PORTLAND—The third time wasn’t anything close to a charm for the North Yarmouth Academy boys’ soccer team when it visited defending Class C state champion Waynflete in a Western Class C quarterfinal.
Instead, the game served as Exhibit A why the Flyers, who shut out the Panthers in both regular season meetings, have to be considered the odds on favorite to repeat.
It took third-ranked Waynflete just over five minutes to break the ice and the goals kept coming from there as the sixth-seeded Panthers had no answers. By halftime, the Flyers had a commanding 5-0 edge and they went on to a stunning (in its decisiveness) 7-1 triumph, thanks to amazing balance, namely seven different goal scorers.
Waynflete improved to 11-2-2, swept the season series from its rival, ended NYA’s season at 8-6-1 and advanced to meet St. Dom’s in a semifinal round contest Saturday at 2 p.m. in Auburn.
“The kids did a great job of finishing today,” said Flyers coach Brandon Salway. “That’s been missing. We haven’t been too concerned with the 18 to 18, but we worked on finishing and it paid off today.”
Waynflete stumbled just twice in the regular season, at Class D power Richmond and at home to Western A contender Greely. The Flyers also settled for ties against Gray-New Gloucester (a Class B playoff team) and Western A power Cape Elizabeth, but handled every other test en route to earning the No. 3 seed in Western C.
NYA was up and down, but once again produced a winning record and wound up sixth.
NYA came into Wednesday’s contest shorthanded, but hoped to keep the game close and perhaps spring an upset late, but Waynflete never left a shred of doubt.
The Flyers set the tone just 69 seconds in when senior Peabo Knoth sent a perfect cross to senior Jack Cutler, who just couldn’t direct the ball on goal.
Three minutes later, senior Mohammed Suja eluded three defenders before finally being stopped before he could shoot.
Then, with 34:45 to go in the first half, Waynflete got the jump as senior Paul Runyambo threw the ball in from the side into the box, where Suja leaped and flicked a header past Panthers freshman goalkeeper Cam Spear and into the net.
“Whenever there’s a big throw, Paul tells me to get in there and try to flick it in,” Suja said. “We’ve practiced finishing all week. That’s all we’ve done. I guess it paid off.”
Two minutes later, Knoth was taken down in the box and Waynflete earned a penalty kick and a chance to double its lead.
Instead, Spear made a phenomenal save, diving to his left to deny Runyambo’s bid and for a fleeting moment it appeared NYA had a little momentum.
“Cam is going to be a top class goalie, but it’s very difficult as a freshman to play against physical players,” said Panthers coach Martyn Keen. “His PK save was tremendous. He’s got great athleticism.”
“That could have been a pivotal point in the game,” said Salway. “Their keeper made a really nice save.”
Instead of turning momentum, the save just delayed the inevitable as with 30:05 left in the half, sophomore Clancy Mitchell scored on a rebound after Spear couldn’t handle Runyambo’s throw in.
NYA’s first chance came in the 12th minute when junior Forrest Chicoine shot just wide.
Goal number three came with 15:51 left in the half when junior Henry Cleaves’ throw in was tipped by Spear, but the ball sat loose for sophomore Elyse Bayizere to ram home.
It took only 23 seconds for the Flyers to make it 4-0 as Cleaves followed his own shot, which was saved, and tucked it home.
The shellshocked Panthers looked to get a goal back before halftime, but a bid from dangerous sophomore D.J. Nicholas from the top of the box was saved by Waynflete senior goalkeeper Zander Majercik and after senior Aidan McLaughlin sent a cross to freshman Colby Bate, Bate’s redirect was handled as well by Majercik.
Waynflete then transitioned on a long punt from Majercik and with 6:32 showing, went up 5-0, thanks to a tremendous individual effort by Knoth, one of the state’s elite players. Knoth fought his way through three NYA defenders and finished, getting in the scoring column, while registering an assist for his keeper in the process.
At halftime, even though the Flyers were in no danger of losing the game, Salway insisted they keep their intensity high.
“We talked about finishing and playing 80 minutes no matter what the score was because you can get in bad habits,” said Salway. “We talked about continuing to play hard.”
