MILO, Maine — It’s difficult enough for a high school team in any sport to achieve an undefeated regular season, let alone duplicate the feat.
But the Penquis boys soccer squad moved another step toward making that happen Monday as junior forward Cevonte Johnson scored twice and junior goalie Trevor Lyford anchored a flawless defense as the Patriots defeated Orono 2-0 at Harris Field.
“Orono’s a good team, and I thought we possessed the ball a lot better today than we did Saturday [in a 1-0 win over Piscataquis of Guilford] and defensively this was probably one of our best efforts,” said Penquis coach Jason Mills. “They’ve got some good kids up front in [Mathew] Cloutier and some others, but we just surrounded the ball when he got it and tried to keep everything to the outside and let Trevor see the shots.”
The win improved the Patriots to 12-0 this season and at least temporarily inched them ahead of unbeaten Madawaska into first place in Eastern Maine Class C.
It also extended the program’s regular-season unbeaten streak to 27 matches (25-0-2) — a run that began with a victory over then-unbeaten Orono in the final game of its 2010 schedule and continued with a 12-0-2 effort last fall.
The latest victory also came in somewhat typical fashion for this year’s edition.
“If you look at all the other teams in Class C that are near the top, regardless of who we’re playing, we’re not going to go out and score a ton of goals. That’s just not who we are,” said Mills. “But it’s tough to score against us, these kids play good defense. They get after it.”
Penquis and Orono have established a strong rivalry in recent years, with Orono eliminating the Patriots in the regional semifinals each of the last two seasons — including last fall when the Patriots entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in Eastern C.
That made Monday’s completion of a regular-season sweep of the 6-5-2 Red Riots all the more satisfying for Penquis.
“We played really well,” said Lyford. “We didn’t play so hot Saturday against Guilford, they came out and kind of hit us in the mouth a little bit, so we came out today and knew we needed to get off to a good start and get to every 50-50 ball. And it was Orono so there’s a little bad blood going back to a couple of playoff games so it was easy to get up for this one.”
Both teams had scoring bids early in the match, with Orono’s Xiao Quan heading the ball over the crossbar nine minutes into the first half and Johnson soon after taking a pass from Tyler Pelletier for a testing shot from the right of the penalty area that required a sprawling save by Red Riots goalie Einar Loktu.
Penquis — a 2-1 winner at Orono in their previous meeting on Sept. 21 — finally broke through early in the second half on an own-goal credited to Johnson.
After Johnson and teammate Isaiah Bess combined to establish possession for Penquis in the offensive end, junior midfielder Colton Larrabee sent the ball from the right wing toward the goal crease.
Johnson tried to get his foot on the ball near the net but could merely deflect it, and it caromed off an Orono defender trying to race back into the play inside the far post with 37:26 remaining.
“I just wanted to be aggressive, I just played,” said Johnson. “We worked hard, and the deflection worked out great for us.”
Johnson made it 2-0 with 9:31 left in the match, taking a long lead pass from Bess and then beating the Orono defense. He launched a close-range shot that Loktu blocked but could not control as he went to the ground.
The ball got behind the Red Riots’ goalie, and Johnson stepped around him to finish the play.
“When I got the ball, coach said to flag Cevonte, so I did,” said Bess. “I knew he’d get it because he’s one of the hardest-working players on the team. When he got it he got around two kids and then finished it into the back of the net.”
Lyford finished with six saves in securing Penquis’ sixth shutout victory of the season with help from fellow defenders Cody Larrabee, Cody Herbest, Jason Durant and Gage McLaughlin.
“Our defense is awesome. If I have to touch the ball, it’s usually a rarity,” said Lyford.
Loktu made three saves for Orono.