Waynflete boys blank York, lock up top playoff seed

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Waynflete junior goalkeeper Luca Antolini punches the ball out of harm’s way during the Flyers’ 3-0 home win over York Monday. Waynflete finished the regular season undefeated and locked up the top seed for the upcoming Class C South playoffs.

Gregory Rec / Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—Arguably the best regular season in the history of the Waynflete boys’ soccer team has come to a victorious close and now, the Flyers are turning their attention to the big prize.

A state title.

Monday afternoon at a rainy Fore River Fields, Waynflete hosted Class B South contender York and as they have all season, the Flyers took care of business.

After a scoreless first half which saw Waynflete muster just two shots on frame, the Flyers hit their stride in the second half.

With 29:36 remaining, junior standout Askar Houssein scored to break the ice.

Nine minutes later, sophomore Pat Shaw finished a feed from sophomore Joey Ansel-Mullen to double the lead.

After Waynflete junior goalkeeper Luca Antolini made a pair of diving saves to preserve the advantage, senior Burr Rhoads scored with 2:05 left and the Flyers closed out a 3-0 victory.

Waynflete finished the regular season 11-0-3, its first undefeated campaign since 1993, ended the Wildcats’ regular season at 6-7-1 and most importantly, wrapped up the top seed for the upcoming Class C South playoffs.

“I told the guys this is one of the best, if not the best regular season we’ve had and we want to add to it,” said longtime Flyers coach Brandon Salway. “They’ve been a terrific group to coach.”

Meeting every challenge

Waynflete entered the season believing it could become a special team and through 13 games, the Flyers had done just that, as not a single foe had figured out a way to beat them.

Waynflete started by blanking visiting Traip Academy (3-0) and Sacopee Valley (3-0), then settled for a 2-2 draw at Gray-New Gloucester. The Flyers blanked visiting Greely (1-0) and St. Dom’s (2-1) and after a 1-1 draw at Cape Elizabeth, Waynflete edged host Traip Academy, 1-0. The Flyers’ signature victory came Sept. 27 at home, when they rallied late to force a tie against rival North Yarmouth Academy, then scored in overtime for a 2-1 win. Waynflete followed that up with victories at Fryeburg Academy (3-0) and Sacopee Valley (2-0), at home over Wells (9-0) and at St. Dom’s (2-0). Last Thursday, the Flyers settled for a 1-1 draw at four-time defending Class B champion Yarmouth.

York, a regional finalist in 2017, has been up and down this fall, starting with a 4-1 home loss to Yarmouth, then blanking visiting Wells (7-0), settling for a scoreless home tie against Cape Elizabeth and shutting out visiting Gray-New Gloucester (3-0). After a 2-1 setback at Freeport, the Wildcats beat host Wells, 4-0. After a 1-0 loss at Greely and a 3-1 loss at Yarmouth, York downed visiting Fryeburg Academy (5-1) and visiting Freeport (2-1). After a 3-2 home loss to Cape Elizabeth, the Wildcats rolled, 7-0, at Poland, but last Thursday, they fell at home to Greely, 2-1.

The teams last met last Oct. 17 in York in the regular season finale, where the Wildcats scored late for a 1-0 victory.

The only other previous meeting came Sept. 12, 2008, when host York rolled to a 6-0 victory.

Monday, on a raw and rainy afternoon, the teams met in Portland for the first time and Waynflete, knowing it needed a win or a draw to get the Heal Points it needed, came to life in the second half to take care of business.

The game began with rain falling, a cold wind blowing and the temperature reading 55 degrees and the elements only deteriorated over the first 40 minutes.

The Wildcats controlled play early and tested Antolini, who had to deny a header from senior Lucas LaBelle, a shot from sophomore Josh Gennaro and a header from sophomore Alex Neilson.

The Flyers’ first bid came with 29:42 remaining, when junior Oliver Burdick sent the ball on goal, only to be denied by York junior goalkeeper Gray Messersmith.

After Antolini saved a deflected shot by Wildcats senior Ethan Layton, a long shot from Waynflete junior Ian McClure-Chute was bobbled and saved by Messersmith, Houssein shot wide, Shaw did the same, Houssein missed just wide and just before time expired, Houssein tried again and sent a left-footed blast over the crossbar to keep the game 0-0 at the break.

In the first 40 minutes, York held a 4-2 edge in shots and had the only corner kick, but the Flyers would get things going in the second half.

After Antolini denied bids from Gennaro and junior Dillon Brodsky, Waynflete went on the attack and after Messersmith beat Houssein to a through ball from senior Thorne Kieffer, Messersmith saved a bid from Ansel-Mullen and Houssein missed just wide, the hosts got the jump.

