YARMOUTH—A year ago, North Yarmouth Academy’s boys’ soccer team fell behind by a goal at home in its first playoff game, then rallied for a memorable win over rival Waynflete.
This fall, the Panthers followed a familiar script, but couldn’t achieve a similar ending.
Friday afternoon in a Western Class C preliminary round playoff game against a Sacopee Valley squad NYA had twice beaten by four goals during the regular season, the Panthers couldn’t generate the offense they needed and when the Hawks scored with 19:35 to play, NYA was in serious trouble.
Try as they might, the Panthers couldn’t respond and their season came to a disappointing end with a 1-0 setback.
While Sacopee Valley improved to 5-7-3 and advanced to meet top-ranked, defending state champion Maranacook (14-0) in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round, NYA’s season came to a close at 7-6-2.
Last fall, NYA enjoyed a charmed life, winning all 14 regular season games, then rallying to beat Waynflete in overtime in the quarterfinals. The Panthers then suffered a painful semifinal round loss to eventual state champion Maranacook.
This autumn, NYA has a new coach, as Raiff Gwinnett replaced Martyn Keen, and a lot of new faces, which spelled and up-and-down 7-5-2-campaign and the No. 8 seed. Sacopee Valley, meanwhile, went 4-7-3 and wound up ninth.
The Panthers won both regular season games with ease, prevailing at Sacopee, 4-0, and at home, 5-1.
The teams had split two previous playoff encounters (see sidebar, below).
Friday, NYA had its chances, but couldn’t generate the goal it would need.
Early on, the Panthers carried play, but a shot from junior Haize Fassett was tipped wide.
The Hawks then began to suggest that they wouldn’t go quietly.
First, a free kick from senior Blake Trueworthy forced sophomore Xander Bartone to clear the ball out of harm’s way.
In the 32nd minute, junior Will Goforth fired a 30-yard free kick that appeared ticketed for the upper 90, but NYA senior goalkeeper Clayton Manchester leaped just in time to punch it away, setting up a corner kick which resulted in a shot from junior Devin Day that was blocked.
The Panthers had a 4-3 shots advantage in the first half, but had nothing to show for it.
NYA then had a great chance to take the lead in the first minute of the second half, but just when senior standout D.J. Nicholas appeared to have the breathing room necessary to finish, Sacopee Valley senior goalkeeper Mike Pingree came out to break up the chance, keeping the game scoreless.
The Panthers would never get another sniff at the goal quite as promising as that one.
With 22:21 to play in regulation, NYA sophomore Thomas Pitts launched a free kick which freshman Michael Pitts headed on target, but Pingree made the save.
Then, with 19:35 left, the Hawks transitioned and a long pass from Day found Goforth in space and Goforth managed to dribble around Manchester, who came out of the goal to try and knock the ball away, then Goforth tucked a shot into the empty net for a 1-0 lead.
In the waning moments, NYA pushed for the equalizer, but a rush from sophomore Bobby Murray was broken up, Murray got a ricochet of a free kick from sophomore Jeremy Thelven and shot high and a Murray shot with a minute to go, was broken up by Sacopee Valley sophomore Cameron Cyr and that was that.
Hawks 1 Panthers 0.
NYA outshot Sacopee Valley, 9-6, and had four corners kicks to the visitors’ two. Manchester made three saves, while Pingree stopped two shots.
While Sacopee Valley looks to shock the world in Readfield when it takes on Maranacook, NYA has to lick its wounds.
The loss of Nicholas, who holds the program record with a whopping 93 goals, will be nearly impossible to fill. The Panthers have other holes to fill as well, but should be back in the hunt again in 2015.
NYA senior goalkeeper Clayton Manchester soars to tip a shot over the crossbar for a first half save.
NYA sophomore Bobby Murray keeps his eye on the ball.
NYA freshman Michael Pitts plays the ball.
NYA sophomore Jeremy Thelven works his way through the Sacopee Valley defense.
2006 Western C quarterfinals
NYA 3 Sacopee Valley 0
1991 Western C Final
Sacopee Valley 1 NYA 0
NYA senior standout D.J. Nicholas’ rush is broken up by Sacopee Valley senior goalkeeper Mike Pingree early in the second half of the teams’ Western C preliminary round contest Friday afternoon. That proved to be the Panthers’ best scoring chance as they were eliminated, 1-0.
Brian Beard photos.
More photos below.