BLUE HILL — Nate Mason began practicing for the 2019 soccer season in an Ellsworth uniform, but his first game as a senior came wearing a different team’s maroon and white.
Less than two weeks ago, Mason was getting his photo taken as an Ellsworth Eagle at team picture day and preparing for his senior year at Ellsworth High School. Yet after a last-minute decision to transfer, Mason took the field for the season’s first game playing against the Ellsworth boys’ team rather than for it.
“It’s been an ongoing decision for the past couple years,” Mason, who now plays for George Stevens Academy, said of his transfer process. “I held myself back because I love those boys [at Ellsworth] so much and loved playing soccer there.”
On Tuesday, there was no holding back for Mason or GSA. Opening the season against his former team, Mason delivered one of the best performances of his high school career.
Mason scored a pair of second-half goals Tuesday to propel the GSA boys’ soccer team to a 4-1 win over Ellsworth in Blue Hill. His two goals in quick succession broke open a game that had been deadlocked much of the way and put the home team on course victory in the Battle of the Eagles.
The game got off to a rather uneventful start with neither team offering much in terms of attack for the first 10 minutes. Then, at the 29-minute mark, GSA launched a strong counterattack and took advantage of an Ellsworth miscommunication in the back as Ezra Bramblett-Williams fired a shot into the top-right corner to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
Ellsworth (0-2) had the chance to tie the game with 23:22 left after GSA committed a foul in the penalty area, but the ensuing spot kick went inches wide of the left post. Ben Osterlin would equalize for the visitors just minutes later, though, and Ellsworth survived a GSA offensive onslaught in the final minutes of the half to keep the score knotted at 1 going into the break.
GSA (1-0) found itself on the back foot early in the second half, but that changed with 27:34 left to play when Mason scored from close range. Mason found the back of the net again three minutes later to give his team a 3-1 lead, and GSA would add one more with 10 minutes remaining to put the result beyond doubt.
“We had our fastest guys going forward, and we just ran hard and kept packing the [6-yard box] on throws and corners when we had them,” Mason said. “I had two really good chances, and I just converted them.”
Clinical finishing was crucial for GSA as Ellsworth was well organized behind the ball throughout the game. Whether through Mason or his teammates, GSA found ways to capitalize whenever it had scoring chances.
“I thought that Ellsworth did a good job of controlling the possession, and we had to have an answer for that,” GSA head coach Mark Ensworth said. “We finished really well and took advantage of the opportunities we had.”
The decision to transfer was a difficult one for Mason, who was a top athlete in soccer and track and field in his three years at Ellsworth. Yet as the start of the school year neared, he felt GSA was the right place for his final year.
“I had to make a decision for my future and for college and everything,” Mason said. “I found out the layout for my senior year this year would definitely have been better at GSA for my classes and all that.”
GSA will be on the road at Mount Desert Island (0-1) at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, before a home game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, against Houlton and another road game at 4 p.m. next Tuesday, Sept. 17, against Bucksport. Ellsworth hosts Hermon (0-0) at 6 p.m. Thursday before playing on the road against Old Town at 4 p.m. Saturday.
As for Mason’s old team, Ellsworth’s rematch with GSA is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 25 at Del Luce Stadium. After years of competing for Ellsworth on and inside the track, doing so for the opposing team will be different feeling.
“It feels very weird looking and seeing all the old faces on the other team,” Mason said. “I love all of those guys over there; I wish nothing but the best for them.”