Some adjustments made out of defensive necessity proved pivotal for the Ellsworth Eagles on Saturday as they edged Foxcroft Academy 2-1 in a battle of Class B North soccer contenders at Oakes Field in Dover-Foxcroft.
Ellsworth got goals from Cruz Coffin and Kai Barrett to improve its record to 7-3-1 and move up from sixth place to fifth in the divisional Heal points with the regular season scheduled to conclude on Oct. 19.
Foxcroft, which had battled the Eagles to a 1-1 tie in their earlier meeting on Sept. 11 at Del Luce Stadium in Ellsworth, remains third in Class B North with a 5-2-2 record.
The Ponies trail only top-ranked Presque Isle — whom they visit on Monday — and No. 2 Winslow, which not only is 11-0 but has outscored its opposition 66-1.
With both wing defenders sidelined by injury for his team’s rematch with Foxcroft, Ellsworth coach Paul Lock moved midfielders back to help out center backs Darren Easler and Owen Frank in front of goalie Craig Burnett.
That left Foxcroft able to control much of the midfield play and amass an 18-9 shots advantage, but Ellsworth was able to keep the Ponies off the scoreboard save for a penalty kick by Danny Cornett with 8:03 left in the match.
“[Ellsworth] dropped back a lot on defense and took away our offensive opportunities,” Foxcroft coach John Cornett said. “They marked up some of our better offensive players and didn’t give them any room to breathe. It was a good strategy. We had our chances, we just didn’t capitalize on them.”
Among the defensive moves made by Ellsworth, Koa Barrett shifted from the midfield to work as a marking back against Foxcroft’s Kemsley Marsters, and while the dangerous Ponies’ sophomore striker created several serious scoring chances, they didn’t go unchallenged.
“When we moved Koa we lost him from the midfield and that opened things up for Foxcroft,” Lock said. “They had shots, they were just unlucky that they went over the top because they had to have twice the shots we did.”
Coffin scored the first goal of the match with 26:17 left in the opening half, assisted by Luke Perry.
Foxcroft had carried the play for the preceding few minutes before Ellsworth finally advanced into its offensive end. Perry soon centered the ball from deep in the right corner to Coffin, whose quick shot from the center of the penalty area eluded the right arm of diving Foxcroft goalie Peyton Wellman.
“It came to me and I saw some space,” Coffin said. “I looked down and had a player to my left, but they put two defenders over to him so I just ripped one and it went under the goalie.”
Foxcroft’s best chance to tie the match before intermission came in the final minute of the half, but Burnett deflected away a point-blank shot by the Ponies’ Kyle Jankunas.
Foxcroft continued to control much of the play during the second half, with Danny Cornett strong in the midfield and Marsters and freshman Josh Cornett advancing the ball toward scoring position.
But it was Ellsworth that finally scored the decisive second goal of the match with just under 11 minutes left after Foxcroft was called for a hand ball just outside the penalty area.
Perry curved his direct kick high over the Ponies’ defensive wall toward the crossbar, and Foxcroft second-half goalie Jasper Makowski jumped and was able to get his hands on the ball but couldn’t gain control and Kai Barrett headed home the rebound.
“It was a nice free kick and the goalie tried to catch it but bobbled it just a little bit and I was able to jump up and finish it off,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Owen Frank and Koa Barrett.