Waynflete’s boys’ soccer team celebrates its 4-0 win over Monmouth Academy in Wednesday’s Class C South Final. The Flyers advanced to face undefeated Washington Academy in Saturday’s state championship game.
Brian Beard photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—Waynflete’s 11 seniors simply will not be denied and as a result, the Flyers boys’ soccer team can’t wait to take a five-hour bus ride north to play for a Gold Ball.
Wednesday, on a glorious early November afternoon at Fore River Fields, the second-ranked Flyers completed their long and winding road through the regional field by seizing control early against fourth-ranked Monmouth Academy and never letting the Mustangs breathe in the Class C South Final.
Waynflete, which learned the invaluable lesson of starting strong from their quarterfinal round close call against No. 7 Carrabec, got the only goal it needed 8 minutes, 4 seconds in, when senior Cullen Bollinger found the net with a perfect strike from 40 yards out.
The Flyers kept the pressure on and after a series of near-misses, doubled their lead with 8:59 remaining in the first half when indefatigable senior Aaron Lee pounced on a failed clear and finished.
Waynflete knew full well that Monmouth Academy was capable of rallying from two goals down, since the Mustangs had done that very thing in a quarterfinal round against the Flyers’ rival, North Yarmouth Academy, so Waynflete continued to push and when senior Tommy Silk set up Lee for a goal with 28:05 to play, the Flyers were firmly in the driver’s seat.
With 1:28 left, Bollinger added one more pretty goal, with his left foot, for good measure, and Waynflete, behind a stellar defensive effort led by senior Willy Burdick which didn’t allow a single shot on frame, went on to a 4-0 victory.
The Flyers improved to 14-2-1, ended the Mustangs’ fine season at 13-4 and advanced to meet Class C North champion Washington Academy (17-0) in the state final, Saturday at 12:30 p.m., in Presque Isle.
“You could see it with the seniors today,” said longtime Waynflete coach Brandon Salway. “You can see when a group really wants it. It’s a hungry group. It’s nice to see a group like this be rewarded. This group wanted to extend the season as long as they could. They enjoy practicing and playing together. It’s nice to be together for a couple more days.”
Waynflete has earned everything that’s come its way this fall, navigating a very tough schedule en route to an 11-2-1 mark and the No. 2 seed in Class C South.
The playoffs then brought a roller-coaster ride of emotion.
The Flyers appeared to have No. 7 Carrabec beaten, 0-0 (6-5 in PKs), before the teams had to come back 48 hours later to complete the third round of kicks, which were originally treated as “sudden victory.” Waynflete made three more kicks, while the Cobras only converted two and the game finally went in the books as a 0-0 (9-7 PK) victory.
“Every team has to survive a really tough game to make it to a state championship,” Burdick said. “We learned we had to start hard, finish hard. We learned anybody could beat us in playoffs.”
“Because we got through it, I think we were ready for anybody,” Lee said. “Everybody picked each other up.”
Saturday, in the semifinals, the Flyers won in much more conventional fashion, 2-0, over No. 6 Sacopee Valley.
Monmouth Academy earned the No. 4 seed and rallied to shock No. 5 North Yarmouth Academy, 3-2, in the quarterfinals, before upsetting top-seeded Hall-Dale, 2-1, in double overtime, in the semifinals.
The teams had met four previous times in the playoffs (see sidebar, below), all in Class D and all in the last century.
Wednesday’s game began with a slight breeze and the temperature reading 62 degrees and Waynflete came out and made a powerful statement.
The Flyers almost scored 19 seconds in, but a feed from senior Abel Alemayo to Silk was just a bit too far and Mustangs sophomore goalkeeper Bradley Neal got to the ball first.
After Monmouth Academy’s lone shot of the first half, a bid from senior Chandler Harris, went wide in the second minute, Waynflete carried play and was eventually rewarded.
After senior Ahmed Mohamed shot way high and Alemayo missed wide, the Flyers pounced.
With 31:56 to go before halftime, the ball came to Bollinger just inside midfield. Bollinger, found some room, carried the ball closer, then from 40 yards lofted a blast that at first appeared too high, but the shot sunk perfectly, got over Neal’s head and tickled the twine for a spectacular first goal.
