Portland boys, Waynflete girls still chasing soccer gold
(Ed. Note: For the complete Portland-Falmouth and Waynflete-NYA boys' game stories, with additional photos, please visit theforecaster.net)
Two city soccer teams will take the pitch Wednesday hoping to punch their ticket to the state championship game Saturday.
While the Cheverus, Deering and Waynflete boys' squads were all ousted in the quarterfinal round last week, Portland continued its thrilling run with wins over Falmouth and Noble to set up a regional final date at defending Class A champion Scarborough Wednesday at 6 p.m.
On the girls' side, after Deering fell in the quarterfinals, defending Class C champion Waynflete is the last team standing, after winning at Wiscasset and St. Dom's to earn a home regional final versus Sacopee Valley Wednesday at 2 p.m.
Portland wasn't viewed as a favorite coming into the 2013 season and outside of the Bulldogs family, there frankly weren't a lot of folks believing in them coming into the playoffs, but here they are, just two wins away from the first state championship in program history.
After a 10-2-2 regular season, good for the No. 3 seed in Western A, Portland drew No. 6 Falmouth for the quarterfinals last Wednesday. The Yachtsmen won the past two Class B state championships and moved up to Class A this fall for the playoffs due to enrollment numbers. The teams had no prior history and there was sentiment Falmouth could spring an upset, but the Bulldogs got the jump in the first half on a goal from Jonathan Bobe and after fending off three successive Yachtsmen corner kicks early in the second half, got some breathing room when Bobe was credited for a goal which went in off a Falmouth defender and Yusef Yama ended all drama with a goal moments later as Portland prevailed, 3-0.
"Winning the first game of the playoffs was big for us," Bobe said. "We played for each other this game."
"This gives us a lot of confidence," said sophomore goalkeeper Bobby Brittingham, who made some key saves on his 16th birthday. "They're a really skilled Class A team. They have talented players too."
"You're looking at the flagship program of the state of Maine across the field," added longtime Portland coach Rocco Frenzilli. "I lost track of their state championship banners. To be the best, you've got to beat the best. I'm just so happy for my guys because they worked so hard to get here. This was a game we knew we had to have and we knew it would be tough. It was all the way through."
That win sent Portland to No. 2 Noble Saturday for the semifinals. Back on Sept. 17, the Bulldogs dropped a 1-0 decision at the Knights, but this time, in the first playoff match between the schools, Portland turned the tables, getting an early goal from Alex Frank (set up by Josh Irving) and second half save on a PK by Brittingham and advanced, 1-0.
The Bulldogs go to No. 1 Scarborough (15-1, after beating South Portland and Gorham in its playoff tests) for the regional final. Portland shocked the host Red Storm, 1-0, Sept. 10. Scarborough has won three of the past four playoff meetings, including a 3-0 decision in last year's quarterfinals.
"We want that Gold Ball," Brittingham said. "We'll be ready."
"We're just happy to practice for a couple more days and play more ball," Frenzilli said.
The Portland-Scarborough winner will face either Hampden Academy (15-1) or Lewiston (13-1-2) in the Class A state final Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Bath.
The other city boys' teams fell short.
Deering, ranked fourth after a strong 11-2-1 campaign, had the daunting task of hosting No. 5 Gorham in the quarterfinals and the Rams from Portland couldn't generate any offense and lost, 1-0, to finish 11-3-1.
"Overall, we were pleased by how we played in the game, much better than the first time we played them earlier in the season when we won 1-0, but we are obviously disappointed with the result," said Deering coach Joel Costigan. "We had many opportunities to score, including three breakaways first half that were shot high, a great shot that just sailed wide in the second half,and a header early in the game off a corner where the Gorham goalkeeper made a stellar save. A game-changing save. Two injuries early in the second half, to Matthew Alvarez and Frankie Alvarez, very much affected our game plan and slowed our game down. Unfortunately, we struggled in the final third, and continued to struggle finishing.
"Our regular season was definitely a success, gaining us respect around the league that we felt we deserved, and the best record we've had since 2007. We were able to play great soccer throughout the year, turning a lot of heads."
Looking ahead to 2014, Deering hopes to build on this year's success.
"We are very optimistic about next season," Costigan said. "We're losing David Bujambi and Ben Peterson, who will be difficult to replace in the middle of the field and who kept our team organized this year, and we're losing some other talented contributing players, but we have a tremendous junior and sophomore class who are ready for the challenge. We expect our team to be even better next year, hopefully making it further into the playoffs."
