ELLSWORTH — Before turning its attention to Saturday’s highly anticipated Class B showdown at Presque Isle, the Ellsworth boys soccer team had some work to do Thursday evening.
And while it took the Eagles a half to get their offense fully untracked, coach Brian Higgins’ club scored three times after intermission to pull away a 4-0 victory over Caribou at Del Luce Stadium.
Junior striker Kyle Haslam scored twice and senior midfielder Andrew Austin set up two goals with long throw-ins as Ellsworth improved to 5-0.
“I think we dominated pretty much the whole first half, but we just couldn’t get our foot on it and score the goals,” said Austin, “but in the second half we executed and definitely got our act together.”
Senior goalie Jordan Carter made five saves on nine Caribou shots to preserve Ellsworth’s fourth shutout of the season, aided by the defensive work of sweeper Jake Jordan and marking fullback Mike Curtis.
Caribou goalie Garrett Jordan kept the Vikings close early, making six saves on 13 shots in the first half alone. He finished with 10 saves on 26 shots.
“They were putting the ball in a position to score quite often, and I thought our ‘keeper did an outstanding job,” said Caribou coach Mark Shea. “We didn’t always help him a lot, but I don’t think anyone was going to save a couple of their shots.”
One of those unsaveable shots was Ellsworth’s first of the match, a blast by Haslam from just beyond the 18-yard line that tucked itself inside the right goalpost to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead 4:45 into the first half.
Haslam sent Maks Grover into the right corner with a lead pass, then drifted toward the goalmouth. Grover centered the ball, and Haslam soon gained possession and drilled a left-footed shot into the open side of the goal.
Caribou (2-4-2) was able to hang within a goal through the end of the period, but Josh Bean and Nick Holt teamed up to extend Ellsworth’s lead to 2-0 nine minutes into the second half.
Bean set up the goal by beating a defender deep along the left wing, then lofting a crossing pass that Holt headed in at the far post.
“All I did was a little scissors,” said Bean, a sophomore. “We practice that all the time in practice and [coach] Higgins told us to use it in the game and I just figured it was the right time to do it. So I got to the end line as quickly as possible and it worked.”
Long flip throw-ins from deep in the offensive zone by Austin produced two insurance goals. The first, coming with 14:33 remaining, bounced in off a Caribou defender after Holt had headed the the throw-in from the far post back into the goalmouth, where it initially bounced off the head of another Caribou player.
“The throw-ins are definitely different on the side rather than throwing diagonal [from farther out on the field],” said Austin, “but I just try to do the same thing and get it near the goal. My main goal is the far post.”
Haslam headed in another Austin throw-in five minutes later.
And now the Eagles — who have outscored their opponents 26-2 — can turn their attention to a Presque Isle team that is top-ranked in Eastern Maine Class B with a 7-0-1 record and has outscored its opposition 43-2 with seven straight shutouts since a season-opening 2-2 tie at Fort Kent on Aug. 24.
“I think they are two teams that are going to be pretty evenly matched,” said Shea, whose team dropped a 6-0 decision at Presque Isle on Sept. 2. “Presque Isle is as good a team as I’ve seen over the last three or four years. They played extremely well against us, and because of the rivalry they’re able to play against us at an even higher level than they do against other teams, though I think the Presque Isle-Ellsworth rivalry is also quite strong.
“I wish I could go see it.”