CAPE ELIZABETH—Waynflete boys’ soccer coach Brandon Salway was concerned his team was lacking a higher gear as the regular season wound down.
Monday night, at a red-hot Western Class A opponent, the defending Class C state champion Flyers discovered it.
After falling behind host Cape Elizabeth, which was riding a five-game win streak, 1-0, on sophomore Griffin Thoreck’s dazzling free kick in the 35th minute, Waynflete scratched and clawed for the equalizer and got it with 17:41 to go when junior Henry Cleaves scored out of a scrum.
While both teams had their share of chances the rest of regulation and through 10 minutes of overtime, they settled for a regular season-ending 1-1 draw, one which was encouraging for the Flyers, who ended the regular year 11-2-1, and was largely satisfying for the Capers as well, who go into the playoffs 7-5-2.
“This is the team I’ve been waiting to see,” said Salway. “We kept fighting. We talked at halftime about continuing to play hard. That’s what we’d been lacking. Hopefully today, the light bulb went on. Maybe in the future, if we’re down a goal, we know we came back against a good team on their field. I thought it was a great game played by two very good teams. It helps us for playoffs.”
Waynflete won the Class C title for the first time a year ago and entered 2012 highly touted, despite losing several key contributors to graduation. For most of the season, the Flyers soared, beating rival North Yarmouth Academy both on the road (5-0) and at home (2-0), in addition to seven other wins and a tie against Gray-New Gloucester. The run finally ended in an 8-2 loss at Richmond and when Waynflete fell at home to Western A power Greely, 4-1, last Wednesday, the team was heading in the wrong direction. The Flyers started to turn things around Thursday with a 5-0 home win over Lake Region.
Cape Elizabeth, another squad with a lot of new faces in 2012, struggled the first half of the year, starting 2-5-1. The Capers dropped tough decisions at Falmouth, at Yarmouth, at home to Yarmouth, at home to Greely and at York. They also tied visiting York. Cape Elizabeth turned things around with a 1-0 victory at Greely Oct. 2, then downed visiting Freeport (4-1), Falmouth (1-0, on a Thoreck 45-yard free kick game winner), host Sacopee (5-1) and host Gray-New Gloucester (4-0).
The teams had never met prior to Oct. 11 of last year when a Cleaves first half 40-yard goal stood up for a 1-0 victory at Waynflete.
Monday, on a typically windy and chilly Cape Elizabeth night, Cleaves would again produce heroics, but it wasn’t enough for the Flyers to get out of town with a victory.
Play was exciting from the get go and both teams had good chances in the first half.
On the Capers’ Senior Night, coach Ben Raymond produced a nice touch when he started senior Stefan Larose, even though he’s on crutches. The opening kickoff was booted out of bounds and Larose came out of the game, but he did get the experience of joining his classmates for the start.
In the second minute, Waynflete senior standout Peabo Knoth fired a high shot that Cape Elizabeth senior goalkeeper Brett Parker deflected out of bounds, setting up a corner kick, which didn’t produce a shot.
In the ninth minute, in a sign of things to come, Thoreck launched a long free kick on target, but Waynflete senior goalkeeper Zander Majercik, who missed much of the regular season with injury, punched the ball away.
Another Thoreck free kick 10 minutes later forced Majercik to make a leaping save.
In the 20th minute, a Knoth cross was just out of the reach of sophomore Clancy Mitchell.
In the 23rd minute, a shot by Capers junior Eli Breed was saved by Majercik.
Seconds later, at the other end, Mitchell shot wide.
With 15:28 to go before halftime, Waynflete senior Mohammed Suja sent a low shot on goal, but Parker made the stop.
In the 29th minute, a shot through a screen by Cape Elizabeth junior Omar Khalidi momentarily handcuffed Majercik, but the goalie kept possession of the ball.
Finally, with 5:03 left before halftime, the hosts broke through.
Taking a free kick from about 25-yards out, a veritable layup compared to some of the rockets he’s buried this fall, Thoreck fired a shot over the wall and over Majercik into the upper right corner for a 1-0 lead.
“Griff has done an outstanding job,” Raymond said. “We ask him to do an awful lot. We forget all the time he’s just a sophomore. We’re on him quite a bit.”
“I thought we had a great first half and I thought we had a good wall, but the kid just made a really good shot,” Salway said.
The second half produced more excitement.
With 26:30 remaining in regulation, Capers senior Charlie Laprade, a one-time Flyer, had a shot deflected by Majercik into the side of the net, setting up a corner kick.
Waynflete managed to possess the ball, but didn’t get a good look until 17:41 remained, when it pulled even.
The play started with a free kick from senior Kevin Kanakan. The ball fell loose in the Cape Elizabeth box and no defender cleared it. The ball trickled to Cleaves and he one-timed a shot past Parker and into the net to make it 1-1.
“I just try to throw myself into every play,” Cleaves said. “That time I was there and put it in. It just rolled to my foot and I just turned and shot.”
“We can’t let a ball bounce in the box and that ball bounced in the box,” lamented Raymond. “It was just a lack of communication. They did a great job getting on the end of it.”
Down the stretch in regulation, each offense applied plenty of pressure, but wasn’t rewarded.
With 15:38 to go, a Thoreck free kick went wide.
With 14:02 remaining, a 25-yard free kick by Knoth was just high.
Two minutes later, Thoreck had a free kick opportunity, but it was blocked by a defender and Majercik was first to the loose ball.
