Three northern boys' soccer teams reach regional final round; Greely ousted in semis
For the 10th year in a row, either Falmouth or Yarmouth will represent Western Class B in the boys' soccer state final. First, the defending state champion Clippers traveled to the powerhouse Yachtsmen Wednesday night for the regional final for the second year in a row.
North Yarmouth Academy also played in a regional final Wednesday, the Western Class C Final,at former fierce league rival St. Dom's.
Greely fell short, but the Rangers capped a superb season of perseverance by upsetting Gorham in overtime in the quarterfinals before losing 2-1 at Windham in the semifinals Friday night.
Falmouth and Yarmouth have been fierce rivals for decades, but prior to last fall, the teams hadn't met in a regional final. It was worth the wait, especially from a Clippers' perspective, as they rallied in the second half for a stunning 2-1 win en route to their third Class B championship in five seasons.
This year, Yarmouth went undefeated for the first time since 1973, but settled for three ties, two of which came against the Yachtsmen (1-1 in Yarmouth Sept. 17 and 1-1 in Falmouth Oct. 8). The Yachtsmen ended up 12-0-2 and earned the top seed while the Clippers were relegated to the No. 2 spot.
In the quarterfinals, Falmouth made quick work of No. 8 Fryeburg, 10-0, getting three goals and two assists from senior standout Gabe Hoffman-Johnson, three more goals (and an assist) from junior Sam White and two goals from senior Brandon Tuttle.
Yarmouth hosted No. 7 Lisbon and also dominated, but it a took a little while for the offense to get going. After several near misses, Logan LaPointe scored in the 28th minutes to open the floodgates. By halftime, the lead was 5-0 thanks to goals from Luke Pierce, Travis Merrill, Chris Knaub and Cotter Jackson. In the second half, Josh Britten, LaPointe, Colby Shields and Campbell Belisle-Haley tickled the twine to account for the 9-0 final.
In Saturday's semifinal, both powers had closer calls, but were able to advance.
Hosting No. 5 Lincoln Academy, Falmouth moved on with a 4-0 win as Hoffman-Johnson scored three more goals.
"We're playing well and we finally have Gabe healthy," said Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan. "He looks like the Gabe of old."
Yarmouth played host to No. 3 Maranacook and won 3-0 in a physical, intense affair, behind a pair of goals from junior big-game performer Luke Pierce and a third (on a gorgeous right-footed blast) from senior lefty Ebrahim Fazeli.
"Eb (give the best service) in the state for sure," said Pierce, who scored the game-winner in last year's playoff win at Falmouth. "We worked the ball around and talked well and won the ball in the air. We capitalized."
"(Maranacook) always has a strong team," Fazeli said. "We knew they'd be tough, big and physical. We wanted to come out hard and finish with a good note at home and have momentum going into Wednesday. That might be my only glory moment with my right foot."
"I thought that the game would be hard-fought," added Clippers coach Mike Hagerty. "(Maranacook) won 13 games this year. Luke's just gotten better all year. Eb served two gorgeous balls. I'm very proud of the seniors. Two unsung heroes today were Matty Waldroup and Sam Torres. They really did a nice job holding the midfield together."
Wednesday's regional final was the eighth all-time postseason meeting between Falmouth and Yarmouth. The Yachtsmen held a 5-2 advantage. Both parties were looking forward to the latest passion play.
"I've been dreaming of this day to come," Pierce said. "I haven't been this excited in a long time.
"Here we go, round three," said Hagerty. "It'll be interesting for sure. We're confident. On paper, they are the best team in the state talent-wise. We have to keep our shape and take advantage of the chances we get. We have to be smart and patient on defense."
"It'll be a hard-fought game," said Halligan. "Two good teams going at it. Whoever comes out and plays their game should win. It's good for soccer. We watch each other closely. We know we're capable and we know they're capable. The first two games were very close. Yarmouth is a good team. We know we are too."
The Class B state final is Saturday at either Scarborough High School or Hampden Academy.
After going 6-6-1 in the regular year, NYA earned the No. 7 seed in Western C. Last Wednesday, in the quarterfinals, the Panthers went to No. 2 Dirigo and sprung the upset, 1-0, behind Mohamed Dahia's goal.
"We went to Dirigo quietly confident," said NYA coach Martyn Keen. "The field was a great leveler and their style of play was very direct. The were certainly strong and physical and all their players were very strong in the air. We got an early goal and quite frankly, I thought we would get more. Unfortunately, the field really stymied us."
