Waynflete's repeat bid ends in PKs
WATERVILLE—The Waynflete boys' soccer team did everything but score Thursday afternoon, but you don't get style points or credit for possession time and the inability to finish ultimately cost the Flyers in their bid for a second straight Class C state championship.
Third-ranked Waynflete met No. 1 Hall-Dale in a game played on the turf at Thomas College and many expected two prolific offenses to steal the show, but instead, the Bulldogs, who scored over 100 goals this fall, could barely generate any type of attack, while the Flyers had foray after foray into the Hall-Dale zone only to come away frustrated.
The teams ultimately battled through 110 scoreless minutes before going to penalty kicks, where the Bulldogs made all five of their attempts to just four for Waynflete and just like that, Hall-Dale improved to 16-0-1 with the 1-0 (5-4 PKs) victory, advanced to meet Houlton (14-2-1) in the Class C state final Saturday at 10 a.m., at Scarborough High School and ended the Flyers' fine season at 13-3-1
"We had a lot of chances and we just didn't finish," lamented Waynflete coach Brandon Salway. "We played well and I still think we've got a great team. In the end, it comes down to putting one in the net. I feel for this group. They've been great. It was a great run."
With Waynflete excelling during the regular season in defense of its state championship and Hall-Dale drubbing the opposition in its contests, many expected the Flyers and Bulldogs to be the last two teams standing.
The Flyers opened with a 7-0 win at Wells, blanked host Wells (5-0) and host North Yarmouth Academy (5-0), won over visiting Freeport (6-1) and rolled at Sacopee Sept. 18 (8-0), to give Salway his 200th career victory. After settling for a 1-1 tie at Western B contender Gray-New Gloucester, Waynflete defeated host Traip (4-1), visiting Sacopee (4-2), visiting Traip (2-1) and visiting NYA (2-0). After falling from the unbeaten ranks with an 8-2 loss at Richmond and falling at home to Western A power Greely (4-1), the Flyers downed visiting Lake Region (5-0) and tied host Western A contender Cape Elizabeth (1-1) to finish the regular season an impressive 11-2-1, good for the No. 3 spot in Western Class C.
After dominating sixth-ranked NYA in the quarterfinals (7-1), Waynflete rallied for a 2-1 victory at No. 2 St. Dom's in semifinals.
Hall-Dale opened with a 6-1 win at Mt. Abram and never looked back, winning every game but one (a 1-1 tie vs. St. Dom's) by a composite 103-4 margin. The top-seeded Bulldogs had no problem with No. 8 Lisbon in the quarterfinals (7-0) or No. 5 Mt. Abram in the semis (4-0).
The teams don't play in the regular season. Last fall, in the lone previous playoff meeting between the schools, Waynflete had to go to penalty kicks to survive the Bulldogs (1-0, 4-2 on PKs) in the semifinals.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at Hall-Dale Wednesday, but poor field conditions pushed it back 24 hours and moved it to Thomas College.
Thursday, after a slow start, the Flyers began to create chances, but never broke the ice and ultimately had their season come down to the capriciousness of penalty kicks.
The first 20 minutes saw the teams feel each other out and chances were few.
The first came in the eighth minute when Waynflete senior Paul Runyambo's throw had to be punched away by Hall-Dale senior goalkeeper Sam Shepherd.
The Bulldogs saw senior Wyatt Rush head a corner wide in the ninth minute and with 20:45 to play in the first half, senior Spencer Shagoury send a low shot on goal that Flyers senior keeper Zander Majercik handled.
The rest of the half, with one exception, belonged to Waynflete, as it possessed and looked for openings.
At the midway point of the first half, a corner kick serve by senior Max Belleau was headed away by a Hall-Dale defender.
In the 22nd minute, Flyers senior standout Peabo Knoth first made his presence felt by sending a cross into the box. It was deflected by a defender, forcing Shepherd to make a sprawling stop.
In the 26th minute, Waynflete senior Mohammed Suja shot wide. Seconds later, Suja got another chance, but his bid was saved by Shepherd.
With 12:01 to play in the first half, Shepherd punched away a Flyers' corner kick and on a second opportunity, Suja shot high.
After Shepherd saved a Suja shot, then did the same on a bid by Waynflete senior Jack Cutler, Hall-Dale transitioned and put the ball in the net, but sophomore Nat Crocker was ruled offsides before taking a pass from senior Zach Plummer and finishing.
Late in the half, Knoth had a shot blocked by Bulldogs senior Zack McNaughton, Flyers sophomore Harry Baker-Connick sent a drive high and Knoth attempted a shot while falling which went wide.
As time wound down, Hall-Dale earned a free kick, but senior Colin Lush's boot was cleared by the Waynflete defense and the game remained 0-0 at the break.
The second half was almost all Flyers, but they simply couldn't get that elusive goal.
Close calls were frequent.
The first came just 54 seconds in when junior Henry Cleaves launched a low rocket that Shepherd had to fall to his knees to corral.
Forty seconds later, a long free kick by Waynflete junior back Joey Schnier found the head of Cleaves, but Shepherd made the save.
With 37:42 remaining in regulation, Knoth fired a left-footed rocket just high.
