With junior Askar Houssein leading the procession and classmate Ian McClure-Chute holding the prize, Waynflete celebrates its 3-1 victory over Fort Kent in Saturday’s Class C state final. The Flyers won their first championship since 2011.
Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal photos.
More photos below.
HAMPDEN—The 2018 Waynflete Flyers now belong to the ages.
And rest assured, the 2018 Waynflete Flyers won’t soon be forgotten.
Saturday afternoon, in the rain at Hampden Academy, the Flyers got pushed and pushed hard by the Fort Kent Warriors in Class C boys’ soccer state championship game, but Waynflete rose off the deck, scored three beautiful goals and got key contributions from everyone who took the field as it finished undefeated for just the second time in program history.
The Flyers, who didn’t surrender a goal and never trailed during their regional playoff run, were staggered by Fort Kent in the fourth minute, when senior Kayden Nadeau finished a feed from sophomore Noah Martin for a stunning 1-0 lead.
But Waynflete had come too far to simply come this far and in the 15th minute, off a corner kick, sophomore Patty Shaw found the head of junior Askar Houssein, who finished to tie the score.
The go-ahead goal was a thing of beauty, as in the 31st minute, junior Oliver Burdick buried a 35-yard blast to make it 2-1 Flyers at halftime.
Then, with 32:18 remaining, Shaw matched Burdick with a long rocket of his own for some breathing room.
The Warriors tried to answer, but twice, Flyers junior goalkeeper extraordinaire Luca Antolini dove to deny promising bids and Waynflete was able to close out its 3-1 triumph.
The Fabulous Flyers finished their season a sensational 15-0-3, ended Fort Kent’s campaign at 14-3-1, won a Gold Ball for the first time since 2011, for the second time in Class C and for the fifth time overall.
“When you take into consideration our schedule, not losing a game and beating a good team here, it’s hard not to say this isn’t our best (team),” said longtime Flyers coach Brandon Salway. “We’ve had some good teams, but this was our best season.”
Waynflete put an exceptional product on the field this fall.
Not only did the Flyers go undefeated in the regular season for the first time since going 9-0 in Class D in 1993, they beat or tied some of the state’s finest teams, including four-time Class B champion Yarmouth, Class B South finalist Cape Elizabeth, perennial contender York and longtime rival North Yarmouth Academy, the eventual Class D champion (see sidebar, below, for links to previous stories).
As the top seed in Class C South, Waynflete didn’t allow a goal in ousting No. 9 Sacopee Valley (4-0) in the quarterfinals, fourth-ranked Mt. Abram (2-0) in the semifinals and No. 3 Maranacook, the defending state champion (1-0), in Wednesday’s regional final.
As for Fort Kent, it went 11-2-1 in the regular season, earned the top seed in Class C North, then defeated No. 8 Dexter (9-1), fourth-ranked Sumner (4-1) and No. 2 Orono (2-1) to advance to the state game for the second year in a row (the Warriors lost, 1-0, to Maranacook in 2017).
Fort Kent entered the contest 1-7 in state finals, while Waynflete was 4-6.
The Warriors were seeking their first championship since 2010, while the Flyers aimed to end a seven-year drought.
Conditions were far from ideal Saturday afternoon (48 degrees at kickoff with sporadic rain falling), but the ending was a thing of beauty for Waynflete.
Fort Kent staggered the Flyers early as after Waynflete senior Miles Lipton headed out a long free kick, the Warriors got the ball back and Martin sent a through-ball to Nadeau, who got to it a split second before Antolini and flicked it over the keeper and into the net for a stunning 1-0 lead just 3 minutes, 36 seconds in.
“I think we were getting used to the wet turf and we weren’t used to those conditions,” Antolini said. “We had to put it behind us.”
“I told the guys it’s just another game and we tried to handle the goal as such,” said senior back and captain Miles Lipton. “We didn’t come out as hard as they did. We needed to bounce back with energy and we did that.”
After surrendering its first goal of the postseason and falling behind for the first time in weeks, the Flyers settled down and eventually wrested control back.
After Houssein had a shot saved by Pelletier, Shaw sent the ball to junior Diraige Dahia, who headed it just wide and Pelletier beat Shaw to a pass from senior Thorne Kieffer, Houssein took a pass from junior Ian McClure-Chute and with Pelletier out of the cage, had his shot deflected just wide.