With 5:52 left, Parker bobbled a Knoth free kick, but recovered at the last second.
At the other end, a high shot from Breed forced Majercik to make a leaping save.
With 4:27 showing, Khalidi’s shot from the edge of the box sailed just high.
With 1:51 to go, a Knoth cross in the box was cleared at the last second.
The game would go to overtime, as the two teams had 10-minute of “sudden victory” play to settle matters.
Neither would score, although there were chances.
In the first five-minute session, the Flyers had a corner kick that didn’t result in a shot, Khalidi had the ball stolen from him in the box by Kanakan at the last second and a rush from Capers senior Cam Caswell was broken up by Majerick at the last second.
In the second OT, on the opening kickoff from 50-yards out, Thoreck, with nothing to lose, sent a shot on target, but Majercik made the save.
With 2:41 remaining, Waynflete had a golden opportunity as Knoth received a pass on the right wing, got past a defender, got Parker out of position and had an open net at which to shoot, but his game-winning bid went just wide past the far post.
With 1 minute left, Thoreck had the last chance to end matters, but his free kick from the edge of the box went way high.
The game ended 1-1.
Waynflete wasn’t overly disappointed.
“This was one we were looking forward to,” said Cleaves. “I was expecting a win. I think most of the guys were expecting a win, but it’s not a bad result.”
Majercik (six saves) turned heads with his play and leadership.
“Having Zander back is big,” said Cleaves. “He’s a leader on and off the field. He comes up with big saves. It’s good to have your captain there.”
“Getting healthy makes a big difference, obviously,” said Salway. “Zander really stepped up his game. Leadership means a lot. He does a nice job on the field, but he just gives the team a boost.
“I’m happy with the season. I felt like we could have played harder at times. We tried not to use injuries as an excuse. It was a great regular season. I hope the kids use this as a springboard.”
Cape Elizabeth’s win streak ended, but the Capers were pleased as well.
“Both teams had plenty of chances,” Raymond said. “I think on a calm day, both teams would have played differently, but I think it would have been the same game. We’re pretty even teams. They have skilled players. We did a good job of adjusting. We’re still getting some good offensive chances. We had a great one in overtime.
“We’ve gotten much, much better through the season. The kids definitely got better. We’re a much different team than last year. We play much more of a team game and defend really well. We have to not let any balls bounce in our box, we have to not let any balls bounce in their box and in the middle we have to have possession and be dangerous. We grew into ourselves and the kids figured it out. Everyone knows their role at this point. The kids have adjusted well.”
Cape Elizabeth is seventh at press time in the Western Class A Heal Points standings, but could wind up moving up or down a slot or two. The Capers will take part in a preliminary round playoff game Saturday.
“I don’t know what a tie does for us,” Raymond said. “We’ll be anywhere from 6 to 10. If we won, I assume we would have hosted. Now, I’m not sure. It doesn’t matter. You just have to get in.”
Unless they match up at some point with Greely, the Capers will square off with unfamiliar Southern Maine Activities Association competition in the playoffs.
Raymond said his team is ready for anything.
“We’ve improved and I think we should match up fairly well,” Raymond said. “We saw some of (the SMAA teams) early on in some preseason matches. Everyone’s much different than they were then. The benefit we have is our regular season schedule. It does a nice job of preparing us for the playoffs. The teams we face might be as good as Falmouth, but I don’t think we’ll see anyone more skilled than Falmouth. I don’t think we’ll see anyone as physical as Yarmouth. York does a nice job of both. That really prepares us. Playing that competition day in, day out really helps us. A lot of the top SMAA schools only play four competitive games in a season. We’re about playing the toughest schedule. If that means getting into the playoffs at No. 12, great, we’re in at No. 12. We’d much rather have a competitive regular season and let the playoffs happen as they may. We’ll play somebody, somewhere Saturday.”
Waynflete will likely be fourth in Western C and will host a quarterfinal round game Wednesday of next week.
The Flyers are getting closer to championship form and need to complete the process between now and Oct. 25.
“We’re not where we should be, to be honest,” Cleaves said. “At this point last year, I think we were more prepared mentally and physically, but I think we’ll get there. We’ll be fine. We can definitely be better.”
“We’ll get one home playoff game, then see what happens,” Salway said. “I like the way we’re playing now. Anything can happen. If we get up for a game like we did tonight, we can beat anybody.”
Cape Elizabeth senior Adam Haversat and Waynflete sophomore Clancy Mitchell fight for a ball in the air.
Waynflete senior goalkeeper Zander Majercik gets to a corner kick before Cape Elizabeth sophomore Cole Caswell can head it home.
Waynflete senior standout Peabo Knoth gets some rare breathing room.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Eddie Galvin can only watch as Waynflete senior Jack Cutler soars to head the ball.
Cape Elizabeth senior Charlie Laprade fights his way through the Waynflete defense to reach the ball. Laprade, a former Flyer, had an opportunity to renew acquaintances with former teammates during the game.
Cape Elizabeth senior Maam Fall sends a pass upfield.
Cape Elizabeth freshman Matt Riggle shields the ball from Waynflete senior Jack Cutler.
Waynflete senior Kevin Kanakan plays the ball.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Griffin Thoreck exults after scoring on a free kick in the first half of Monday’s 1-1 home tie versus Waynflete as Capers senior Chris Gallant offers his congratulations.
More photos below.