Waynflete boys' soccer earns seismic win
PORTLAND—The Waynflete boys' soccer program has enjoyed many memorable victories over the years, but Tuesday afternoon at Fore River Fields, the Flyers made history, beating a Cape Elizabeth squad which has long been recognized as one of the state's finest.
The host Flyers were on their heels much of the first half, but in the 36th minute, on their first good look, sophomore Henry Cleaves took a pass from his brother, senior William Cleaves, and blasted a 40-yard howitzer shot into the goal to put Waynflete on top to stay.
The Capers pushed hard for the equalizer in the second half and had their share of great looks, but the Flyers defense and junior goalkeeper Zander Majercik turned them all aside and Waynflete improved to 9-0-3 with a 1-0 triumph, dropping Cape Elizabeth to 6-4-2 in the process.
"Anytime you can beat one of the most storied programs in the state, not to mention that they're a really quality team this year, it's a great win for our program," said longtime Flyers coach Brandon Salway. "I've got a lot of respect for the Cape soccer program. They carried the play and we were fortunate, but I was also proud of the way we played hard and fought even though we were a little gassed at times."
Waynflete and Cape Elizabeth have long been premier programs, but prior to Tuesday, hadn't met, as the Capers compete in Class A and the Flyers in Class C.
Cape Elizabeth won seven Class A championships (and was declared co-champion one other time) in an 11-year stretch between 1987 and 1997. While the Capers haven't returned to the state final since, they're always one of the last teams standing, including in 2010 when they lost in overtime to Portland in the semifinals.
Cape Elizabeth began the 2011 season with a 2-1 win at Yarmouth. A 1-1 home tie with York and a 2-1 home loss to Falmouth followed. After wins over Greely, Fryeburg and Gray-New Gloucester, the Capers were upset at home by Freeport, 2-1. A 6-0 victory at Lake Region was followed by a 1-1 tie at York and a 1-0 home loss to Yarmouth. Last Thursday, Cape Elizabeth blanked visiting Poland, 3-0.
Waynflete has captured three Class D crowns (1993, 2001 and 2002) and made it to the state game five other times (including a loss to Washington Academy in the Class C state final in 2008). The Flyers have had their past two seasons end in agony on their homefield, as they were upset by Georges Valley in the 2009 quarterfinals and by rival North Yarmouth Academy in last year's regional final.
Waynflete has excelled again in 2011. The Flyers enjoyed easy wins at A.R. Gould (9-0) and Wells (8-0) to start the year. After settling for a 1-1 home tie with NYA, Waynflete beat visiting Richmond (5-2) and Traip (6-0) before settling for a scoreless draw with visiting Sacopee Valley. After blanking host Wells, 9-0, the Flyers again played Sacopee Valley to a scoreless tie, this time on the road, before winning 2-1 contests at NYA and Traip. Monday afternoon, Waynflete held off host Gray-New Gloucester 2-0, setting the stage for Tuesday's heroics.
For most of the first half it appeared that the Capers would seize control of the game at any time.
In the 14th minute, the visitors got their first good chance when senior James Barlow crossed the ball into the box where senior Macklin Sweeney redirected it on goal, only to have Majercik make the save.
A little over a minute later, Cape Elizabeth's dangerous senior, Tim Lavallee, got just enough space to launch a turnaround shot, which went just wide.
In the 21st minute, Lavallee's shot was bobbled, but eventually handled by Majercik. Two minutes later, Lavallee, from midfield, dribbled past several defenders before shooting and forcing Majercik to sprawl to make the save. In the 30th minute, senior Ian McInerney served a shot from the right side that went right across the goalmouth, but no one was there to bang it home.
With 4:04 to play in the 40-minute first half, Waynflete struck.
Henry Cleaves played the ball forward from the back to William Cleaves, who shared nicely with his sibling and gave it right back. Henry Cleaves then let loose with a blast that picked up velocity as it soared over the crowd of players between him and the goal. Capers sophomore goalkeeper Austin Andrews could only watch as the ball sailed over his head and tickled the twine to improbably give the Flyers a 1-0 advantage.
"I couldn't ask for more from my brother," said Henry Cleaves. "I could say we have good chemistry. I passed to him and he passed it back. I had my head down and I could hear (senior Daniel) Wiener, my captain, say to take a shot and it's probably the best shot I've ever taken. I could tell when I saw the ball go up and the goalie go the other way. I just turned around and celebrated."
"It was a great shot," said Salway. "It was good talk by Henry. He called for it. Instead of waiting for the perfect shot, he just kind of let it go."
"It looked like (Cleaves) was a ways out," said Capers coach Ben Raymond. "He came forward unmarked and he shot. I have no idea if Austin was playing off his line. It was too far away to judge."