“A fast start was very important,” Bollinger said. ” Some of our games, we were complacent coming out, but we hit the ground running and that helped us. I saw no defenders in front of me and I saw that right side open, so I aimed and struck it well. It was one of my better goals.”
“That goal was huge,” Lee said. “Soccer’s such a mental game. Getting up early and making the other team realize they’re behind is huge, especially when they weren’t on their homefield. They were out of their comfort zone. That extra element gave us the edge.”
“Cullen’s goal gave us a chance to relax a little bit and broke the ice,” Salway added. “It was a great goal. It definitely took the pressure off a little bit. That really set the tone.”
Waynflete then was frustrated for the better part of 23 minutes until finally breaking through again.
Mohamed shot high, senior Christian Kabongo got his body on a corner kick, but Neal made the save, sophomore Ilyas Abdi had a shot saved off a corner, Silk shot wide, Kabongo shot high, then wide, Silk had a shot saved by Neal, Mohamed had a shot saved and Silk’s rebound sailed high and Alemayo had a shot saved.
Finally, with 8:59 left in the half, a Monmouth Academy defender tried to head the ball out of the zone, but didn’t get much on it. Lee headed it past the defender, went one-on-one with Neal, then shot into the net for a 2-0 lead.
“The defender headed it, but it wasn’t very hard,” Lee said. “I wondered if I should trap it, but I took a touch with my head and I got past him and the goalie came out. At that point, I thought I’d get a shot, but the ball dropped a little bit farther than I thought, so I put a body on him and got a step and laid it in. The fashion we got the second goal, outhustling the defense, really set the tone for the second half. It made our offense know if we work hard, we’d get more goals. That made us want to sell out on more plays.”
“That second goal was important,” Bollinger said. “The first one could have been lucky, but the second one was more hustle.”
Late in the half, a miscommunication in the box forced Waynflete senior goalkeeper Milo Belleau to fall on a loose ball and a Monmouth Academy free kick was cleared, sending the Flyers to the break up, 2-0.
At halftime, Waynflete talked about its job being far from done.
“(The way they came back against NYA) was a focal point at halftime,” Burdick said. “I told everyone at halftime that they wouldn’t give up. They came back against NYA and we know NYA’s a very good team that gave us two great games. We knew we had to play the same way and step up even more in the second half.”
“Everything I heard about Monmouth was that they were competitive, that they came back against NYA and they scrapped against the number one seed and took them out, so I wasn’t feeling comfortable at 2-0, but we haven’t given up two goals in a long time,” Salway said. “We felt somewhat confident at that point.”
The Mustangs almost cut their deficit in half 25 seconds into the half, but Harris shot just wide.
After Aaron had a shot denied by Neal and Abdi had a shot saved, the Flyers struck for a third time.
With 28:05 left in regulation, Silk fed Lee, who eluded a defender and beat Neal (seven saves) with a low shot for a 3-0 advantage.
“That was a great ball,” Lee said. “I knew as soon as I saw the second defender rush at me, I knew if I cut across my body, I could beat him. Once I did that, I had a step and I stayed over the ball like Coach tells us to and put it on frame.”
“It was probably Aaron’s best game,” Salway said. “It was nice to have him do it on this stage, when we really needed it. He puts pressure on defenders. If he can continue to finish like that, it gives us a great chance.”
Down the stretch, the Mustangs earned three corner kicks, but couldn’t do anything with them.
Then, with just 1:28 to go, Bollinger finished the game like he started, with a pretty strike.
After taking a pass from Abdi, Bollinger shot with his left foot and sent the ball into the net for a four-goal advantage.
“That was awesome,” Bollinger said. “It was really good for me. Ilyas passed it across, I saw that side open again and I aimed and shot.”
“Cullen’s got a great shot,” Salway said. “We see it an awful lot. It was nice for him to get on the board today.”
Waynflete slammed the door from there and at 3:06 p.m., got to celebrate the 4-0 victory and its first regional title in four years.
“It’s awesome,” Burdick said. “Me and Aaron have been on this team for four years and never made it. Finally, we get this opportunity and it feels so amazing. I love this group of guys. We’re all hungry and we want to win really bad.”
“Me and Willy were together with some other seniors at a rope swing, enjoying summer, and we talked hypothetically about going to states,” Lee said. “It means everything to be in a position to actually do it.”
The Flyers finished with a 16-3 advantage in shots (11-0 on frame) and a 5-3 edge in corner kicks. Belleau wasn’t needed to make a single save.
