Waynflete boys persevere, advance to semifinals
PORTLAND—After painful home playoff losses each of the past two years, the Waynflete boys' soccer team will take a late October win any way it can get one.
Wednesday afternoon at Fore River Field, the Flyers got a battle (in more ways than one) from visiting Wiscasset, but managed to live to play another day.
First half goals from seniors Mitch Newlin and Max McKendry set the tone and a rebound goal from freshman Clancy Mitchell in the second half helped ice a 3-0 win for second-ranked Waynflete, which will next welcome No. 3 Hall-Dale in the semifinals Friday.
"I'm not really concerned about past years," said longtime Flyers coach Brandon Salway. "This year's team has shown a lot of resiliency. They feed off each other. It comes down to doing the little things. We did it today."
Eye on the prize
Waynflete has been among the finest teams in Western Class C the past four years. In 2008, the Flyers came all the way from the No. 11 seed to advance to the state final before losing to Washington Academy, 2-1. Two years ago, Waynflete won 12 regular season contests and was third for the playoffs, but was stunned by visiting Georges Valley, 1-0, in the quarterfinals. Last fall, the Flyers again earned the three seed and this time made it all the way to the regional final before being upset by rival North Yarmouth Academy, 1-0.
Many of this year's eight seniors have been along for the ride for much of that triumph and agony and want nothing more than to go all the way in their final season. So far this autumn, Waynflete has more than risen to the occasion, going 10-1-3 in the regular season, with the only blemishes being a 4-0 home loss to Western B contender Fryeburg, a pair of scoreless ties against Sacopee Valley and a 1-1 home draw with NYA on Sept. 14. The biggest win was a first-ever victory (1-0) over traditional powerhouse Cape Elizabeth, Oct. 11, at home.
When the dust settled, the Flyers earned their best Western C seed to date, second.
Wiscasset, which changed its nickname from the Redskins to the Wolverines this fall, was a 6-5-3 team in the regular season and earned the No. 7 seed. Wiscasset and Waynflete met once before in the playoffs, a 2-0 preliminary round victory for the Flyers to start their regional title championship run in 2008.
The hosts were thrown into disarray just before kickoff when standout senior goalkeeper Zander Majercik, who's been battling an ankle injury, was first expected to play, then scratched at the last minute in favor of sophomore Joe Schnier.
When the contest began, Waynflete had the better of the chances in a contest that featured several hard hits and yellow cards.
Just 1 minute, 2 seconds into the 40-minute first half, the Flyers had a great chance to get the early jump, but senior captain Daniel Wiener shot high. Six minutes later, the Flyers threatened again, but junior playmaker Peabo Knoth's cross was just a little too high for sophomore Elyse Bayizere to handle. With 29:58 left before halftime, Bayizere's shot in the box was broken up at the last second.
With 23:30 showing, Waynflete finally broke through.
Wiener had a free kick from the left side which was blocked by sophomore teammate Henry Cleaves. The ball came right back to Wiener and he shot again only to have his bid denied by Wiscasset senior goalkeeper Jason Weatherbee. Newlin was right there to pounce on the rebound, however, and after struggling momentarily to get the ball on his foot, he banged it home and the Flyers were ahead to stay, 1-0.
"That cross by Daniel was huge," Newlin said. "The team was playing well and we had chances. I was at the right spot at the right time. It couldn't have been better. I felt like I had all the time in the world. The first goal definitely sets the tempo."
"It was important to score first," Salway said. "I thought we'd be a little rusty since we haven't played in nine days. I'm proud of how we responded."
Two minutes later, the game's first yellow card was issued, to Wolverines senior Cory Hodgdon.
Waynflete kept the offensive pressure on and moments after a Cleaves' header on a corner went just wide, McKendry got into the scoring act with 11:47 to go before the half.
McKendry took a pass from Newlin, dribbled around a defender and let a shot fly. From some 35-yards out it rocketed toward the goal and over Weatherbee's head for a 2-0 lead.
Not only was the goal timely and impressive, it was also historic.
"Scoring isn't really my thing," McKendry said. "It was my first varsity goal ever. Mitch passed it to me. I took a step and honestly thought I was closer to the goal than I was. I looked down and tried not to send it high. I felt like I hit well. I didn't really believe it at first."
To any observer not accustomed to seeing Waynflete play, McKendry came across as a seasoned scorer.
"Max's strike really helped us out," said Newlin.
"We made good plays inside the box all day," Salway said. "Max had a great shot."
With 10:21 left, junior Mohammed Suja sent a shot in that the goalie bobbled, allowing senior William Cleaves to get to the rebound. He had a good shot, but Weatherbee denied it and the score stayed 2-0.
Schnier made his presence felt with 8:46 remaining in the half when he had to go way up to make a save on a free kick.
A minute later, things got testy when both Wiener and Wiscasset senior Caleb Bryant were issued yellow cards. A heated discussion between the coaches and officials ensued and the game was delayed several minutes before lead official Vince Aceto restored order.
The Wolverines tried to cut into the deficit with 2:49 left, but senior Devin Grover's header was just wide. Late in the half, for the Flyers, Knoth shot just wide and as time wound down, William Cleaves' rush was broken up.
The visitors pushed to get back in the game early in the second half as Grover shot just wide and the team's first corner kick followed seconds later. With 30:49 left in regulation, Schnier had to come out to break up a long pass from Bryant intended for Hodgdon.
Then, with 21:50 to play, Waynflete put the win away when freshman Clancy Mitchell got in on the fun. After a long shot by junior Kevin Kanakan was tipped by the goalie off the crossbar, Mitchell was there to put home the rebound and it was 3-0.
"Clancy had a great follow on a good shot by Kevin," Salway said.
With 8:54 left, Grover got his team's third yellow card of the day, but that was it for excitement and the Flyers advanced with the shutout win.
"It was a crazy day from 10 minutes before the game when we thought Zander would be starting, but three minutes before he was out and Joey had to step in," Salway said. "We had to move some people around quickly. The biggest thing in the second half was keeping our composure. We had control of the game. It was a difficult game to keep our composure, but for the most part we kept it."
Waynflete (which is now the highest remaining seed in the region after No. 1 St. Dom's was upset by No. 9 NYA Wednesday afternoon) will welcome 13-1-1 Hall-Dale Friday. The question is where. If Thursday's projected rainfall leaves the Fore River Field unplayable, both the girls (who face Old Orchard Beach) and the boys will move to Deering's turf field.
The Flyers didn't face Hall-Dale this year. The teams have no playoff history.
Waynflete hopes to keep the good times rolling.
"We know we can't look by anybody on any given day," Newlin said. "That's what we took from Georges Valley two years ago. Last year was really tough. Last year we had mental toughness as well, but were unlucky."
"I think we're confident," McKendry said. "We have good teams to beat."
"I hope our best games are still to come," added Salway. "Hall-Dale's a pretty good team with a solid record. We're glad to extend our season for a couple more days. If we respond like we did today, we'll be fine."