ELLSWORTH, Maine — The Foxcroft Academy boys soccer team arrived at Del Luce Stadium feeling confident after starting its season with a convincing win a few days earlier.
The youthful Ponies discovered there’s still much work to be done if they are to compete with the Eastern Maine Class B elite.
Conor Maguire scored two second-half goals and Logan Dyer scored twice on penalty kicks to propel perennial power Ellsworth to a 5-0 victory in its home opener Wednesday evening.
Ben Haslam also scored for the 2-0 Eagles, while senior goalie Steven Mahon made three saves to preserve the shutout.
Foxcroft (1-1) was coming off a 7-2 victory over John Bapst of Bangor. Early on the Ponies battled evenly with a more veteran Ellsworth team that returned from Aroostook County on Saturday night with a 2-1 win over rival Presque Isle.
“We have a lot of experience back,” said Dyer, a senior captain whose team graduated just four starters from the 2012 squad that reached the Eastern Maine final.
“Our bench is very deep, too, and that’s a big contributing factor for us.”
The Eagles gradually gained control of the midfield against the Ponies, leading to Haslam’s blistering shot from 18 yards out that glanced off the hands of Foxcroft freshman goalie Logan Butera and into the net 14 minutes into the match.
It was the first shot on goal for either team.
Dyer made it 2-0 less than four minutes later when he successfully went high and to Butera’s right with a penalty kick after Foxcroft had been whistled for tripping in the penalty area.
Butera made a diving save of a point-blank bid by Dyer later in the half to keep Foxcroft within 2-0 at the break, but Ellsworth ccontinued to carry the play early in the final period.
Maguire scored his first goal eight minutes into the second half. The play began with a throw-in by Sid St. Peter from the right wing, with Maguire and teammate Jack Weeks battling two Foxcroft defenders for possession near the 18-yard line.
Maguire eventually got his foot on the ball and slid a shot inside the far post to extend the lead.
Foxcroft finally generated its first shot on goal with 27:46 left in the match on a long direct kick by Abe Simpson, but the Ponies soon manufactured two much stronger scoring bids only to be denied once by the crossbar and the second time by Mahon.
Another direct kick in the offensive end led to a blast from within the penalty box by Burk Taner that caromed off the crossbar. Moments later Justin Diamond created a close-range shot that required a sliding save by Mahon, one of five Ellsworth seniors.
Mahon’s save ignited an instant counterattack by coach Brian Higgins’ Eagles, a run that led to a 2-on-1 finish at the other end. Alex Braley maneuvered around a defender and flicked a pass ahead with the outside of his right foot to Maguire, who scored from close range to make it 4-0 with 17:21 left.
Dyer added the Eagles’ final goal with another penalty kick, this time a blast to the upper left corner of the net against Foxcroft backup goalie Tanner Strout.
“I think the second half we played a lot better,” said Dyer. “In the first half we were a little sloppy, maybe the first game at home jitters, but we played better after that.”
Butera made eight saves on 20 shots in goal for Foxcroft, while Strout stopped one of three shots attempted while he was in net.
They’re very skilled,” Foxcroft coach Luis Ayala said of Ellsworth, “but I’m proud of these guys, they fought hard. In the first half one goal went between the goalie’s hands and the other one was a PK or it was 0-0, so we can build on that.
“That’s our motto this year, get better every day, every practice, every game. It’s early in the season, so we’ll be better prepared the next time.”