NYA boys blank Waynflete in round one

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YARMOUTH—North Yarmouth Academy’s boys’ soccer team recently lost junior Henry Quesada to a season-ending injury, but those who thought the Panthers might come back to the pack as a result are going to be disappointed.

Waynflete learned that lesson the hard way Monday afternoon at Lewis Field in the first of likely three showdowns between the longtime rivals this autumn.

Less than seven minutes in, NYA created a 1-0 lead when junior Thomas Pitts was taking down in the box, was awarded a penalty kick, then converted.

The Flyers carried play territorially most of the rest of the way, but a strong NYA defensive effort didn’t allow Waynflete many good looks and the lead held up until 4:03 remained, when Pitts finished a terrific individual effort with an insurance goal and the Panthers went on to a pivotal 2-0 victory.

NYA improved to 4-1, earned some key Heal Points in the quest for playoff positioning and dropped the Flyers to 3-2 in the process.

“It wasn’t pretty, but you’ve got to do what you got to do,” said Panthers coach Martyn Keen. “If I had to pick one game to win, I’d pick this one anytime. It’s always nice to beat Waynflete. We’ll battle them again. Once, probably twice.”

Back in contention

NYA and Waynflete are always in the Class C title hunt and both teams had high hopes entering the 2015 campaign.

The Panthers, who returned Keen as coach after a one-year absence, began with a 5-1 victory at Traip Academy, then held off visiting Sacopee Valley in a playoff rematch, 4-2. That victory proved costly, however, as Quesada suffered a head injury and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. After a 4-0 home win over Traip, NYA suffered a disappointing 3-1 setback at Fryeburg Academy.

“We were very disappointed after the Fryeburg game because we outplayed them and had multiple chances to wrap the game up,” Keen said.

As for the Flyers, they opened with a 6-0 home victory over Traip Academy, then held off visiting Fryeburg Academy, 2-1. Last Tuesday, Waynflete played tough, but dropped a 1-0 decision at Class A power Falmouth. The Flyers then won, 9-0, at Lake Region Thursday.

Entering the game, since the start of the 1999 season, NYA had won 15 meetings, Waynflete 10 and five other games ended in ties (please see sidebar, below). Last year, the Flyers cruised at home, 5-0, then the Panthers played much better on their home turf, forging a 2-2 draw.

Monday, NYA circled the wagons and beat Waynflete for the first time since the 2013 campaign.

After NYA freshman Ryan Baker headed junior captain Jeremy Thelven’s free kick wide in the sixth minute, the Panthers attacked again and Pitts got the ball in the box before he was knocked down. The officials stopped play, ruled that a penalty kick was in order and Pitts did the honors, beating Flyers senior standout goalkeeper Milo Belleau with a low shot to Belleau’s right for a 1-0 advantage.

“I came down and I got the ball and they pushed me in the back and I fell,” Pitts said. “I was hoping to get the call. Before the shot, I’m thinking, ‘Stay calm and cool and do simple things, put it in a corner, don’t overshoot it’ and I did.”

“Any chances we get, we have to make the most of them,” Keen said. “That was very nice. That allowed us refocus and make sure we stayed compact in the back.”

The rest of the half saw each team have four corner kick opportunities, but nothing came of them.

Waynflete’s best chances came in the eighth minute, when senior Ahmed Mohamed shot wide, the 21st minute, when a serve into the box from senior Jack Weston was bobbled by Panthers freshman goalkeeper Zack Woods before he snared it at the last second, and the 32nd minute, when Mohamed’s shot was saved by Woods.

When Woods snared senior captain Willy Burdick’s free kick with time winding down, NYA had a 1-0 lead at halftime.

The Flyers pressured most of the second half, but didn’t generate many good looks.

With 37:44 to play, Burdick’s low free kick went just wide of the target.

Seconds later, Mohamed’s left-footed bid was off the mark. 

With 28:20 remaining, senior Abel Alemayo’s corner kick was headed out of harm’s way.

The Panthers almost doubled their lead with 27:50 left, but a shot from Pitts was denied by a sprawling Belleau and a rebound from junior captain Bobby Murray was blocked.

After sophomore Christian Brooks send a rocket high for the visitors and sophomore Ilyas Abdi had a shot saved, Burdick sent a free kick high, Woods soared to snare a corner kick and a long low shot from Burdick was saved by a sprawling Woods.

Then, with Waynflete gambling by sending extra numbers on the attack, NYA transitioned back to offense and got the clincher.

With 4:03 left, Pitts took a long pass from senior captain Xander Bartone, got around a defender and with Belleau shading toward the near post, Pitts took a final touch, got Belleau to move to his left, then fired a perfect blast into the opposite net, just inside the far post for a 2-0 lead.

