Junior Pierce Manchester jumps for joy during a celebration after one of seven of his team’s goals in North Yarmouth Academy’s 7-0 win over Buckfield in Thursday’s Class D South boys’ soccer semifinal.
Brianna Soukop / Press Herald photos.
More photos below.
YARMOUTH—North Yarmouth Academy’s boys’ soccer team missed the playoffs last fall, for the first time since 1995.
After stewing all offseason, the Panthers have done something about it.
And now, NYA finds itself just two victories from the ultimate prize.
A state championship.
Thursday afternoon at Lewis Field, the top-ranked Panthers raced to a quick start and the goals came fast and furious in a 7-0 victory over No. 4 Buckfield in a Class D South semifinal.
It took just 78 seconds for freshman Chas Rhode to put NYA on top for good.
After play was halted for over 20 minutes due to a scary injury involving Bucks senior Shane St. Pierre, the Panthers got quick goals from seniors Ryan Baker and Alsadair Swett to go up, 3-0, at halftime.
NYA didn’t ease off the throttle in the second half, as Baker and Swett scored early, Baker completed his hat trick with 26:10 to go and sophomore Reese Merritt scored with 22:50 on the clock to account for the final score.
The Panthers improved to 14-2 on the season, ended Buckfield’s year at 11-4-1 and advanced to host either No. 2 Greenville (12-3) or third-ranked Temple Academy (14-1) in Wednesday’s Class D South Final at a time to be announced.
“The day after not making playoffs last year, ‘Marty’ (Panthers coach Martyn Keen) was upset because no NYA team had done that (since 1995),” Baker said. “(Senior) Xander (Kostelnik) and I felt it was on us. We wanted to put our heads down this year and see what could happen. We’ll keep going.”
The Panthers have dazzled this autumn, losing only at Class C South top seed Waynflete (in overtime) and at home to Sacopee Valley. The Panthers earned the top seed in Class D South and had no trouble with No. 8 Pine Tree Academy in Friday’s quarterfinals, winning, 7-2.
Buckfield was 2-2 at one point this fall, but wound up 10-3-1 and fourth in Class D South. The Bucks edged No. 5 Richmond, 1-0, in their quarterfinal round game.
NYA won, 4-2, at Buckfield Sept. 13, and blanked the visiting Bucks, 7-0, Oct. 9.
The teams had no playoff history.
Thursday, on a chilly (43 degrees at kickoff) and very windy late-October afternoon, the Panthers quickly took care of business.
NYA pressured immediately and when Buckfield failed to clear the ball, Rhode got to it and ripped it past sophomore goalkeeper Richard Kraske for a 1-0 lead with 38:42 to go in the first half.
“Chas has stepped into a big role and is helping us out a lot,” Baker said. “We’re playing with confidence. That early goal helped us out a lot.”
Seconds later, at the other end of the field, St. Pierre collided with Panthers junior keeper Julian Etauri and fell to the turf, where he was immediately joined by teammates, coaches and athletic training staff.
St. Pierre was reported to have suffered a seizure and after a delay of some 20 minutes, he was removed from the field and taken away but those on hand said he was coherent.
When play resumed, the Panthers were frustrated for the next 14 minutes, as Baker twice had headers saved by Kraske, senior Finn Murray had a shot saved and Baker missed high on a good look.
“We’re not being efficient with our chances and my worry is if we play in a tighter game and don’t finish our chances, it can be a problem,” said Keen. “But we’re getting them and we’re playing well, so I really have nothing to complain about.”
The second goal eventually came with 24:43 to go in the first half, as senior Lody Lathrop got the ball to Baker, who one-timed his shot into the net for a 2-0 lead.
“I thought the break would slow us down, but we came back hot,” Baker said.
“Ryan has over 20 goals already,” Keen said. “He’s done really well.”
With 18:34 on the first half clock, NYA made it 3-0 when Baker sent the ball to Swett in the box to Kraske’s right and Swett lofted a left-footed beauty over Kraske and into the net.
Late in the half, the Bucks nearly answered, but a free kick from senior Noah Wiley deflected off a defender and hit the outside of the far post.
In the first 40 minutes, the Panthers had a 13-1 advantage in shots on frame and an 8-0 edge in corner kicks.
NYA was even more prolific in the second half.
With 36:14 to play, Baker got his second goal, heading Swett’s corner through Krascke’s hands and into the net for a 4-0 lead.
With 29:53 remaining, Swett scored for the second time, off a corner kick, as Baker passed short to junior Cam Goodrich, who fed Swett for a 5-0 advantage.
A little over three minutes later, with 26:10 to go, Swett set up Baker to complete his hat trick.
The final goal came with 22:50 remaining, as Merritt converted a rebound.
The Panthers then held the Bucks at bay from there and closed out their 7-0 victory.
“We knew what (Buckfield) had to offer, so we wanted to keep the ball on the ground and move it around and break them down systematically and we did that,” Kostelnik said.
“We played some very nice soccer,” Keen said. “Our starters are doing well and we’ve got three or four kids who can come off the bench and help as well. It’s been fun getting freshmen and some JV kids in playoff games.”
NYA didn’t meet either Greenville or Temple Academy this year. The Panthers have no postseason history with either potential foe.
NYA is closing in on its first state game appearance since 2010. The Panthers last won a state championship in 2005 and it wouldn’t be wise to bet against this group.
“A lot of teams can’t play on our turf, so we’ll try to take advantage,” Baker said.
“We’ll be home again, which is big for us,” said Kostelnik. “We’ll rest some guys up and have good practices.”
“It gets more serious from now on,” Keen added. “There are some good teams left in the South and two or three good teams in the North. We’ll worry about ourselves, but I’m going to drive up to Greenville tomorrow and take a look. It’s new territory. Temple has several exchange students and Greenville, we don’t have any common opponents.
“It’s there for the taking. Playing well against teams from outside Class D gives us confidence, but losing that game to Sacopee Valley after being them handily keeps our feet on the ground.”
NYA freshman Chas Rhode, who scored the game’s first goal, takes a swing at the ball.
NYA senior Xander Kostelnik heads the ball.
Buckfield junior Victor Verrill plays the ball while NYA junior Cam Goodrich gives chase.
NYA freshman Chas Rhode celebrates the game’s first goal.