ELLSWORTH — Winning on the road against Ellsworth hasn’t been easy for high school boys’ soccer teams in recent years. George Stevens Academy knows better than anyone else.
Between facing teams that were perennial state championship contenders under coaching legend Brian Higgins and enduring defeats at the hands of Paul Lock’s squads the past two years, trips to Ellsworth have been tough ones for GSA. On Monday, though, the visiting Eagles finally exorcised their demons — and did so in emphatic fashion.
GSA beat Ellsworth 3-0 on Thursday at Del Luce Stadium to continue its undefeated start to the 2018 season. In doing so, the visitors avenged painful losses that saw them fall in overtime after taking a 2-0 lead in 2016 and lose 5-2 last year despite being tied with 20 minutes to go.
“It’s not easy to come in here to Ellsworth and win, and you have to appreciate it any time it happens,” GSA head coach Mark Ensworth said. “They [our players] wanted this badly, and they came out here tonight and showed what they were made of.”
Just as it did two years ago, GSA (4-0) scored twice in the first half. Senior Chris Bennett provided the first goal for the visitors, and Memphis Parker netted the second to double the lead.
In the second half, GSA scored for the third time when Michael Moon slipped past the home team’s defense and fired a shot into the bottom-left corner of the net. Ellsworth (0-4) applied its share of offensive pressure and even hit the crossbar with 9 minutes, 44 seconds to play, but GSA stayed strong defensively to come away with a three-goal win.
GSA has a myriad of offensive threats such as Moon, Owen Vinall and David Gadsby, but the team’s strength in that area of the pitch lies in its balance. Despite having scored 20 goals in four games thus far — the Eagles scored six in their opening game against Dexter, nine against Deer Isle-Stonington and two against Searsport — no one player has scored more than three goals.
“We’re playing very unselfishly, which is nice,” Ensworth said. “There’s a lot of depth on our team, and we have a lot of guys who can perform in a lot of different roles. It’s an advantage when you have that many good options.”
GSA has had to replace key players such as Taylor Schildroth, John Larson, Walker Ellsworth and Erik Taylor-Lash, but that hasn’t stopped it from maintaining success. The team has played in the Class C North championship game each of the past two years and looks near the top of the playoff picture once again this season.
“I think part of our success there is that we’re fortunate to have a really, really strong JV program,” Ensworth said. “There’s not a lot of other Class C JV teams, and that means our JV kids have to play Class B and Class A schools at that level. So they’re playing tough competition every time they go out there, and that makes them battled-tested and gets them ready a lot quicker.”
On the other side, Ellsworth finds itself in an unfamiliar position at 0-4. After losing 13 seniors from last year’s squad, Paul Lock’s team is in the beginning stages of a rebuilding process it hopes will yield positive results in the near future.
“Our team this year is very young, but we’re picking up something new every game as the year progresses,” Lock said. “GSA was able to open up the field against us, and that was key to them winning. They truly played a great game.”
GSA moved up to third place in the Class C North standings with the win. The Eagles will take on Mount Desert Island (1-1-1) at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, before taking on Houlton in a battle of two Class C contenders at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15.
Ellsworth will play at home against Washington Academy (2-2) at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The team will then take on MDI at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, in Bar Harbor.