“We knew we wanted another shutout,” Burdick said. “We didn’t want to give up a goal in playoffs. We haven’t given one up yet. Milo’s picked us up so many times during the season and has had some amazing saves. He kept our season alive. We have to pick him up once in awhile. To have no shots on goal was awesome.”
“The defense was spectacular today,” Salway said. “It was a total team effort. It starts with strikers pressuring the ball. The whole team played stellar defense today.
“We were a little slow to get going this season, but we tweaked things a little bit and stumbled into a few things that helped us. The Yarmouth game gave us confidence to host this game, which was huge.”
Bollinger and Lee both sparked the offense with a pair of goals. For Lee, a last-minute uniform switch from number 15 to 24 might have provided inspiration.
“I have a lucky shirt, which is the Waynflete lacrosse warmup,” Lee said. “It was my friend Harry Baker-Connick’s, a Waynflete legend. I carry him everywhere I go. Right before the game, I realized I didn’t have my jersey. At that point, I asked (freshman) Alex (Saade), who suffered a concussion a few games ago, if I could borrow his jersey. It came with some goals in it.”
Waynflete finished the year undefeated on its home field (10-0).
“I’m superstitious,” Burdick said. “People said we shouldn’t play (on this lower field) because the field was a little rough, but I knew we had to play here. We didn’t lose a game at home this year.”
Waynflete will make the long drive north Friday afternoon in advance of its meeting with Washington Academy in the state final Saturday afternoon.
The Flyers have competed in nine previous state games, winning four. Waynflete’s only prior encounter with Washington Academy resulted in a 2-1 loss in the 2008 Class C state game, after the Flyers had made a stunning run from the 11 seed.
Saturday, Waynflete hopes to win it all since edging Houlton, 2-1, in double overtime (on Henry Cleaves’ decisive tally) in 2011.
The most recent was an epic 2-1 double overtime victory over Houlton in the 2011 Class C state game, when Henry Cleaves scored the winner.
Rest assured, the Flyers will be ready.
The Flyers made it to the state final for the first time in 1990 (in Class D), but fell to Machias, 1-0. Two years later, they returned, but were denied again, this time by Jonesport-Beals (3-1). Finally, in 1993, Waynflete got over the hump with a 2-1 win over Ashland. It took the Flyers eight years to return to the state game and in 2001, they won their second title, 3-1, over Van Buren. They did it again in 2002, 1-0, over Van Buren, but hadn’t reached the pinnacle since.
There were close calls in 2003 (a 2-0 state final loss to Machias) and 2004 (a 2-1 setback to Van Buren in the state game). Waynflete moved up to Class C the following season and by 2008 had embarked on an improbable run from the No. 11 seed to the state final, where the magic carpet ride ended with a 2-1 loss to Washington Academy.
“The season’s not over yet,” Burdick said. “We have to come out hard like we did. Hopefully, we’ll get a few goals and keep playing like we’ve played defense all year.”
“A lot of teams that have been scouting us think they know what we do and how we play, but I think we have a couple surprises,” Lee said. “If we play hard like we did today and mentally prepare, it’s ours.”
“This means so much for us,” Bollinger said. “This is what we’ve been working for all year. We joked about going to states and how glorious it would be. Now that our dreams are real, it’s just a great experience. We’ll just play our hardest. We’re confident, but hopefully not too confident.”
“I’ll scramble to try and get a little information on our opponent.,” Salway added. “More of our focus will be getting our guys ready and healthy. We’ll get some rest, maybe practice one day on turf, then we’ll give it our best shot Saturday.”
Waynflete senior Cullen Bollinger handles the ball. Bollinger scored twice in the win.
Waynflete senior Aaron Lee gets past Monmouth Academy sophomore goalkeeper Bradley Neal en route to the first of his two goals.
Waynflete senior Ahmed Mohamed sends a pass to a teammate.
Waynflete junior Jack Meahl fights for the ball.
The regional champions pose with their hardware.
2000 Western D semifinals
Waynflete 2 Monmouth Academy 0
1998 Western D semifinals
Monmouth Academy 5 Waynflete 1
1997 Western D semifinals
Monmouth Academy 1 Waynflete 0
1996 Western D Final
Monmouth Academy 2 Waynflete 1