Waynflete holds off defending champ Maranacook to win regional title

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Waynflete junior Askar Houssein, left, senior Ben Lualdi and junior Ian McClure-Chute exult after the Flyers hold off Maranacook, 1-0, in Wednesday’s Class C South boys’ soccer final. Waynflete will battle Fort Kent in Saturday’s state final.

Gregory Rec / Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—One goal scored, in conjunction with one mighty strong defense, means that the Waynflete boys’ soccer team is just one win away from the biggest prize of them all.

Wednesday afternoon, at Deering High School’s Memorial Field, the top-ranked Flyers welcomed No. 3 Maranacook, the defending state champion in the Class C South Final and as expected, there wasn’t much margin between the teams.

But as it has done all autumn, Waynflete did what it had to do to prevail.

Just 4 minutes, 57 seconds into the contest, junior standout Askar Houssein finished a shot from classmate Diraige Dahia and the Flyers had a 1-0 lead.

They wouldn’t score again, but they didn’t have to.

While the Black Bears had the balance of possession and kept Waynflete on its toes, the Flyers’ fine defensive unit and junior goalkeeper Luca Antolini never let them tie it up and Waynflete held on for a 1-0 victory.

The Flyers improved to 14-0-3, won their 11th regional championship, ended Maranacook’s season at 14-3 and advanced to battle Northern champion Fort Kent (14-2-1) Saturday at 12:30 p.m., in Hampden with a Gold Ball on the line.

“This has been an unbelievable group to work with,” said longtime Waynflete coach Brandon Salway. “They’ve met every challenge and they get one more.”

Biggest test

Waynflete enjoyed its undefeated regular season since 1993, earned the top seed in Class C South for the first time and as the top seed in the region, had no trouble blanking No. 9 Sacopee Valley, 4-0, in the quarterfinal round, then shut out No. 4 Mt. Abram, 2-0, in the semifinals (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories).

Maranacook started 9-0, lost by a goal to both Gardiner and defending Class A champion Lewiston, then won its final three contests to earn the No. 3 seed in the region. The Black Bears blanked No. 6 Winthrop, 4-0, in the quarterfinals, then held off second-ranked Hall-Dale in penalty kicks in the semifinals. 

The teams don’t play in the regular season. Maranacook won both prior playoff meetings, including a 2-1 overtime triumph in last year’s semifinals the most recent (see sidebar, below, for previous results).

This time around, the teams met on the Deering High turf on a chilly (45-degree) and breezy afternoon and with both teams playing at a high level, there wasn’t much separation.

But ultimately, the Flyers proved to be one goal better.

The first good chance led to the only goal.

Sophomore Pat Shaw got things started by serving the ball in. A Maranacook defender got his head on it, but the ball deflected to junior Oliver Burdick, who passed to his right to Dahia, who managed to elude Black Bears senior goalkeeper Ryan Worster and sent a shot across the crease. The ball may have gone in by itself, but Houssein made sure his team took the lead by tapping it in for a 1-0 lead with 35:03 to play in the first half.

“That was a big goal,” Houssein said. “Brandon has preached all year to get that first goal, that’s what matters most. Diraige took a shot. I thought one of their defenders would tip it out, so I ran in and made sure it went in.”

“Askar finished one off and that’s all it took,” Salway said. “He’s consistently done that. Pat made a very creative move, which he’s been terrific at, and Askar did a nice job following up the play and not waiting and reacting. He anticipated where it was going. We’ve talked all year about finishing off plays.”

Waynflete nearly doubled its lead in the seventh minute, but Dahia couldn’t quite get his foot on a cross from sophomore Ben Adey.

Maranacook’s first shot on frame came in the 11th minute, but a low blast from senior Aric Belanger was saved by Antolini.

With 17:11 to go in the first half, a serve from junior Brady Stockwell to senior Mitchell Root was snared by Antolini in the nick of time.

A minute later, a header by senior Richard Down was headed away by a Flyers defender to Belanger, who sent a left-footed shot just wide.

With 11:39 remaining in the half, a cross from Maranacook senior Gabriel Jones was headed away by Waynflete sophomore back Harry Millspaugh. 

Three minutes later, a long shot from senior Bryce Trefethen was saved by Antolini and with 5:05 to go before halftime, a free kick from junior Coleman Watson was headed out of harm’s way by Millspaugh to keep Waynflete on top at the break, 1-0.

The Flyers had a 3-2 edge in shots on frame in the first 40 minutes.

Waynflete started the second half by pressing for a second goal, but a left-footed blast from junior Ian McClure-Chute sailed just wide and Houssein missed wide.

With 36:25 remaining in regulation, a left-footed shot from Trefethen had promise, but sophomore back Aidan Kieffer headed it away.

