David Nzuzi of Brunswick, right, receives a pass from teammate Lucas Spiro, left, during a soccer game Thursday at Riverside Field in Topsham. Eli Canfield/Times Record

TOPSHAM — Mt. Ararat boys soccer coach Jack Rioux isn’t exactly sure how to treat the games his players get during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With no playoffs this fall and several safety rule modifications added, the emphasis on winning is often debatable.

“Sometimes I find myself asking myself how I should approach some games,” he said. “Should I coach to win, play my seniors, or build for next season? I’m still just ecstatic to be out here.”

Brunswick head coach Mark Roma acknowledged the different rules — there’s no slide tackling, for example — impacts the game, but it’s of little consequence this fall. 

“There’s changes to the game with the five-in-the-box rule and slide tackling, but for the most part when we step between the lines it’s the game,” said Roma, whose Dragons prevailed 4-1.  “The most beautiful part is the fact that when they blow the whistle we get to play.”

Players also see the new rules when playing the game, but they don’t let it affect the outcome. 

Adrian Burgueno of Mt. Ararat, right, tries to get by David Nzuzi of Brunswick, left, in a boys soccer game on Thursday at Riverside Park in Topsham. Eli Canfield/Times Record

“It’s pretty much the same. Other than the corners and free kicks, it kind of goes unnoticed,” said Brunswick senior captain Lane Foushee. 

Added Mt. Ararat senior captain Jonah Zell: “It took us a while to get used to it, but everyone knows these rules have to be in place.”

Brunswick came to play Thursday and eventually pulled away from the Eagles in the blustery conditions. 

“The weather was definitely a factor, but our team played through it,” said Foushee. “It felt good to come out of today with the win.”

After a stagnant first 15 minutes of the game, Foushee scored from just outside the penalty box, deflecting off the arms of Mt. Ararat goalie Jacob Fullerton (14 saves).

Liam Driscoll of Brunswick, front, tries to dribble past Spencer Leclair of Mt. Ararat, back, in a boys soccer game at Riverside Park in Topsham on Thursday. Eli Canfield/Times Record

As the first half was coming to a close, Liam Driscoll and Milan VanLeer scored to extend Brunswick’s lead. 

The Eagles had some chances but Brunswick goalie Brady LaForge (4 saves) made some big stops to keep the score where it was. 

Both teams each scored toward the end of the game. VanLeer scored his second goal of the day for the Dragons, while Nolen Timberlake broke the shutout for the Eagles. 

“We were in the game in the second half. I’m proud that the team didn’t quit,” said Zell.

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