Waynflete did that and a minute after Majercik made a leaping save of a Nicholas header at one end, Knoth set up senior Kevin Kanakan for a goal and a 6-0 lead with 31:27 remaining in regulation. That play saw Knoth put his dribbling skills on display, draw a pair of defenders, then pass to a wide open Kanakan on the left wing, who shot past Spear.
“Teams focus on Peabo, but we have so many offensive threats,” said Suja.
“The kids do a good job of moving the ball around and are pretty unselfish,” Salway said. “Peabo really made a great pass to (Kevin).”
After Flyers junior Carter Burrowes was robbed point blank by Spear and Burrowes was denied again, this time by a diving Spear, NYA finally got on the board with 18:18 left when senior Jacob Scammon took a pass in the box, momentarily hesitated to settle the ball, then shot past Majercik to make it 6-1.
Mitchell made a bid for his second goal at the 15:26 mark, but his 25-yard rocket hit the crossbar. Two minutes later, Mitchell had another good bid, but Spear made a kick save.
Then, with 3:59 to play, Flyers freshman Abel Alemayo got to a bouncer in the box and headed it into the goal to account for the 7-1 final score.
“I didn’t think it would be that tough to beat (NYA) three times,” said Suja. “The second time was their chance to win, but we should have beaten them by a lot more. We got excited playing in front of a big crowd.”
“We weren’t expecting this result with NYA,” Salway said. “It always seems like we meet each other eventually. They had a great season. We gave up one goal to them in three games, so that bodes well for us. I was most happy with our composure finishing today. Most of the season we tried to blast it, but today we put balls in the back of the net. That’s what you’ve got to do.”
NYA wasn’t eliminated feeling the sting of a close loss. This time, the Panthers simply got manhandled and could only pay tribute to the Flyers.
“(Waynflete’s) a quality team,” said Keen. “They’ve got depth and talent all through. Waynflete’s better than us this year, but it’s cyclical. They beat us fair and square today and earlier in the season. This was our thinnest year since I’ve started to coaching. To lose as many players as we did made it tough. They’re a wonderful group of kids. I have no complaints. The boys played well. I believe if we played one of the lower seeds from the (Mountain Valley Conference) in this round, we would have been all set. That’s the way the standings ended up.”
NYA will graduate several seniors, but also returns many of its key players, suggesting it will be right back in the hunt in 2013.
“I like what we have coming back,” said Keen. “I think it will be a very good matchup (with Waynflete) next year.”
Waynflete doesn’t play St. Dom’s in the regular season, but the Saints used to be part of the Western Maine Conference, so the teams have a history, meeting in the 1987 quarterfinals (a 7-0 Saints’ triumph), 1988 quarterfinals (9-0 St. Dom’s), 2005 quarterfinals (2-1 Saints), 2008 regional final (a 2-1 Flyers’ victory after winning in penalty kicks, 8-6) and 2010 semifinals (a 1-0 Waynflete triumph).
Waynflete has to St. Dom’s as the lower seed and play its first postseason road game since 2010, but the Flyers are ready for the test.
“It’s just one step, but we’ve got more to do,” said Suja. “I think if we play how we’re capable, there’s no one who can beat us.”
“We’ve seen them play and they’re a really good team,” Salway said. “We’ll have to bring our ‘A’ game and finish as well there as we did today. Hopefully we can build off this one.”
NYA senior Eliott Wellenbach and Waynflete senior Jack Cutler watch as Panthers freshman goalkeeper Camden Spear lunges for a loose ball.
Waynflete freshman Aaron Lee tries to hold dangerous NYA sophomore D.J. Nicholas in check.
NYA junior Jackson Cohan-Smith goes up over Waynflete sophomore Harry Baker-Connick to get to the ball.
Waynflete senior Jack Cutler fights with NYA seniors Eliott Wellenbach and Aidan McLaughlin for a loose ball.
Waynflete senior Mohammed Suja plays the ball ahead, out of the path of NYA freshman Colby Bate. Suja began the onslaught with a first half goal.
Waynflete senior standout Peabo Knoth shows off his foot skills, while NYA senior Dean Walters tries to hold him at bay.
The Waynflete boys’ soccer (along with its vocal cheering section) had plenty to celebrate Wednesday as the Flyers dominated rival North Yarmouth Academy, 7-1, in a Western Class C quarterfinal.
More photos below.