Even better, NYA learned that No. 3 Waynflete had been upset by No. 6 Georges Valley, sending the Panthers up the coast to Thomaston and away from their talented rival in the semifinal round Saturday morning. The meeting was the 17th all-time between NYA and Georges Valley and the Panthers stretched their advantage to 10-7, but it wasn't easy.
NYA, playing with the wind in its face, fell behind 2-0 at halftime, but with the wind at its back, rallied to tie the game in the second half behind goals from Dahia and Asad Dahia. Then, in overtime, Ryan Rousseau scored to give the Panthers a 3-2 victory.
"We were certainly surprised and a little unprepared for Georges Valley," Keen said. "I hurriedly spoke to a few coaches and decided we would just play them straight up without changing our normal style. Again, the field was not great and the wind was very blustery. They played with it in the first half and took advantage of two really bad mistakes by our keeper. We did however create some chances and when we came off down 0-2 at the half, I was encouraged by the spirit and attitude of the players. We cetainly wanted to pick our keeper up and I told him that if he could shut them out in the second half, we would get him off the hook.
"It was clear that Georges Valley believed they had the game won at halftime by the comments we heard from their coach and players, so naturally this only fired my boys up more. I told the boys to push really hard in the opening stages to put them on their heels and we scored three minutes in. This changed the whole complexion and momentum of the game and when we tied the game just 11 minutes later, I really believed we could go on and win it in regulation.
"At that point though, we seemed to let down a little mentally. Though we still dominated play, we couldn't score the winner and in fact with six minutes to go they struck a great shot that looked like a certain goal. My much maligned keeper made a wonderful save and it took us into OT.
"We had lost a heart-braker to Fryburg in OT earlier in the season and didn't want a repeat and fortunately we came out very strong, created the first real chance and put it in much to our delight and their dismay."
The Panthers advanced to meet No. 1 St. Dom's (16-0) in the regional final. NYA and the Saints used to do battle twice in the regular season and often in the playoffs (the Panthers have won nine of 12 postseason meetings dating to 1981), but St. Dom's left the Western Maine Conference this season. The teams last met in the semifinals two years ago (the Saints sprung a 2-1 upset in Yarmouth).
"It sure has been a fun and wild ride to this point and it's definitely my most rewarding coaching experience at the high school level," said Keen.
The Class C state game is Saturday at either Scarborough High School or Hampden Academy.
Greely dropped to the No. 7 seed in Western A after losing its last three regular season games and finishing 9-5. Then, the Rangers did what they always seem to do, excel on the road in the playoffs. In the quarterfinals at No. 2 Gorham, Greely fell behind 1-0, but tied the game with 31 minutes left when Jon Coyne (from Teddy Russell) scored. The game would go to overtime and be decided by the heroics of senior Francisco Marques, an exchange student from Portugal, who delivered the game-winner, giving the Rangers a 2-1 upset victory.
Greely went to No. 3 Windham for the semifinals and hoped to keep the good times rolling. The Eagles went ahead 1-0 in the first half on senior Matt Coffee's goal. Coyne answered in the 69th minute, but with 8:21 left, Coffee scored again (from Patrick Ciez) and this time Windham made it hold up, ending the Rangers season at 10-6 with a 2-1 decision.
"We ran out of magic," said Greely coach Mike Andreasen. "They made a great play on that ball. Ciez made a great effort to get past his man. The other guy lost his man on the back post. We made a slight mistake. They had to make a great play to take advantage and they did. We showed heart down the stretch.
"We were kind of the second fiddle around this year, but they were a great group of kids who battled and overcame. I would have loved to have won this one. I think our inexperience showed in this game. Late in the game, we just missed by a little bit. When we scored the goal, I thought I saw Gorham all over again. Windham did what a champion needs to do. They got punched and they punched back. They're a good team.
The 2009 Rangers started nearly from scratch after being decimated by graduation. Next year's team figures to be in much better shape from the get-go.
"Graduation won't be as bad this time," Andreasen said. "We'll have four starters back, instead of one. We had a good JV team and a nice freshman group incoming. Jon Coyne was our leading scorer this year. Ryan Rybka anchored our defense. Austin Spencer was all over the place. Liam Maker got some experience in the playoffs. We have folks who will hopefully get us back. We didn't want to take a step backwards and we didn't. We had 10 wins. We had a chance to win tonight."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com