Assistant Sports Editor
BENNINGTON -- Mount Anthony Union High School junior Brad Anair celebrated his 16th birthday on Friday afternoon by scoring a hat trick in his team’s 6-0 win over Arlington Memorial High School in the opening round of the John James tournament.
Anair struck his first goal off of a failed clearance attempt by the Eagles, then added another on a free kick from 23 yards out to give the Patriots a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.
"He showed composure," coach Mike Molloy said of Anair. "All of his finishes were composed and to the corner. That is what we need him to do."
Through the first 15 minutes of the game, the Eagles had to absorb a ton of pressure from MAU, but were almost able to take the lead through Jared Lacoste.
Lacoste took a pass from Nathan Mattison and found himself in on goal. His shot tucked around MAU goalie Pat Cody, but went just outside the left post.
Austin Hawley also saw a nice chance on goal for the Eagles, but his shot went just over the crossbar and out of play for a goal kick.
The Patriots saw several efforts on goal saved by Arlington keeper DJ Jennings, most notably when Jennings denied Ethan Anderson on a header from the free kick.
Marcus LaFlamme was also denied by Jennings on several occasions in the first half, as the goalie used his frame to his advantage to pluck balls out of the air.
"We talked about how we were not going to beat Jennings up high," Molloy said. "We needed to play it low and to the corner and force him off of his line."
In the second half, the Patriots were able to do just that.
After Anair missed just wide in the opening moments of the second half, he redeemed himself by taking a cross from LaFlamme and burying his shot into the upper part of the net just five minutes into the half.
From there, the Patriots went on a tear in front of net.
Less than two minutes later, the team was able to add goals by Nathan Blue, who finished off a corner from Matt Upright, and Dylan Prazak. Prazak’s goal took a bounce off of a defender before finally finding the back of the net.
The sixth goal from the Patriots would come a minute-and-a-half after Prazak’s.
LaFlamme was again able to pick out an attacker on a cross, with Blue on the receiving end this time. Taking control of the pass, Blue put his shot around Jennings to make it 6-0 with 32 minutes left in the game.
"I was pleased we were able to do that at the start of the second half," Molloy said. "To score four goals in eight minutes was what we were looking for today."
The Patriots would try to add more goals as the half went on, but Jennings was able to deny the efforts of the Patriots attackers. The Eagles also used some tough tackling by Peter Macksey and Payton Agresta to help keep the Patriots off of the board throughout the remainder of the half.
On the game, Jennings recorded 14 saves for the Eagles, including a couple of diving saves that a shorter goalie would not have gotten to.
The Eagles will now play in the consolation game of the tournament tomorrow, when they play Brattleboro at 5 p.m. at Spinelli Field. The Patriots are on to the championship, where they will play Burr and Burton Academy in the nightcap at 7 p.m.