Cape Elizabeth almost answered just before halftime, but Lavallee's free kick blast went just wide.
Despite controlling possession most of the way and having four corner kicks, the Capers were down at the break.
Cape Elizabeth would have its chances in the second half as well, but ultimately went home frustrated.
In the 42nd minute, Lavallee had a blast that Majercik saved. Seconds later, freshman Cole Caswell got a good look in the box, but a Waynflete defender got in the way and blocked it.
In the 48th minute, Lavallee's shot deflected off a defender and forced Majercik to go from right to left, but he made the save. Two minutes later, junior Adam Haversat's lofting cross forced Majercik to jump to prevent the ball from going into the net.
With 22:44 to play, Lavallee almost tied things up, but his left-footed rocket went off the crossbar and was cleared from harm's way.
"Lavallee's as good as I've seen," added Salway. "We had him marked, plus we had people behind. We shaded our sweeper that way. I'd hate to see his right-footed shot."
A minute later, the ball was loose in the box, before the Flyers kicked it out. In the 60th minute, senior Blake Barritt shot from 20-yards out. Majercik didn't cleanly handle the shot, but pounced on the ball before the Capers could get to the rebound.
"It's definitely very nervewracking," Majercik said. "Every time I saw one of their players line up for a shot, I froze a little bit. It's really hard because I know I have an active role as a goalie when we're up a goal."
With 5:07 remaining, Lavallee unleashed a low blast that Majercik dove to save. With 4:11 to go, Lavallee was again left shaking his head when his shot from the right of the goal appeared ticketed for the left corner, only to see Majerick leap and tip it off the crossbar.
"I was especially nervous about (Lavallee)," Majercik said. "I thought I was going to miss it. I thought it was going over my head. I got the jump. I didn't think I got enough on it, but I looked and saw it hit the crossbar. I had to get back in position."
In the 78th minute, Barritt shot wide left with his left foot. With 59 seconds to play, Majercik saved a low shot from junior Alex Bornick. Then, with 20 seconds to go and Cape Elizabeth looking for one final bid, Waynflete freshman Clancy Mitchell stole the ball and moved it up the right sideline before having it knocked out of bounds.
That essentially ended it and the Flyers celebrated their history-making triumph.
"We played really well," Cleaves said. "Beating a Class A team is always so special. We had the weekend off to prepare for Gray. We took care of them, celebrated for a couple hours and focused on these guys."
"I think it's a huge confidence booster for us," said Majercik. "We knew from the beginning we could play with these guys. To secure a win against a Class A team, especially one as good as Cape Elizabeth, is incredible for us. It's great to play some really good competition before the playoffs."
"We dodged three, four bullets," Salway added. "There were times we didn't play well. We left guys unmarked. They missed a few sitters that they could have put away. We definitely got energy from the goal. I think we played better in the second half than the first, even though we were tired. We believed we could win. I thought we were too aggressive in the midfield in the first half. We played less high pressure in the second half and picked our spots to go forward."
For Cape Elizabeth, Tuesday was yet another day of close calls going unanswered.
"We had quite a bit of possession, but it's not getting us anywhere," Raymond said. "We had plenty of chances. Timmy probably had 10 shots and Blake had a few. You'd think we could score on some of those. It's frustrating, definitely. We've been in every single game all year. The level of competition doesn't seem to matter. It'll be a one-goal game no matter who we play. That's an issue. We struggle in the offensive third without a doubt. We're getting the ball to our dangerous players, but they're not as successful as they were earlier in the year."
The regular season ends early next week and the playoffs aren't far off. Both teams will play in the postseason, but they're going in different directions. The Capers are home with Greely Friday and visit Falmouth next Tuesday in games that will be worth some big Heal Points (Cape Elizabeth was fifth in Western A at press time).
"This would have gone a long way to putting us in the right spot," Raymond said. "Now, we'll be 8 or 9 at best."
As for Waynflete, it's second to St. Dom's in Western C. The Flyers close the regular season with games Friday at Freeport and at home with Fryeburg Tuesday of next week. If Waynflete can beat those Class B foes, the sky's the limit.
The Flyers will certainly enter the tournament confident, although they know they still have work to do.
"We still need to work on possession and endurance," Cleaves said. "I feel our work ethic still isn't where it should be, especially going into the playoffs."
"I think we're pretty close," Majercik said. "We need to step up our work ethic and put our hearts into it as a team. We need to play like we did today."
"We still have two quality opponents left," Salway added. "We'll hopefully do what we can do and finish strong. I like that we're resilient. We seem to fight and make that one little extra play. You need some luck too. We haven't had much luck the past couple of years. Maybe we're due."