CUMBERLAND—You couldn’t ask for a better start to the biggest week of the season.

Greely’s boys’ soccer team hosted Freeport, a team it lost to earlier this year, Tuesday evening at Glen A. Hutchins Field and wasn’t caught looking ahead to Friday’s showdown with reigning Class B champion Yarmouth, as the Rangers produced arguably their best effort of the season.

In the game’s 16th minute, Greely scored the only goal it would need, as freshman Owen Piesik scored on a rebound of a shot from junior Tommy Bennert which had hit the post.

With the Rangers defense and senior goalkeeper Luca Duina holding the Falcons at bay, the Rangers doubled their lead 11 minutes into the second half, when junior Ethan Njitoh set up senior Gage Cooney for some breathing room.

Greely allowed just two shots on frame and never let Freeport get back into the game, as it went on to a 2-0 victory.

The Rangers are now 7-0-1 in their past eight games, improved to 9-2-1 and in the process, dropped Freeport to 7-4-1.

“What we do every single night is play super-hard and when we play hard, good things happen,” said longtime Greely coach Mike Andreasen. “I’ve had a lot of fun with this team.”

Lots at stake

Freeport and Greely, along with Cape Elizabeth and York, are trying to topple Yarmouth this season and one of the best ways to do so is to finish as high as possible in the standings, which made Tuesday’s contest pivotal.

The Falcons started with a 1-0 win at York, then fell at Yarmouth (4-0), before downing visiting Greely (2-1) and host Lake Region (8-0). After a 1-0 setback at Cape Elizabeth, Freeport blanked visiting Fryeburg Academy (3-0) and Gray-New Gloucester (1-0) and played visiting Yarmouth to a scoreless draw. After a 2-1 home win over two-time reigning Class C champion Waynflete, the Falcons lost at home to York (2-1), then beat visiting Wells Friday (3-0).

The Rangers have been largely successful as well, rolling at Poland in the first game (10-0), then losing at Freeport (2-1) before holding off visiting Cape Elizabeth, 2-1, and after falling at Yarmouth (2-1), handling visiting Lake Region (8-1) and Sacopee Valley (6-0), beating host Gray-New Gloucester (5-2) and after settling for a 0-0 home tie against Waynflete, beating visiting York (3-0), host Fryeburg Academy (2-1) and Friday earning a key victory at Cape Elizabeth (3-1).

In the teams’ first meeting, Sept. 10, goals from junior Alex Graver and sophomore Owen Rusiecki were the difference in a Falcons’ victory.

Tuesday, on a pleasant mid-October night (63 degrees at the start, dropping to 57 by the end), Greely turned the tide by playing well for 80 minutes.

The Rangers had some chances early, but a cross from senior Caleb Knox into the box was cleared out of harm’s way by Freeport senior Keigan Shea and senior Isaac Dusch missed high.

Then, after senior Gus Wing headed a Graver free kick just wide at the other end, Greely returned to the attack and with 24:21 to go in the first half, Bennert headed the ball past Falcons senior goalkeeper Colin Cronin, but it hit the post. Piesik was there for the rebound, however, and the Rangers were on top to stay.

“Owen has got a soccer IQ off the charts,” Andreasen said. “I didn’t think he’d do this well this early, but you can see he’s something special. He’s little and he’s young, but he’ll get older.”

Freeport tried to answer, but senior Owen Howarth first missed just high, then sent a shot just wide.

Later in the first half, senior Nick Intraversato sent the ball across to Wing, who headed it past Duina, but it sailed just over the crossbar.

Duina then saved shots from senior Sam Maneikis and Graver to keep the score 1-0 into the second half.

Where the Rangers got some breathing room.

Greely senior Gage Cooney gets past Freeport senior Gus Wing during first half action. Hoffer photo.

After Cronin robbed Njitoh, senior Ryan Moore missed just wide.

Then, with 29 minutes remaining, after a foul, Njitoh took a free kick from the side and his serve into the box found the head of Cooney, who sent it into the net for a 2-0 advantage.

“We got the first goal there and lost, so when we got the first one here tonight, we knew we had to push a little more and get another one in because Freeport’s a solid team,” Cooney said. “I was running the line and got fouled. Then, I just got in the box by the goalie where I’m supposed to be and Ethan served the ball up and it found my head.”

“Gage is tough,” Andreasen said. “He doesn’t take a play off. His engine is always going. You can see he’s a hockey player.”

Freeport tried to answer, but couldn’t generate another shot on frame, as some passes were just off the mark or shots went wide and Greely went on to victory.

“These guys have surprised me,” Andreasen said. “The kids are on the same page. They all row the boat in the same direction. They genuinely pull for each other. We might not have the star power of past years, but we work together and do OK.”

The Rangers finished with a 9-2 shots advantage and got two saves from Duina.

Cronin saved eight shots for the Falcons, who had a 6-3 edge in corner kicks.

“The storyline for us this year is not getting enough opportunities and ultimately not scoring goals,” said Freeport coach Bob Strong. “I think both goals were defensive mistakes, but Greely brought it all night long. They’re lightning-fast and it was unrelenting pressure. They’re a very good team.

“Certain guys stood out for us and that will help us down the stretch. (Sophomore) Garrett (Richeson) was amazing tonight. Nick played the game of the season. When they gain confidence, confidence just breeds confidence.”

Heal Points jockeying

Freeport (currently fifth in the Class B South Heal Points standings) has two games left, at Poland Thursday, then home versus Cape Elizabeth Tuesday of next week.

“We have to learn from tonight,” said Strong. “We have Poland and Cape. They’re both big games. We’re more or less healthy. We have to keep a positive attitude the last two games. We have to tighten up the loose ends.”

Greely (ranked third in the region) will test itself against visiting Yarmouth Friday, then finishes at York Tuesday of next week.

“We want to move the momentum to Yarmouth and act like it’s just any other game,” Cooney said. “We put one in early against them last time, then we fell behind. This time, we want to do it again and stay ahead.”

“We don’t talk playoffs or seeding or revenge,” said Andreasen. “We just talked about this week playing the two teams who beat us and we wanted to see if we’ve improved. I don’t want to make the (Yarmouth) game seem more important than it is. It’s a regular season game against the best team we’ll probably see. We know we can play with them and the grass will be a great neutralizer. It will be fun.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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