Waynflete earned a corner kick, however, and took advantage, as Shaw served the ball in front and Houssein leaped and headed the ball past Pelletier and into the net to tie it, 1-1, with 25:34 to go in the half.
“Brandon always tells me when we practice headers that I have to get up and score,” Houssein said. “I knew I could get it. Everyone at that point knew it was our time.”
Just like that, the Flyers had momentum.
“We tried to not think about the score,” Burdick said. “We knew we could come back. That gave us a huge boost. When (Askar) scored, I knew we’d take control of the game.”
“To get a goal back that quickly was amazing,” Antolini said.
“Askar’s goal was really important,” Salway added. “We hadn’t been behind in awhile, but it’s wasn’t the first time. Other teams wouldn’t have stepped up, but for us to answer was really important. It was a great answer and not surprising at all.”
After Shaw and sophomore Ben Adey each missed wide, Nadeau missed on a chance to put the Warriors back on top.
Then, with 9:44 remaining in the half, Burdick scored the goal of his young life to give the Flyers the lead.
Burdick got the ball about 35 yards out and unleashed a rocket that soared over the outstretched hands over Pelletier and into the net for a 2-1 advantage.
“I had the space and I usually pass it, but they gave me so much time and I had to get a shot off,” Burdick said. “I won’t call it luck, but it didn’t go where I thought. It came off my foot really well and it was just relief when it went in.”
“After Askar’s goal, we got our energy and flow back and Oliver’s goal gave us energy to keep firing,” said Shaw.
“That (first Fort Kent goal) made us nervous, but to get that goal from Askar was really great, then Oliver had that amazing shot to turn it around,” said Kieffer, a captain, who returned from injury to play in this game.
“Oliver’s goal allowed us to relax a little bit,” Salway added.
With 2:37 left, Waynflete nearly scored again, but senior Burr Rhoads’ header off a pass from McClure-Chute went wide.
In the first 40 minutes, the Flyers had a 5-3 edge in shots.
Just 30 seconds into the second half, Waynflete looked to extend its lead, but on a feed from Houssein, Shaw slid and kicked the ball just wide.
After the Warriors tried to pull even, only to see Martin shoot wide and Martin have a free kick headed out of harm’s way by Lipton.
Then, with 32:18 to go, Shaw came up with a sensational strike of his own, as got a loose ball and blasted a shot in from 30 yards out, beating a leaping Pelletier into the far corner for a 3-1 advantage.
“I was in the corner and I went to cross it to Askar and the ball came back out and I saw an opening in the goal and I figured I would take another shot,” Shaw said. “When it hit the net, I knew I hit it well. Every emotion was going through me. It’s an amazing feeling.”
“Those two (long goals) were beautiful shots,” Houssein said. “Oliver has a cannon and Patty is a great player.”
“Those two were astounding goals,” said Antolini. “To watch the ball go in from that distance, I couldn’t believe it.”
“We had a couple of magnificent goals,” Salway added. “It’s not shocking though. We’ve been so close on some similar shots.”
The Warriors refused to go quietly, as they earned consecutive corner kicks and on the second, junior Eden Paradis headed the ball wide to Plourde, who also missed wide.
With 22:25 left, Waynflete junior Ian McClure-Chute headed away a Martin free kick, setting up another corner kick, which the Flyers cleared.
With 16:07 to play, Antolini denied a low shot from senior Caleb Delisle.
Antolini then made a stellar diving save to rob Plourde with 14:48 on the clock, getting a hand on the deflected shot and knocking the ball out for a corner kick.
With 11:19 to go, Antolini robbed Plourde again, diving and punching the ball out for a corner kick which didn’t result in a shot.
“I just don’t want the ball to go in the net,” Antolini said. “(Diving is) just a reaction, I don’t think about it. I can’t say it feels as good as (scoring) a goal, but it’s comparable.”
“Luca is so essential to the team,” Shaw said. “He brings everyone up. He’s a great keeper.”
“Like (the regional final), we had to defend too much in the second half, but when you have a two-goal lead, you go in a shell a little bit,” Salway said. “Luca was huge. Who knows what might have happened if it got to 3-2? I feel like he’ll come up big if he has to.”
Fort Kent didn’t get another good chance and at 2:11 p.m., a seven-year drought came to a close and Waynflete celebrated its 3-1 victory.
“I feel like we deserved it,” Antolini said. “We’ve worked so hard to go undefeated. This means so much to us, especially the seniors, who are so talented.”
