One goal's enough again as NYA sweeps Waynflete

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North Yarmouth Academy senior goalkeeper Connor Clock is mobbed by his teammates at the conclusion of Thursday’s 1-0 victory over rival Waynflete. The Panthers swept the Flyers for the first time since 2013.

Brian Beard photos.

More photos below.

YARMOUTH—North Yarmouth Academy’s boys’ soccer team has faced its share of obstacles this fall, but now, the Panthers are hitting their stride.

NYA lost some key players to graduation, are without popular coach Martyn Keen this season as he is battling cancer and are under the tutelage of new coach Stuart Thorley, who is bringing some new players into the mix, but the Panthers continue to rise to the occasion.

Thursday afternoon at Lewis Field, NYA welcomed longtime rival Waynflete for a pivotal late season battle and the hosts did just enough to keep the good times rolling.

For a half, chances were nearly non-existent, but when a golden opportunity arose in the second half, the host Panthers made the most of it.

With 37:52 to play, senior captain Xander Bartone, who has scored his share of big goals this autumn, finished a feed from sophomore Xander Kostelnik to put NYA ahead.

From there, the Panthers defense, led by senior captain Jeremy Thelven, and junior goalkeeper Connor Clock held the Flyers at bay and NYA held on for its second 1-0 victory over Waynflete this fall.

The Panthers swept the Flyers for the first time since 2013, won their sixth game in a row and fifth straight by shutout, improved to 8-3 and dropped Waynflete to 5-4-2 in the process.

“I’m not fully aware of the rivalry, but Marty has told me all about it and I’ve heard of it from the boys,” said Thorley, who has coached and played on three continents (Australia, Europe and North America). “It’s such an important game. Not just for the standings, but for the rivalry and for the school.”

A rite of autumn

The NYA-Waynflete boys’ soccer rivalry has become one of the most exciting in the state and has produced countless memorable games over the years, in both the regular season and the playoffs.

On Sept. 22, the Panthers won, 1-0, at Waynflete, on Xander Bartone’s early goal. The Flyers had a big edge in shots, but couldn’t solve Clock, who made 17 saves. That win gave the Panthers a 17-11 edge (with five ties) in the series, dating back to the 1999 season (see sidebar, below).

So far this fall, both teams have been up more than they’ve been down.

The defending Class C South champion Flyers started strong, tying visiting Wells, 1-1, then beating visiting Poland (6-0) and Traip Academy (7-0) and host Sacopee Valley (1-0) before losing at Class A powerhouse Falmouth (5-0) and at home to NYA (1-0) and two-time defending Class C champion Yarmouth (4-1). After winning at St. Dom’s, 3-0, Waynflete rallied late for a 1-1 tie at Freeport Saturday, then blanked host Traip Academy, 4-0, Tuesday.

The Panthers started slowly, sandwiching losses at Freeport (3-0) and Cape Elizabeth (2-0) around a 3-0 victory at Fryeburg Academy. After a 2-0 home win over St. Dom’s, NYA lost, 1-0, to visiting Gray-New Gloucester, but turned around to win at Traip Academy (4-1) and Waynflete (1-0). Home victories over Poland (6-0), Sacopee Valley (1-0) and Traip Academy (3-0) followed.

Thursday, on another terrific early autumn day (69 degrees at the start), the Panthers needed just one goal to prevail.

There were few good chances either way in the first half, as both teams only managed two shots on frame.

The best look came in the 17th minute, when Waynflete senior Abdul Mohamed ripped a left-footed blast that Clock had to leap to tip over the bar. The Flyers’ ensuing corner kick was cleared.

The Panthers first good look came in the 25th minute, but a low shot from senior Joey Hogan was corralled by Waynflete freshman goalkeeper Luca Antolini.

After NYA senior back Wallace Jackson broke up Flyers junior Mak Parr, who made a nice crossover move to elude another defender, Clock denied sophomore Thorne Kieffer.

With 6:16 left in the half, Antolini denied a shot from Panthers senior Andrew Keith.

In the second half,  NYA turned up the intensity and was rewarded.

After a Kostelnik shot from the side was saved, the Panthers went on top with 37:52 remaining.

Kostelnik made a run down the right side, crossed the ball to Bartone in the box and Bartone didn’t hesitate, pounding a low shot to Antolini’s left. Antolini got a hand on the ball, but couldn’t stop it and it rolled over the line to put NYA up, 1-0.

“At halftime, we talked about possessing the ball, bringing it down and playing our game,” Bartone said. “We panicked a little bit in the first half. We calmed down a lot more in the second half. Kostelnik has been playing some nice balls through the middle. I hit it one-touch. I knew I wouldn’t get a clean strike on the ball. It was a good take and it just got under the goalie.”