“It was a lucky bounce, I guess,” Pitts said. “I got a run by the defender, but I put it where I wanted to.”

“Tom hasn’t been the most consistent finisher, but he had two goals on three shots,” Keen said. “We try to get them to get the keeper moving, then hit it across and there’s almost nothing the keeper can do. It was a beautiful finish in the side net.”

The Panthers went on and put the finishing touches on their 2-0 victory.

“We just think of it as a team effort,” Pitts said. “It’s not one person. Others have to step up (with Henry out). There was a lot of pressure on our defense. It’s a good thing we had them all. They played great today. (Zack’s) only a freshman, but he’s one of the best. This gives us more confidence after our loss. It puts us in a good spot.”

“The guys came together as a team,” said Keen. “There may have been a tendency to rely too much on Henry before. We don’t have many year-round soccer players, but I have good athletes. I have to teach them to stay composed on the ball. For all their pressure, clear-cut chances were almost non-existent.”

Woods made nine saves. 

“My keeper grew up in the second half,” Keen said.

Waynflete had a 20-10 shots advantage, got four saves from Belleau and finished with seven corners to NYA’s four, but couldn’t convert. 

“At least we played with some intensity in the second half,” said Flyers coach Brandon Salway. “The first half, I’m not sure what it was. They took it to us. It was disappointing. We didn’t resemble what we’ve been in the past in the first half. Give NYA credit, they played terrific, but we didn’t play as hard as we’re capable of playing. I saw NYA play and gave the guys a scouting report of how I thought they had talented players still. Hopefully it’s lesson learned. We woke up and probably carried the second half, but it was too little, too late.”

Eye on October

Waynflete’s life doesn’t get any easier, as it hosts arguably the state’s best team, defending Class B champion Yarmouth, Friday afternoon. The Flyers (eighth in the Class C South Heal Points standings at press time) then go to Poland and Kennebunk. The rematch with NYA comes Oct. 10 in Portland.

“We have to go back to the drawing board a little bit,” Salway said. “We only get 14 games. You hate to let one go. I’m sure the guys will respond positively.”

NYA (now third in the region) is right back in action Tuesday, at Gray-New Gloucester, then hosts Wells to conclude a busy week Thursday.

The Panthers are riding high, but still need work.

“We have to connect more, pass on the ground and keep working on finishing,” Pitts said. “We can’t have enough goals.”

“There’s no respite,” Keen said. “We have a lot of experience off the bench. We don’t go too deep, but we may have to Tuesday and Thursday. We’ve got players who can take people on one-on-one. If we can rise up for key games, I’ll take that. It seems like Class C is wide open. We know there’s a long way to go yet.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached atmhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

NYA’s boys’ soccer team celebrates at the final horn of Monday’s 2-0 home win over rival Waynflete.

Brian Beard photos.

NYA junior Thomas Pitts chases down a loose ball. Pitts had both goals in the victory.

NYA junior Xander Bartone defends Waynflete senior Ahmed Mohamed.

NYA sophomore Michael Pitts tries to get around Waynflete sophomore Christian Brooks.

Waynflete junior Jack Meahl tries to keep up with NYA junior captain Bobby Murray.

NYA freshman Finn Murray and Waynflete senior Abel Alemayo fight for the ball.

Waynflete senior Aaron Lee gets between NYA junior Thomas Pitts and the ball.

Sidebar Elements

Recent Waynflete-NYA results

@ Waynflete 5 NYA 0  
@ NYA 2 Waynflete 2 (tie) 

NYA 1 @ Waynflete 0
@ NYA 3 Waynflete 0
Western C quarterfinals
@ NYA 2 Waynflete 1 (OT) 

Waynflete 5 @ NYA 0
@ Waynflete 2 NYA 0
Western C quarterfinals
@ Waynflete 7 NYA 1 

@ Waynflete 1 NYA 1 (tie)
Waynflete 2 @ NYA 1
Western C Final
@ Waynflete 3 NYA 1 

@ Waynflete 2 NYA 0
Waynflete 1 @ NYA 0
Western C Final
NYA 1 @ Waynflete 0 

Waynflete 4 @ NYA 2
NYA 1 @ Waynflete 0

@ Waynflete 1 NYA 1 (tie)

@ NYA 2 Waynflete 1

@ NYA 3 Waynflete 0
NYA 5 @ Waynflete 2

@ Waynflete 2 NYA 2 (tie)
Waynflete 4 @ NYA 2

@ Waynflete 1 NYA 1 (tie)
@ NYA 5 Waynflete 0

NYA 2 @ Waynflete 0
@ NYA 3 Waynflete 1

NYA 5 @ Waynflete 1

@ NYA 6 Waynflete 0

NYA 1 @ Waynflete 0

@ NYA 3 Waynflete 0

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.