GRAY—North Yarmouth Academy did a mighty fine job shutting down the Patriots’ attackers on Friday night, May 31, holding them to just five goals and grabbing the W. Still, G-NG junior standout Andrew LaCerda refused to give up without getting his due: LaCerda put up 80 percent of his boys’ offensive output on the evening – four hard-fought notches in yet another notable game for him.

14-5 the final.

“We’re usually faster than other teams,” G-NG head coach Kris Parkin said, asked about his boys’ midfield efforts. “That, and ground balls killed us today. Owen McDuffie won probably every faceoff for us, but he lost the ball I don’t know how many times trying to carry the ball down into our offensive box. He’s a freshman, and he’s good right now – and he’s just going to keep getting better. But, when NYA conceded the faceoff, they just took the ball away from him. They had some kids with some speed. They had a very good gameplan, and they executed.”

NYA controlled the first quarter, scoring three while holding G-NG silent. The Patriots generated a few opportunities, to be sure – they’re too good not to. Travis Caron, for one, logged a nice shot up the middle with just about a minute left on the clock, but Panthers keeper Jared Buckner proved good for the save.

NYA added another to start the second, before the Patriots finally got on the board. That happened when Kyle Curtis snatched up a groundball at midfield and initiated G-NG’s attack. Soon enough, J.J. Mazur found himself in possession; Mazur dished to LaCerda, close at the right side of Buckner’s cage, and LaCerda shot top-left for 4-1.

15 seconds later – almost immediately off ensuing faceoff – G-NG struck again: Mazur did the honors this time, firing from maybe 20 feet out and finding the top-left corner. 4-2.

NYA responded after that, slipping the 5-2 tally past Patriots senior keeper (and Captain) Brannon Gilbert, another standout for the team. Like LaCerda, Gilbert was on the losing side that day – okay, that happens. But like LaCerda, Gilbert still turned in a quality performance. He recorded a nimble save on the ground midway through the second, e.g., then delivered a clean, precision clearing pass under pressure to Ben Pierce at midfield.

That play didn’t lead directly to a G-NG point, though. Nor did, roughly two and a half minutes later, a Wyatt Edwards steal on defense that eventually unfolded into a LaCerda shot. Nope, G-NG would need a bit more time to beat Buckner again. With 2:33 to go before the break, Kyle Mercier shoveled left-to-right across for LaCerda, who turned and fired through traffic for his second of the evening.

By that time, though, NYA’s side of the scoreboard already read seven. 7-3. It wasn’t looking like the Patriots’ night at all – and it didn’t turn out to be.

Caron found LaCerda for the team’s fourth goal midway through the third quarter, whirling at the right side and flipping the assist to his on-fire lineman for the conversion. And LaCerda slinked through the NYA defense late in the last quarter to drop his fourth goal casually through Buckner’s mail-slot – but that’s all the Patriots would muster up, points-wise. The Panthers earned the last strike of the contest, a Xander Kastelnik strike, with 1:01 to play. 14-5 the result.

“In the first half, they were kind of seeing what we had,” Parkin said. “They allowed us to move the ball a little bit easier. The second half, they really put the pressure on us. They were putting pressure on our adjacents and it was difficult even to work the ball around. Some of the guys weren’t moving well into space off-ball. Things they’ve heard a thousand times throughout the season.”

None of the Patriots played poorly – really, they all played pretty darn well, all things considered. In fact, one of the remarkable things about G-NG’s program is that it’s only two years old at the varsity level, and already one of Class C’s  most well-oiled machines. NYA, also a superb outfit, simply overwhelmed their hosts.

Three factors (besides the Panthers themselves) likely worked against G-NG in the matchup: they were down a key figure (midfielder Gabe Gendreau), they were suffering simple fatigue, and they hadn’t faced as many strong opponents as NYA.

Since weather forced the postponement of so many games this spring, the Patriots had played multiple makeups in the days leading to their battle with NYA. Lacrosse is pretty brutal, so G-NG were no doubt wiped out when they showed up to the field for their showdown with the Panthers.

“They were really prepared; it was tough for us to get anything going offensively,” Parkin said of the Panthers. “I don’t think we moved well off-ball, guys weren’t getting open for each other. I think we were tired today; this was our third game in three days, and yesterday was a real rumble…Once we got down, it was hard to pick our heads back up.”

Moreover, NYA were the toughest competitors, aside from undefeated Oak Hill, that G-NG faced all season. Meanwhile, tougher workouts peppered the Panthers’ own schedule, which is precisely how they finished with the worse regular-season record – 8-4, to the Patriots’ 10-2 – while nevertheless earning the higher playoffs seed, second to G-NG’s fourth.

“I’m proud of them; they worked hard,” Parkin said of his players. “Today gives us a little bit of an eye-opener. We haven’t seen that level of play since we played Oak Hill. And while we’ve done really well, the competition hasn’t been as strong as that. We maybe got used to doing things a certain way, got comfortable in that, and it didn’t work today.”

“So it was good,” Parkin said. “It was a good way to end the (regular) season, to give the boys some motivation to improve.”

“We’ve won 10 in a row,” Parkin continued. “Second loss on the season. The boys have a lot to be proud of. It feels good, and the message was, ‘Gotta let this go. The season is really just getting started right now.’”

G-NG won their first-round matchup vs. No. 5 Erskine by a score of 14-5. They’ll probably face Oak Hill in the next round.

Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

Daniel Stash surveys his options near midfield.

Patriot Kyle Mercier skirts a Panthers opponent.

Travis Caron attacks for the Patriots.

Senior Wyatt Edwards is among G-NG’s Captains this season.

Kyle Curtis harangues an NYA opponent.

G-NG netminder Brannon Gilbert contends with a shot.

G-NG’s Scott Lynch chases a loose ball.

Zach Durapau shovels the ball forward.

Kyle Mercier unwinds into a Patriots shot.

Sam Tibbetts attacks for the Patriots.

Ben Pierce carries for G-NG.

Andrew LaCerda managed multiple goals for the Patriots, despite their loss.

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