“We started very slow,” Thorley said. “I don’t know if it was a mental thing. I needed to get the boys fired up and did that at halftime. I told the seniors at halftime that it was the last time they were playing their rivals. Xander (Kostelnik) came in and made an impact. Wherever he plays, he gives 100 percent. Xander (Bartone) has scored seven or eight goals this year and I don’t know how he does it from a defensive role, but he has a knack of getting in the box and finishing.”

“We talked about Xander being dangerous at halftime and we lost him and he made us pay,” lamented Waynflete coach Brandon Salway. 

The Panthers pushed to open things up, but on a corner, sophomore Alasdair Swett’s shot was kicked away at the last moment by a Waynflete defender.

Down the stretch, the Flyers tried to pull even, but after getting the ball with some space, freshman Askar Hussein’s long shot went wide with 11:30 left.

With 8:10 to go, a rush by junior Ilyas Abdi was broken up in the box by Thelven.

Thelven made an even bigger play with 4:07 remaining, when after the ball bounced around in the box, he blocked a shot and the rebound was subsequently cleared.

“They got a lot more pressure at the end and I knew we had to step it up,” Thelven said. “I tried to keep everyone motivated. Everyone stepped up, even our younger guys.” 

“Jeremy is such a leader in the back,” Thorley said. “Everyone follows his energy. The shutouts are a testament to him.”

Hussein got another look with 3:01 to play, but his bid from the side was snared by Clock.

Waynflete earned a corner kick with 1:45 left and the ball landed in the box, but a Panthers defender booted it away at the last second.

NYA ran out the clock from there and for the second time this fall, celebrated a 1-0 victory over the Flyers.

“This brings back memories of freshman year to beat them twice,” Thelven said. “It was an amazing team effort.” 

“We’re doing better than we thought,” Bartone said. “We were unsure coming into the season. We’ve played well. I’m happy how well we’ve worked together. It’s very different not having Marty, but he’s been at every one of our games. It’s great to see him out there. Coach Thorley is a great coach too. We have a lot of respect and admiration for both of them.”

NYA finished with a 5-4 edge in shots on frame and got four saves from Clock.

“Connor has been phenomenal throughout the season,” Thelven said. “This is his first year. I can’t believe we got blessed with such a good goalie.”

“Connor was nervous as the start of the year because it was a new position to him, but he wants to get better and he’s gotten more confidence every game,” Thorley said. “He’s got the mentality now that he’s good enough.”

Both teams took five corner kicks.

Waynflete got four saves from Antolini.

“We’ve had a hard time stringing 80 minutes together,” Salway said. “The first half today was a good 40 minutes. We had chances, but we didn’t finish.”

Thinking playoffs

Waynflete (ranked sixth in the Class C South Heal Points standings at press time) has three games left, two at home. The Flyers host Sacopee Valley Tuesday and St. Dom’s Oct. 15 before going to Kennebunk for the finale Oct. 18.

Waynflete is looking to hit its stride and if that happens, the Flyers could follow the script of seasons past and make a playoff run from a low seed.

“We’re showing signs that we’re getting there, so I’m encouraged,” Salway said. “It’s a young group, just one senior starter. We need to get more consistent. Hopefully that happens before we run out of time. The potential is there. I’m confident we could beat anybody in the tournament. We could make a run.”

NYA (fourth in Class C South) is at Sacopee Valley Saturday and visits St. Dom’s Thursday, then welcomes Greely Oct. 15 in its finale. 

The Panthers are looking like a team that could advance deep in the postseason if they continue to play at this level.

“We have to play the ball on the ground, slow down, play solid defense and be confident,” Thelven said.

“It was difficult at the beginning with a new coach and graduated players, so it took some time, but it’s working now,” Thorley said. “We have another big game Saturday, then a really big game next week against Greely. If we can get those wins, that would give the boys confidence.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Waynflete senior Jack Meahl and NYA sophomore Finn Murray battle for possession.

NYA sophomore Ryan Baker and Waynflete sophomore Mykel Henry chase after the ball.

NYA senior captain Xander Bartone plays the ball. Bartone scored the game’s lone goal.

NYA sophomore Finn Murray boots the ball.

Waynflete sophomore Askar Hussein heads the ball away from sophomore Jackson Linscott.

Waynflete sophomore Miles Lipton gets past NYA sophomore Carlos Pena.

NYA sophomore Xander Kostelnik goes all out for the ball.

Recent Waynflete-NYA results

NYA 1 @ Waynflete 0 

@ NYA 2 Waynflete 0 
@ Waynflete 1 NYA 0

@ 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 I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.