Greely boys cap magical run, capture Gold Ball!
HAMPDEN—Greely's boys' soccer team won it for Porter.
And each other.
And shocked most of the local soccer world in the process.
The Rangers, the team that most didn't expect to be representing Western Maine in their first year back in Class B after almost four decades away, perpetuated the region's two decade long dominance against a very talented Camden Hills squad in a taut state final contest Saturday evening at a chilly Hampden Academy.
Three nights after a monumental and palpitating 2-1 victory at championship favorite Yarmouth, thanks to a momentum-turning tying goal from sophomore Jacob Nason and the winner from senior Matt Crowley, Greely got the jump against the Windjammers, when Nason, courtesy a nice feed from senior Aidan Black, scored a goal eerily similar to the one he registered Wednesday to give his team a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute.
The Rangers, playing without senior defensive stalwart and captain Sam Porter, who was the team's head cheerleader on this night, held on to that advantage throughout the first half, then picked up their play in the second, but couldn't add to their lead, despite Crowley getting a penalty kick opportunity with 12:57 to play.
Crowley's bid was saved by Camden Hills senior goalkeeper Marshall Spear, forcing the game to go down to the very end, but Greely managed to keep the Windjammers off the board and went on to a 1-0 victory.
The Rangers finished 14-2-2, ended Camden Hills' fine season at 16-1-1 and raised the Gold Ball for the eighth time in program history.
"We're happy," said Greely coach Mike Andreasen, who won his fourth title in 16 seasons with the program. "It's nice to land back on our feet in Class B. We were hopeful. Hope spring eternal. Good things come more often than not when you battle."
It's been awhile
Greely is always in the mix for a championship, but hadn't competed in the state game since beating Brunswick, 1-0, in Class A in 2007. Since then, the Rangers have been competitive, but unable to get back.
Entering the 2013 season, Greely was viewed by many as a championship contender, but by the end of the regular year, not many believed the Rangers could get the better of a Yarmouth squad which looked close to invincible.
Greely did enjoy a solid regular season.
The Rangers dominated visiting Fryeburg, 7-0, in their opener, then let a 2-0 lead slip away in a frustrating 2-2 home draw versus Yarmouth. Greely then beat visiting Gray-New Gloucester, 1-0, but slipped up at Kennebunk, falling, 2-1. The Rangers then came to life with wins at Cape Elizabeth (2-1), at home against Freeport (4-0), at Falmouth (3-0), at a York team which hadn't given up a goal to that point all season (3-0), at home against Kennebunk (1-0) and at home against Falmouth (2-1) before settling for a scoreless home tie versus York. After the Rangers returned to their winning ways with a 2-0 home victory over Cape Elizabeth, they fell at Yarmouth, 4-1, to finish 10-2-2 and second in Western B.
After blanking No. 7 Gray-New Gloucester, 3-0, in the quarterfinals, Greely got a late Nason goal to edge No. 3 York, 1-0, in the semis. Then, Wednesday, at top-ranked Yarmouth, the Rangers found themselves down, 1-0, just 97 seconds in, but rallied for a stirring 2-1 victory.
Camden Hills, which dropped a 2-1 heartbreaker to Falmouth in last year's Class B Final, lived up to its preseason billing as well, going 13-0-1 in the regular season, a mark that was blemished only by a 1-1 home tie against eventual Class C champion Maranacook. The Windjammers outscored the opposition, 84-6, and wound up second in Eastern B. After downing No. 7 Erskine (4-0) in the quarterfinals and third-ranked Winslow (4-1) in the semis, Camden Hills had to go to top-ranked Ellsworth for the regional final Wednesday, but found a way to prevail, 1-0.
Prior to Saturday, the teams had no history, but neither were strangers to the state game.
Greely entered having won seven of eight previous state finals (please see sidebar, below), winning Class B in 1974 and 1975 and Class A in 1979, 1982, 1998, 2004 and 2007 (the Rangers lost, 1-0, to Lawrence in the 2002 Class A Final).
Camden Hills won Class B as Camden-Rockport in 1991 (2-1 over Yarmouth) and lost in the state game as Camden-Rockport in 1990 (2-1 to York) and 1995 (1-0 to Marshwood) and in 2011 (3-0 to Falmouth) and last year as Camden Hills.
Saturday, the Windjammers sought to become the first Eastern Maine team to win a Class B title since Ellsworth blanked Marshwood, 2-0, in 1993, but instead, the Rangers found a way to wind up at the top of the heap.
The game began 86 minutes late, as its was the fourth of four title games at the site and the first went to double overtime and the Class B girls' contest, between Cape Elizabeth and Waterville, went into penalty kicks just before-hand.
During the latter phase of that game, a power outage in the press box caused the lights to out in the scoreboard, so time had to be kept on the field, something which Andreasen wasn't crazy about.