Two minutes later, Waynflete continued to frustrate the Black Bears, as Millspaugh blocked a shot from Jones.

“Our defense is great at limiting teams to very few shots,” Antolini said. “When they get them, they make sure they’re far out, or from a bad angle, so I have a chance at them. Our defense has been phenomenal all year. I’m very happy with how our defense plays. We have four solid guys and our midfielders can stop the ball too.”

An ensuing Black Bears’ corner kick landed in the box and was batted around before Antolini could corral it.

With 31:31 to play, the Flyers nearly got some breathing room, as off a Millspaugh free kick, Houssein fed the ball in front for Dahia, but Worster beat him to the ball by a split second.

Maranacook then went back on the attack, as a low shot from Root was saved by Antolini and Belanger missed wide.

With 15:05 remaining, Belanger passed to Trefethen for a header, but Antolini was able to make the save with ease.

With 12:47 on the clock, Watson had a shot that Antolini caught a split second before Root arrived.

With 10:49 to go, Trefethen one-timed a shot in the box, but it sailed well over the crossbar.

With 5:36 remaining, a long shot by Belanger was corralled by Antolini.

The Black Bears’ final chance came with 31.8 seconds to go, but it came from 40-yards out, off the foot of senior Garrett Whitten, and Antolini had no trouble making his final save.

Waynflete’s defense slammed the door from there and the Flyers celebrated their hard-fought 1-0 victory.

“This is the third time we’ve played (Maranacook) in the playoffs and the first time we’ve beaten them,” Salway said. “It’s tough to lose close games, so it’s nice to be on the winning side this time.

“We had to defend a bit more than we wanted to, but sometimes when you score first, it’s good to be able to play from ahead. They were pressing hard. They’re tough to hold off. They’re a very, very good team. I thought the key was how solid we were in the air. They like to serve it in the air and let their big kids go after it, but our backs were really solid today. Defensively, we were terrific and if Luca can see, he’s going to make most of the saves. We just haven’t given up many goals. We were able to make 1-0 lead hold, but they presented a lot of challenges.

“We would have preferred to have been on our field. If anything, both teams got tired because it’s such a big field. Hopefully playing here today gives us an advantage going into Saturday.”

Maranacook had a 7-5 edge in shots, got five saves from Worster and took three corner kicks to Waynflete’s one, but Antolini’s seven saves proved to be a big difference.

Close enough to taste

Waynflete will make the trip north Saturday seeking its first Gold Ball since 2011.

In the Flyers’ last state game appearance, they dropped a painful 1-0 overtime decision to Washington Academy in 2015. Several players who were freshman on that team are seniors now.

Waynflete has no postseason history with Fort Kent, which edged Orono, 2-1, in its regional final Wednesday.

The Flyers know they have a chance to do something special and hope to land in the win column one final time.

“It feels good to be a regional champ,” Antolini said. “Some of the older boys on the team have gone through it. Every one of our starters but one is a non-senior. This is our first opportunity to play for our school. It’ll be great. I don’t think today was our best performance. We were on our heels a little bit. Going into Saturday, we’ll be confident and we’ll be on our toes.”

“We’re so grateful to play in a championship game,” Houssein said. “We just have to execute. We’ll practice for whatever comes. Brandon will get us ready. This is so much fun. The fans are really motivating.”

“I’ve heard (Fort Kent’s) really talented and they’re a big team,” Salway added. “We’ll have our work cut out again for us, but we extended the season as long as it could go. We’ll give it our best shot Saturday. Three years ago, that was a really tough loss. They seniors remember that. They didn’t play a lot, but it would nice to win it for this group and for the 2015 team as well.”

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

Waynflete junior Askar Houssein heads the ball away from Maranacook junior Coleman Watson.

Maranacook senior Aric Belanger boots the ball away from Waynflete sophomore Pat Shaw.

Waynflete junior Diraige Dahia can’t quite reach the ball before Maranacook senior goalkeeper Ryan Worster hauls it in.

Waynflete junior Askar Houssein and Maranacook senior Richard Down battle for possession.

Waynflete captains Miles Lipton, left, Luca Antolini and Thorne Kieffer receive the regional championship trophy.

Hoffer photo.

Waynflete celebrates after receiving the trophy.

Previous Waynflete stories

Season Preview

Waynflete 2 NYA 1 (OT)

Waynflete 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)

Waynflete 3 York 0

Waynflete 4 Sacopee Valley 0

Waynflete 2 Mt. Abram 0

Previous Waynflete-Mt. Abram playoff results

2017 Class C South semifinal
Maranacook 2 Waynflete 1 (2 OT)

2014 Western C semifinal
Marnaacook 4 Waynflete 1

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