NORTH BERWICK, Maine — The Noble High School boys soccer team is still alive in the Western Maine Class A tournament, although not everyone has got the memo.
Until alerted Monday afternoon, the Maine Principals Association website had South Portland beating Noble in the first round of the tournament, although it was the No. 11 Knights (9-6-0) who upset the No. 6 Red Riots on Saturday, 2-0.
One local paper on Saturday had South Portland winning the game. Noble coach Matt Foster had to convince the reader that indeed the game had yet to be played.
In addition, the school’s maintenance department received the go-ahead over the weekend to remove the goals from the Noble JV soccer field, where the varsity conducts its practices.
Well, Noble is still playing and practicing on a rough secondary field across from the main athletic fields complex, and they are very much getting geared up for No. 3 Greely (10-4-0) at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Cumberland.
According to coach Foster, the Knights last made the playoffs in 2002.
“We went up there and controlled tempo,” coach Foster said of the South Portland game. “We tried to control possession. That’s what we do very well. We didn’t let them control possession in our defensive half, which was huge for us Saturday.”
The game was scoreless at halftime before Noble took the lead in the 50th minute on a goal by Brandon Vigneault. Reserve Seth Shave added the insurance tally with two and a half minutes to play.
Looking ahead to Greely, a team that plays a predominantly Class B schedule, Foster said they are consistently there and consistently at the top. The two have no common opponents.
“They know how to prepare for those games, so we’re expecting nothing but their best,” Foster added. “I’ve gotten some information from some Class B coaches, but for the most part we’re going up there blind.”
Coming into the season, Foster knew he had a lot of individual talent after a 5-11 season in 2011.
“I think one of the bug keys to our success is that guys have put individual statistics and egos aside,” Foster said. “To play as a group and to win as a group.”
Noble was never outmatched this season, but until Saturday it had not beat a team who at the time was ahead of it in the standings. It lost to No. 1 Scarborough, 4-2, and No. 2 Gorham, 2-1.
The Knights are very at home on the road with a 7-1 record.
“That gives us confidence, too,” tri-captain Josh Davis said of playing on the road. “I think we’ll do pretty good at Greely’s home turf.”
They have also been able to look to their bench when some key players have been unable to play due to injury like Jason Perkins (broken nose, done for season) and Jake Coffey (sprained knee). Sean Jackson missed the game at South Portland with a cumulative card penalty, but will be back for Wednesday’s game.
A lot of guys have stepped up off the bench like Shave, Brandon Ford, Josh Emard and DJ Cloutier.
“Even the guys who aren’t playing,” Foster added. “I’d love to take credit for this, but I don’t even know how it started. We opened with Biddeford and we’re at Portland and both games, the whole bench, everyone is standing up right behind me. They’re all standing, they’re all into the game. Everybody’s excited for everything that we’re doing. All year, we haven’t had a kid sit the bench. They stand behind me. Everybody has bought into this.”
“When I’m on the field, I don’t play for myself, I play for my team,” tri-captain Tyler Morris said. “When I hear them cheer me on, it just gives me more energy to play better. I’m sure that’s the case with a lot of the other guys, too.”
Defense has also been very good, starting with goalie Drew Martin and his eight shutouts and working out from there.
“He’s in a tough spot, we’re in a tough spot, he can still come up with a big save,” Foster said. “But a lot of that also goes to Tyler Morris and Jake Coffey playing in the middle and the back and not giving opportunities. Two of the shutouts, I don’t think Drew faced one shot. It’s a huge testament to him to get all those shutouts, but the defense does a heck of a job back there.”
Team defense will be key, Foster said, in beating Greely.
“They’re a goal-scoring team,” Foster added. “As long as we can slow them down and keep them from scoring, we’ll be good for Wednesday night. We want to keep communicating, move the ball as much as possible, and when we do get the opportunity, try to put them in the back of the net early.”
Wednesday’s winner will play in the regional semifinals against the Scarborough-Windham/Portland winner on Saturday.
Distributed by MCT Information Services