Cheverus, the No. 7 seed after a 9-4-1 campaign, downed No. 10 Westbrook, 1-0, in the preliminary round, but Wednesday, at No. 2 Noble in the quarterfinals, the Stags' season came to a close. Cheverus went to the Knights confident after beating them, 5-0, Oct. 15, but this time, Noble got the game's lone goal and prevailed, 1-0, ending the Stags' campaign at 10-5-1.
"We outshot them like 25-2, but we just couldn't score," said Cheverus coach Bill LeBlanc. "It was frustrating. We had a good season though."
In Western C, Waynflete earned the No. 6 seed after an 8-4-2 campaign and downed No. 11 Lisbon, 7-2, in the preliminary round, sending the Flyers to undefeated, third-ranked North Yarmouth Academy for a quarterfinal Wednesday as the teams met in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
It proved to be a thriller.
Waynflete benefited from a Panthers' own goal in the first half and still led, 1-0, in the second half, but NYA tied the score with just over 26 minutes left and the game went to overtime. There, the Panthers got a goal from an improbable hero, Michale McIntosh, and won, 2-1, to end the Flyers' season at 9-5-2.
"I'm really proud of this group," said longtime Waynflete coach Brandon Salway. "They left it all on the field. They played to their potential. This could have been a regional final. We lose in the quarterfinals, but I think there's an asterisk there because we lost to a team that's going to be a tough out. Somebody's going to have to play really well to beat them because I think we gave them all they could handle today and they still got by us."
Waynflete is graduating nine seniors, including several who were part of the 2011 championship team. Their shoes will be difficult to fill.
"We had a great group of seniors who are taking this hard," said Salway. "Tough kids to replace. Not just because of what they do on the field, but their leadership. Joey (Schnier) and Henry (Cleaves) especially had great seasons and are gritty, tough kids who could play for anybody. A lot of seniors played hard."
Waynflete's girls had to do much of their work on the road last fall as they went on to win the championship. This fall, after a 10-2-2 record gave them the No. 5 seed, the Flyers became road warriors again.
The first test proved to be a doozy, as Waynflete and No. 4 Wiscasset remained scoreless through 80 minutes of regulation and 30 of overtime, necessitating penalty kicks to determine a winner.
The Flyers got successful kicks from Marijke Rowse, Isabel Canning, Arianna Giguere and Ella Millard and a pair of saves from standout goalkeeper Julianna Harwood to prevail, 4-3, and take the match, 1-0.
Waynflete was scheduled to play at top-ranked St. Dom's in the semifinals Friday, but that game was postponed by rain and poor field conditions to Saturday, where the Flyers' offense came to life.
Millard and Leigh Fernandez both had two goals and Helen Gray-Bauer had the other.
"Credit to them, they came back every time until we put it away," said Fernandez, who had the winner on a corner. "They didn't give up and made it very interesting. It was a really good test for us going into the regional final."
"I thought we controlled some of the play but some of their counters, those goals, I thought it was going to go back and forth," Waynflete coach Todd Dominski said. "We made a few adjustments to try to slow them down a little bit. The Wiscasset and St. Dom’s games were both tough games for us. I think both games showed our mental toughness. It's always tough when you have to beat a team in PKs. Each game challenged us in different ways."
The Flyers got a gift when the second and third seeds both were upset in the quarterfinals, allowing them to host Sacopee Valley (9-8) in the regional final. Waynflete won both regular season meetings, 2-0 at Sacopee Oct. 4 and 2-1 at home 10 days later. The teams have met three previous times in the playoffs, with the Flyers prevailing in the 2008 quarterfinals (4-0) and the 2009 semifinals (5-0) and the Hawks returning the favor in the 2010 semifinals (2-0).
"I think that Sacopee will be a great game," Dominski said. "Both games we played against them this season were close games. Kevin (Murphy) is a great coach and their team is playing with a lot of confidence. It should be a fun afternoon. Hopefully it will not be too cold."
If victorious, Waynflete will play in its second straight Class C Final, Saturday at 10 a.m., at Hampden Academy against either Orono (14-1-1) or Ft. Kent (9-4-3), last year's opponent.
In Western A, Deering, after a 10-3-1 regular season was seeded sixth in Western A and handled No. 11 Kennebunk, 3-0, in the preliminary round, but Wednesday, at No. 3 Thornton Academy, the Rams met their match and fell, 1-0, to finish the year 11-4-1.
Sun Journal staff writer Kevin Mills contributed to this story.