"I hate not having a clock visible," he said. "It was weird. Luckily, I had an assistant over there with the officials. We kept asking in the first half, then, we told the kids in the second half not to ask. It did fly by."
"It did feel weird at first, but when the fans got into it, we settled down," said Rangers senior goalkeeper Alex McAdoo.
Mix in 36 degree temperatures, which fell to 32 by game's end, and conditions were far from ideal.
The Windjammers almost struck first in the first minute when a throw landed in the box, but the ball was cleared at the last second.
Then, in the fourth minute, Greely got the only goal it would manage and the only goal it would need.
In a near replay of the momentum-tying tally at Yarmouth in Wednesday's regional final, Black stole the ball and one-timed it ahead to Nason and with Spear coming out off his line, Nason somehow managed to bend a gorgeous shot past the keeper and back around just inside the near post for a 1-0 lead.
"It felt like the same play (as the other night)," Nason said. "It was a pass from Aidan down the wing and I beat the goalie near post. The goalie was off his line a little bit. I just shot it and hoped for the best."
"We got the ball to Jacob up top, he beat his man and he finished," Crowley said. "It was a beautiful goal."
"When we scored, we came alive," said McAdoo. "It was a great atmosphere."
"It looked like Jacob caught the keeper a little by surprise," Andreasen added. "It was similar to the Yarmouth goal. He beat him near side. He put some smoke on it. Aidan played Jacob a similar ball as he did at Yarmouth. Aidan's good for that. He's a battler."
Clearly there would be no letdown some 72 hours after one of the bigger wins in program history.
"Yarmouth wasn't just a hurdle, it was a mountain," said Andreasen. "Sometimes you have a letdown after beating a big rival. A lot of energy and emotion went into that game. The next day we had the proverbial soccer hangover because practice was terrible. Yesterday was better. We had no history with Camden Hills. We had to get the kids up for this. We came out flat, but the goal saved us. We got our feet under us and we were OK."
No one expected the final score to be 1-0. The Rangers certainly didn't.
"I didn't think it would hold up," said Nason. "Coach told us they had come back in a lot of games. We knew they had a lot of fight and they were raring to win."
"My big worry was when we worry we score, we tend to relax," Andreasen said. "Once we scored, Camden Hills played possessed, like a team on fire. They're no slouch. They came out strong."
In the ninth minute, the Windjammers got the ball to senior Grayson Szumilas, but his shot was blocked.
After Crowley and Black had shots saved by Spear, Camden Hills transitioned to offense and junior Simko Josiah sent a rocket just high.
Spear made a save on Nason in the 21st minute.
With roughly 12 minutes to play in the first half, the Windjammers earned their only corner kick of the half, but freshman Krul Josiah's serve was headed away by Rangers senior defender Patrick O'Shea.
Greely had a 7-2 edge in first half shots, but four Spear saves kept the score 1-0.
At halftime, the Rangers decided to continue to press and try and get a second goal as opposed to going into a shell.
"I thought we got outplayed in the first half, so (assistant coach Kevin Harvey and I) told the kids at halftime that 1-0 wouldn't hold up," said Andreasen. "At least I didn't think it would work out that way."
Greely would have the majority of chances in the second half.
Just four minutes in, Nason sent a blast just high.
Two minutes later, the dynamic scorer sent a left-footed blast just off the mark.
Camden Hills had its first chance of the second half with roughly 32 minutes to play, but a blast from senior Alex Blackwell sailed high.
After Nason missed high with a shot and Crowley had a bid saved, Windjammers junior Matthew Crockett was given a yellow card, giving Crowley a free kick, but he shot just wide.
With 24 minutes to go, a cross from Szumilas was snared by McAdoo.
At the other end, a bid by promising Greely freshman Hunter Graham was knocked out for a corner kick, but Spear made the save on Crowley's serve.
With 12:57 remaining, the Rangers received a golden opportunity to essentially ice the win when Camden Hills senior Jake Davee was given a yellow card for a foul in the box.
Crowley went to the line for a penalty kick, but his low shot was saved by Spear diving to his right and in the aftermath, a frustrated Crowley received a yellow card of his own.
"I was planning on going bottom left the whole time," Crowley said. "I might have sold it a little early."
With the game still very much in the balance, the Windjammers seemed to have momentum and with 11 minutes to go, a long floater from Crockett went over the crossbar and landed on the back netting, causing some on the Greely sidelines to believe the shot went over McAdoo and into the goal tying the game, which wasn't the case.
Nason almost iced it with nine minutes to go, but after a dazzling 360 move, his shot was saved by Spear.
Camden Hills then went back on the attack, but a cross from senior Ben Welt was cleared and a long shot from senior Peter Vannorsdall was saved by McAdoo.
With seven minutes to play, a free kick by Crockett was cleared before it got through to McAdoo.
