMC boys soccer match in Freeport. (Eric Maxim / The Times Record)

While the two teams played an even second half, Traip coach Michael MacLeay pointed to the first half as the difference maker.

“Teams that are that technical and have skilled players on the field, they’re going to make you pay for not showing up for 40 minutes,” MacLeay said. “Once you’ve dug yourself a hole like that, it’s hard to get out of it. They’re one of the top teams in Class B, and that’s good for us.”

Freeport hosts Poland on Tuesday at 6 p.m., before tough road matches against Greely (Friday) and York (Oct. 2).

Shea Wagner (9) races to the ball in front of Traip’s Teddy Driscoll (3) during the second half of a boys high school soccer game. (Eric Maxim / The Times Record)

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