“It feels great,” Burdick said. “We had the undefeated season and we just had to finish it out. We knew we could do it. We’re happy we were able to win it. We stayed in it the whole game.”
“There was never panic,” Houssein said. “We’ve had tough games all season. Against a great team like this, we responded very well. In the summer seeing how hard everyone was working, we knew we could accomplish a lot. I’m so happy.”
“It’s a dream come true,” Shaw said. “It’s my first year (on the team) and we all put in so much work all year. I didn’t know what to expect. Halfway through the season, I knew we had so much talent and I had a feeling we could win. In my head, I was thinking maybe we could lose (when they scored), but we came back with great intensity.”
“Fort Kent was a tough opponent and should be proud of their season,” Salway added. “I knew we’d be really good this year. I asked for a tougher schedule than the original schedule we’d been given. We got through battle after battle without losing and got the top seed. The guys enjoy the game, they’re smart with high soccer IQs and they like each other. That made it really easy for me.”
The win meant a little more to those playing in their final game in a Waynflete uniform.
“It’s different being a senior and being a captain,”said Lipton, who led the Flyers’ boys’ lacrosse team to a state championship back in June. “It feels like I had a bigger hand in it this time. It’s really cool and I’m grateful I got to play with these guys. We won, but I’m sad it’s over because they’re such great teammates.”
“It felt very nice to get back and play,” said Kieffer. “I’d been out three-and-a-half-weeks with my knee and I got the OK. I worked four years for this. I was on the team freshman year when we lost. It’s great to win it now. It’s surreal.”
Waynflete finished with a 9-7 shots advantage and got six saves from Antolini.
Fort Kent took six corner kicks to the Flyers’ two and got six saves from Pelletier, but fell short.
Waynflete has gone back-to-back just once in program history, taking Class D in 2001 and 2002.
The Flyers will certainly miss departing seniors Kieffer, Lipton, Rhoads, Isaaq Bashir, Mykel Henry, Ben Lualdi and Chris Register.
“Thorne being able to play today was terrific,” Salway said. “Burr has been banged up and he really stepped up. Miles is a terrific leader and led us in the back. Mykel and Chris, guys who were hurt, were so positive and knew their roles. You go as your seniors go, not always by their playing but their attitudes and how they help the team. It was fun. I really enjoyed this group. I’m happy for them.”
With all three state game goal scorers, along with Antolini, and several other top talents returning, Waynflete will boast an 18-game unbeaten streak and might be the favorite when the 2019 campaign kicks off.
“Our goal next year is to do it again and stay unbeaten,” Houssein said.
“We want to stay unbeaten and be a Yarmouth-type team (and win multiple championships),” Burdick said.
“I’m hoping next year’s team has the same intensity and we come out firing,” Shaw said.
“I think we could be really good again next year,” Salway added. “Next year’s group will have a challenge to have a similar season. It should be fun again.”
Waynflete junior Diraige Dahia heads the ball away from Fort Kent senior Alex Sutherland.
Waynflete sophomore Ben Adey has the ball knocked away by Fort Kent sophomore Noah Martin.
Waynflete junior Oliver Burdick gets the worst of this collision with Fort Kent senior Austin Plourde, but Burdick had the last laugh, scoring the go-ahead goal.
Waynflete senior Ben Lualdi and Fort Kent freshman Austin Delisle fight for the ball.
Waynflete sophomore Patty Shaw celebrates after his second half goal puts the Flyers ahead, 3-1.
Waynflete celebrates at the final horn.
Washington Academy 1 Waynflete 0 (OT)
Waynflete 2 Houlton 1 (2 OT)
Washington Academy 1 Waynflete 0
Van Buren 2 Waynflete 1
Machias 2 Waynflete 0
Waynflete 1 Van Buren 0
Waynflete 3 Van Buren 1
Waynflete 2 Ashland 1
Jonesport-Beals 3 Waynflete 1
Machias 1 Waynflete 0
Maranacook 1 Fort Kent 0
Fort Kent 2 North Yarmouth Academy 1
St. Dom’s 4 Fort Kent 1
Gorham 5 Fort Kent 1
Gorham 5 Fort Kent 3
Scarborough 1 Fort Kent 0
Gorham 3 Fort Kent 2
Gorham 1 Fort Kent 1 (Gorham won on an 11-1 corner kicks advantage)