With just over a minute remaining, the Windjammers had one final attempt, but senior Zach Pitcairn sent a shot just wide.
Greely managed to hold on from there and even though it felt like an international match with stoppage time and no one knowing exactly when the game would end, eventually the final whistle blew and at 8:31 p.m., the Rangers were state champions.
"It feels amazing," McAdoo said. "It's a great way to end senior year. We've been out there since the last couple weeks of August, training hard. It's tough to hold a lead like that. We didn't let them get too many shots. Just a couple breaks on the wings. I owe a lot to the defense."
"It feels great," Nason said. "Winning states is even better than beating Yarmouth. We had to play good, hard D."
"Winning a state championship is great," Crowley said. "It's my first. We showed we wanted it more than Yarmouth and we showed we wanted it more than Camden Hills tonight. Soccer's a game of heart. I feel like we played defense first and worked from there. We thought we'd have to score more than one to win it, but we held them off. We worked together on and off the field. We built team chemistry. I feel like that helped a lot."
"We had good chances in the second half, but couldn't put the nail in the coffin to put it away," Andreasen added. "We kept them pretty much at bay. They had some outside shots, but for the most part, we kept them away from the goal. They have four strikers who scored double digit goals this year. I have one. We knew they had firepower. We pressed hard wanting a second goal. That was really important.
"Back in 1998, we went in as an eight seed and won it. It was my first year back with the boys' team. It's tough to compare with what those kids did. This group though, not many expected us to win. We were the biggest underdog two seed in the history of the world."
Down the stretch, it was Porter, whose high school soccer career ended due to concussions, exhorting his teammates, racing over to check the time and while he couldn't be on the field for the fun, it felt like he played a big part of the victory.
"It's the best feeling," Porter said. "I've waited for this since I was 10 years old. It's great. When I heard I had another concussion, it was devastating. I love this game and it's heartbreaking not being able to play, but watching (my teammates) play was an honor. They're a great group of guys. It was fun to watch, but I wanted to be back on defense."
Porter paid tribute to his defensive mates.
"I thought (junior) Harry (Shain) stepped up," he said. "(Senior) Joe (Saffian) played a great game. Patrick really stepped up in the playoffs. They all did their job. It didn't look like they needed me back there."
His absence was certainly felt. From the Twitter hashtag, #winitforPorter, to the attention paid him by his teammates, Porter was certainly on the mind of the Rangers.
"He really loves soccer," Nason said. "After his final concussion, we wanted to win it all for him. He wanted to play. He was happy for us."
"Sam's one of my best friends," McAdoo said. "He's a great kid, a great leader. Everyone loves him. It's tough to see him not play as a captain. We wanted to give him something for all he's done for us. The defense stepped up (in his absence), especially tonight."
The Ranger finished with a 15-5 shots advantage and took three corner kicks to one for the Windjammers. Spear made eight saves, while McAdoo stopped two shots.
In the end, Greely just found a way.
"We had to sort some things out just to get past Yarmouth," Andreasen said. "These kids are so resilient. They lost (Ted) Hart to prep school and (Mitchel) Donovan to hockey in the preseason, then they lost Porter, but we kept playing. We're not a deep team, but the guys never quit."
While the Rangers' move down in class this year wasn't met with universal acceptance, bit proved to work out ideally.
"The top teams in B can play the top teams anywhere," Andreasen said. "But Scarborough has 1,200, 1,300 students. It's hard for us with 600 to compete. This levels our playing field. This team, all year, our mantra was, 'One day at a time.' After Yarmouth beat us, I told them not to talk about seeing Yarmouth again because we might not play them. Every team in front of us we took on. Sometimes, you get ahead of yourselves and talk about winning a championship in September. We have to focus every night in our league. You can't look ahead. Teams are so good. I think Camden Hills was excellent, but there are five teams like them in our conference.'
Tough act to follow
Greely will have a hard time replacing the likes of Black, Crowley, O'Shea, Porter and Saffian, but plenty of firepower returns.
The Rangers last won consecutive championships in 1974 and 1975. Next year's squad could duplicate that feat.
"I want to do it again," Nason said. "It will be a good year next year. Hopefully we'll have the same dream."
"I've never won back-to-back," Andreasen added. "It's always four or five years in between. Hopefully it won't be four or five years until we do it again. Whenever you have Nason back, Graham back, Shain back, I think we'll be there. It's really hit-or-miss. Yarmouth will be loaded again. Cape will be better. Falmouth will be better. It never gets easier. You just enjoy the moment."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Greely state game results
Greely 1 Brunswick 0
Greely 3 Hampden Academy 2
Lawrence 1 Greely 0
Greely 5 Hampden Academy 1
Greely 2 Ellsworth 1
Greely 1 Madawaska 0
Greely 3 Schenck 2
Greely 6 Schenck 0