With 29:36 to play in regulation, Houssein got some room on the left side, sped past a defender, turned into the box and shot just as a defender entered the picture. The ball then deflected off the defender and sailed over Messersmith and into the goal for a 1-0 lead.

“They had most of the possession in the first half and we had to close the gap between the midfield and the strikers and we executed that,” Houssein said. “I just kept my head and listened to my teammates if I had time or not. The last defender put his foot out and redirected it, but a goal is a goal.”

“Halfway through the first half, we changed formation a little bit and that opened things up a little bit,” Salway said. “Askar got more touches up top. He gets a lot of attention and when he gets attention, we can move it and other people get opportunities. I thought Askar was terrific today. I didn’t know he was a ‘mudder.'”

The second goal came with 20:44 on the clock, as Ansel-Mullen sent Shaw in alone and Shaw beat Messersmith for a breathing room.

“Most teams don’t really know too much about us going into a game and when that first goal goes in, a lot of teams lay down against us,” Antolini said. “York’s a very good team, but we’ve proved we can play with anyone.”

Antolini then stepped to the forefront, first making a save on a shot from senior Graham Mercer, then diving to deny Brodsky and on the ensuing corner kick, diving to rob junior John Bychok as well.

“It was slippery and wet today, so I had to put more into my dives,” said Antolini. “Those felt good.”

“Our backs have been outstanding all year and they don’t get enough accolades and Luca has picked us up with some big saves,” Salway said. “We let down the last 10 minutes and credit York, they pressed us. If Luca didn’t make those saves, they could have gotten back in the game. I can count on Luca for everything, whether it’s in goal or in the field.”

Rhoads then ended any remaining doubt, scoring from Ansel-Mullen with 2:10 on the clock, and Waynflete closed out its 3-0 victory and an unbeaten regular season.

“The quality of practice this year relative to last year is a huge difference,” Antolini said. “The tempo and energy and quality of play is phenomenal.”

“We’re versatile,” Salway said. “We have talented players who work hard and seem to enjoy playing together. When you get that combination, you have a chance to do good things. When every person is seriously invested, you have a great team.

“To finish it out like this and go 11-0-3 is great. I didn’t think at the beginning of the year that number one was a possibility, but I did think we’d be battle-tested. It’s an amazing regular season and they need to be proud of it.”

Waynflete was out-shot, 9-6, and didn’t have a corner kick. The Flyers got nine saves from Antolini.

York got three saves from Messersmith as it had its chances, but couldn’t finish.

“We had a pretty bad stretch and Waynflete really capitalized, but we played with them for most of the game,” said Wildcats first-year coach Julie Johnson. “That’s been our story most of the year. When we play well, we’re in every game. Most of our losses have been close.”

The Wildcats will take part in a preliminary round playoff game Friday.

“We need to fix a couple things going into playoffs,” Johnson said. “We seem to be good at pressing and scrambling at the end. I’d like to do that early. Teams like (four-time defending Class B champion) Yarmouth and Waynflete have special individual players and I think if we can get a couple of ours to have a special game when it counts, we can make a run. We’re right there. We’ll be ready.”

Golden opportunity

Waynflete, meanwhile, will be the top seed in Class C South for the first time and will be a number one seed in any class for the first time doing so in Western D in 2004. 

The Flyers return to action Tuesday of next week when they host the quarterfinal round.

“It’s really big to play here, to have our fans and to not have to get on a bus for two hours,” said Antolini. “It’s worth all the work we’ve put it in.”

“This whole season, Brandon told us that we could do it and he believed in us and this feels pretty good, but we only have one guaranteed game now,” Houssein said. “We’ll take tomorrow to enjoy this undefeated season, then we’ll go back to work.”

“(The guys) totally earned the top seed, but now everyone is 0-0,” Salway added. “They’ll get a day to enjoy it, then we’ll go back to work. I think we just need keep playing the way we’ve been playing, share the ball, take opportunities. We’ve come on finishing-wise from the beginning of the year. We need more of the same.

“The intensity will go up a notch and we can’t let down against anybody, because anyone is capable of beating anybody.”

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

Waynflete junior Askar Houssein, who scored the game’s first goal, battles York freshman Andy Furlong for possession. 

Waynflete junior Oliver Burdick and York senior Nick Rainforth take a stab at the ball.

Waynflete junior Ian McClure-Chute heads the ball away from York sophomore Quenton Convery.

York sophomore Josh Gennaro loses his balance as he battles Waynflete senior Miles Lipton for the ball.

Waynflete junior Ian McClure-Chute plays keep-away from York senior Lucas LaBelle.

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