All four north boys' soccer teams pass quarterfinal tests
The most exciting time of the year has arrived for local boys' soccer teams and once again, Forecaster Country figures to produce at least one state champion, perhaps more.
The postseason began Wednesday with the quarterfinal round. In Western Class B, Falmouth and Yarmouth took what they expected to be the first step toward a regional final showdown when they easily dispatched Fryeburg (10-0) and Lisbon (9-0) respectively.
In Western A, defending regional finalist Greely faced a tough first test at Gorham, but was able to spring the upset, 2-1, in overtime, to advance.
In Western C, North Yarmouth Academy went to Dirigo, hoping to spring an upset and did so, 1-0, to move on to the semifinals.
Freeport missed the playoffs this year, for the first time since 1997, with a mark of 4-8-2.
To find a Class B state champion not named Falmouth or Yarmouth, you have to go all the way back to last century, 1999. The Clippers are the defending champs and have won three times in the past five years. The Yachtsmen are seeking their seventh crown since 2000.
The rivals were as close as can be in 2009, settling for a pair of 1-1 draws in the regular season. Falmouth wound up with the No. 1 seed by virtue of its 12-0-2 mark.
"We've had some ups and downs, but for the most part, I'm happy," said longtime Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan. "It wasn't easy to finish first. We're probably healthy for the first time this year."
Yarmouth goes in ranked second at 11-0-3 (tying Cape Elizabeth in its other draw). The Clippers finished without a loss for the first time since 1973 and just the third time in their history (1971 was the other).
"It's pretty cool," said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. "It's pretty exciting. I never, ever would have predicted that."
Falmouth earned a home date with No. 8 Fryeburg (8-6) in the quarterfinal round. Way back on Sept. 4 in the regular season opener, the Yachtsmen beat the Raiders, 3-0. The last playoff meeting between the schools came in the 2002 quarterfinals (a 6-0 Falmouth win). This time around, Falmouth dominated from the start, getting three goals and two assists from senior standout Gabe Hoffman-Johnson, three more (and an assist) from Sam White and two goals from Brandon Tuttle.
The Yachtsmen will host No. 5 Lincoln Academy (10-5) in the semifinals Saturday. The Yachtsmen didn't play Lincoln Academy this fall. Falmouth last met Lincoln Academy in the 1987 regional final (a 2-0 loss).
Yarmouth hosted No. 7 Lisbon (9-5), a team the Clippers don't play in the regular season. The squads last met in the 2005 semifinal round (a 5-0 Yarmouth win). This time around, Yarmouth cruised, but it a took a little while for the offense to get going. After several near misses, Logan LaPointe scored in the 28th minutes to open the floodgates. By halftime, the lead was 5-0 thanks to goals from Luke Pierce, Travis Merrill, Chris Knaub and Cotter Joackson. In the second half, Josh Britten, LaPointe, Colby Shields and Campbell Belisle-Haley tickled the twine to account for the 9-0 final.
The Clippers will host No. 3 Maranacook (13-1-1) Friday or Saturday in the semifinals. Yarmouth didn't play the Black Bears this year. The last playoff meeting between the teams was in the 2004 regional final (a 2-0 Yarmouth win).
If the Yachtsmen and Clippers meet in the regional final for a second straight year, it would be Wednesday, Nov. 4, at Falmouth.
We both have to take care of business," Halligan said. "If we play, it'll be exciting. Always is."
"It's the same as last year," added Hagerty, alluding to a 2-1 regional final upset win in 2008 when the Clippers were ranked second and the Yachtsmen first. "We'd rather play at Falmouth. We've played them as well as anyone."
The Class B state final is Saturday, Nov. 7, at either Scarborough High School or Hampden Academy.
At first glance, Greely's 9-5 regular season mark (which featured a three-game losing skid at the end) and its No. 7 seed in Western Class A would appear to give the Rangers little chance in the postseason, but Greely has dazzled as a lower seed this decade, winning the state title from the No. 5 spot two years ago, reaching the state game as a No. 5 seed in 2002 and making the regional final from the No. 6 spot a year ago.
The Rangers overcame a near-complete turnover of their roster to be competitive throughout and it wouldn't be wise for any team to overlook this potential threat.
"I think the season's been a success," said Greely coach Mike Andreasen. "We felt we had to win the eight non-Cape, Falmouth, Yarmouth games and we did. We had to get something in the other games and we did. Both Yarmouth games and the Falmouth game at home were one-sided. Luckily, we'll escape those teams. I think they're kind of at a different level than the rest of us."
The Rangers drew a talented No. 2 Gorham team in the quarterfinals. The Rams went 13-1 this year and lost only to undefeated, defending Class A state champion Scarborough (1-0). Greely and Gorham don't play in the regular season. The last playoff matchup came two years ago in the regional final (a 1-0 Rangers' victory).
Wednesday, Greely was down 1-0 at halftime, but tied the game with just over 31 minutes left when Jon Coyne (from Teddy Russell) scored. The game would go to overtime and be decided by the heroics of senior Francisco Marques, an exchange student from Portugal, who delivered the game-winner, giving the Rangers a 2-1 upset victory.
Greely goes to No. 3 Windham (12-2-1) in this weekend's semifinal round. The Rangers don't play the Eagles in the regular season. The teams last met in the playoffs in the 2007 preliminary round (a 1-0 win for Greely).
The Western A Final is Wednesday, Nov. 4 on the field of the highest remaining seed. The Class A state game is Saturday, Nov. 7 at either Scarborough High School or Hampden Academy.
A win and a break
NYA was up and down in coach Martyn Keen's first season, tying Lake Region and losing to Waynflete, Gray-New Gloucester, Sacopee, Traip, Fryeburg and Freeport. The Panthers' signature win came Oct. 14, when they handed the defending regional champion Flyers their lone loss of the regular year, 1-0.
"The season has been very interesting," Keen said. "Many of the boys are not really soccer players, so it's definitely a challenge to get them all to understand some of the tactical concepts while working on some pretty basic technical stuff. Given all that, they have been very inconsistent, playing some very good games along with some where they just could not put the ball in the net. Waynflete has only given up seven goals all season and we scored three of them. When we played them at home, we came back from a goal down, only to give up a deflating goal seconds before the half then another right after the half. Then, at their place when they were 10-0-1. I put together a game plan which the boys executed to a T and we won 1-0. Conversely, midway through the season, we went to Sacopee Valley who was 0-6. We outshot them 23-2 and lost 1-0. Go figure."
NYA finished 6-6-1 and earned the No. 7 seed in Western C. The Panthers played at No. 2 Dirigo (12-0-2) in the quarterfinals. The teams don't play in the regular season. The last playoff meeting came in the 2001 semifinals (a 2-1 Dirigo win).
This time, a goal from Mohamed Dahia proved to be the difference and NYA moved on with a 1-0 victory. The Panthers expected to have to go to No. 3 Waynflete in the semifinals, but the Flyers were upset by No. 6 Georges Valley (10-4-1), meaning the Panthers will visit the Buccaneers Saturday in the semifinals. The teams didn't square off this year. The teams have met 16 prior times in the postseason, with NYA holding a 9-7 edge. The last meeting came in the 2006 semifinals (a 5-0 Panthers' triumph).
The Western C Final is Wednesday, Nov. 4, on the field of the highest remaining seed. The Class C state game is Saturday, Nov. 7, at either Scarborough High School or Hampden Academy.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org