Knoth, whose breathtaking foot skills had the crowd in awe, had two more looks moments later, but his first was deflected by a defender and the second was saved.
With 27:31 to go, Knoth sent a pass into the box and the ball momentarily sat free before Shepherd hurried to collect it.
Four minutes later, a corner kick serve from Flyers senior Kevin Kanakan forced Shepherd to leap to pluck the ball out of harm's way.
Hall-Dale only had two second half shots and the first came with 22:20 left, when senior Kurt Thiele sent a shot on goal from the side, but Majercik came up with the ball.
After Runyambo's header on a corner went high and Knoth sent another blast just high, the Bulldogs' last shot of the half came with 17:42 to go in regulation, but senior Ezra Jones sent the ball high over the crossbar.
With 16:15 remaining, a Cleaves shot from the side was high.
A minute later, a Kanakan cross was headed by a defender to Suja, but his shot was denied by Shepherd.
With 11:45 to go, Kanakan momentarily had a look, but Jones got in position to block it.
With 1:30 to play, a Knoth rush was broken up.
A last second Waynflete corner kick didn't result in a shot and it was on to overtime.
In Maine high school boys' playoff soccer, teams play up to two 15-minute "sudden victory" overtimes and if no one has scored, penalty kicks are used to determine a winner.
That would be the case, but the Flyers had more chances to win in both overtime sessions.
Just 1:39 into the first OT, Suja's free kick from just outside the box rolled just wide.
With 9:59 to go, a serve by Cleaves to the far post found the head of Cutler, who directed it on goal. For a split second, it looked like the winner, but the ball didn't have enough oomph and Shepherd managed to run it down before it crossed the line.
As the overtime period progressed, Waynflete earned three corner kicks to no avail, Knoth collected a deflected pass from Kanakan, but his one-timer was right at Shepherd and a Suja shot forced Shepherd to make a leaping save.
Early in the second overtime, Knoth beautifully threaded a pass between two defenders to Suja, who tried to feed Kanakan, but the pass was just long.
With 10:44 remaining, a long pass from Schnier to Kanakan led to a one-on-one situation, but with a tough angle, Kanakan shot wide.
Midway through the second OT, Baker-Connick crossed the ball into the box. The ball momentarily sat free, but before a Flyer could pounce and end the game, Rush cleared the ball away.
At the 4:44 mark, Knoth crossed to sophomore Clancy Mitchell, but his low shot was saved.
With 1:40 left, Shepherd had to dive to reach a cross by Flyers sophomore Elyse Bayizere.
With 22 seconds to go, Suja's long kick was grabbed by Shepherd. The Bulldogs transitioned to offense, but their rush was broken up and that did it for "normal" soccer.
It was on to PKs.
The penalty kick round features each team alternating five shots. If the score remains tied at the end, they do it all over again.
Only one round would be needed.
Kanakan went first and missed the target and McNaughton capitalized, making his shot, shooting in the opposite direction that Majercik dove.
Knoth beat Shepherd to the right corner, but Shagoury converted his kick to make it 2-1.
Suja then beat Shepherd with a low shot to the left corner, but Plummer answered for the Bulldogs.
Before Cleaves could take a shot, Hall-Dale replaced Shepherd with McNaughton, but he couldn't deny Cleaves, who buried his shot in the right corner. Crocker answered for the Bulldogs, however, and the top seed was up, 4-3, and on the brink of victory.
Belleau stepped to the line knowing he had to make his shot to keep Waynflete's season alive and he did that very thing, beating Shepherd, who had returned for the shot, to the upper right corner.
The Flyers' last hope was that Lush would miss or be denied by Majercik, but Lush buried his shot in the upper right corner and at 5:34 p.m., after 361 days, Waynflete's reign as champion was over.
"We've practiced (PKs) a lot, just like we did last year," Salway said. "There's way too much pressure on kids. I thought we had good (PKs), but they were just perfect this year. Hats off to Hall-Dale.
"We felt like we were getting chances. We just needed to put one home. Their keeper made a couple good plays and we just didn't get to a couple balls that were sitting there that needed to be finished off. You give yourself a chance to win if you're sound defensively. That's always been our philosophy. I thought we were terrific today defensively. I thought we had a lot more chances than they did."
Shepherd finished with 13 saves to two for Majercik, who saw very little action prior to the PK round.
Quite a ride
Considering their schedule, the Flyers accomplished a lot this fall and added another illustrious chapter in program lore.
"I think we're spoiled a little bit with how far we get," said Salway. "It's almost become an expectation to get to a regional final. That's hard to match. A lot of teams are thrilled just to make it to a regional final. Every time these kids step on the field, they expect to win. The seniors had great careers. They won a lot of games. The seniors had big wins over huge programs like Cape and Greely and won a state championship. They've been a great group to coach. This is disappointing for them. It's tough to see it end like this, but they have nothing to hang their heads about. It's hard to repeat. It's hard to win it once."
Waynflete figures to be right back in the title hunt in 2013.
"We have a lot coming back," said Salway. "Expectations won't change. We hope to be playing in this game and have an opportunity to go for another Gold Ball."