PORTLAND—There are no style points in the boys’ soccer playoffs.
All that matters is survival.
Tuesday afternoon at Fore River Fields, second-ranked Waynflete was expected to have its way with No. 7 Carrabec in a Class C South quarterfinal, but instead, the Flyers were taken to the limit and then some and stared their postseason mortality in the face before summoning up every reserve of pride and heart to live to play another day.
Waynflete learned quickly it was in for a game when it couldn’t score in the first half and despite having some good chances in the second half, the Flyers couldn’t break through as the defensive-minded Cobras sent the contest to overtime.
After Waynflete senior Cullen Bollinger was robbed by Carrabec senior goalkeeper Trent Richardson in the first 15-minute overtime, Flyers senior goalie Milo Belleau kept his team’s season alive with a clutch save in the second and the game had to go to penalty kicks to be decided.
In the five-player PK round, the Cobras had two chances to close it out, but Belleau made two huge saves to allow his team to rally and stay alive.
In the second round of five kicks, Waynflete was twice on the brink of victory, but Carrabec made two kicks to extend the game even further.
Then, finally, in “sudden victory” PKs, the Flyers’ 11th kicker, senior Jack Weston, buried his shot and the Cobras sent a shot high ending the game, as Waynflete prevailed, 0-0 (6-5 on penalty kicks).
The Flyers improved to 12-2-1, ended the Cobras’ season at 9-6-1 and will host either No. 3 St. Dom’s (11-2-1) or No. 6 Sacopee Valley (7-6-1) in the semifinal round sometime this weekend, which will be played on a date and at a time to be announced.
“It was a little scary,” said Waynflete coach Brandon Salway. “The season is a lifetime and we were clinging to life support. We just survived. Hopefully we learn from this. Hopefully this wakes us up a little bit. It was disappointing on the scoreboard, but it’s all about winning and moving on. If we get where we want to go, maybe this is the springboard that gets us there.”
The senior-laden Flyers came in to the 2015 season knowing they had what it took to go all the way and for the most part, Waynflete rose to the challenge during the regular season (see sidebar, below, for story links). The Flyers did lose to Falmouth and North Yarmouth and Academy and tied Sacopee Valley, but beat everyone else, including defending Class B champion Yarmouth, to go 11-2-1 and earn the No. 2 seed in Class C South.
Carrabec wound up seventh after a 8-5-1 regular season. The Cobras knocked off No. 10 Mt. Abram, 4-1, in a preliminary round game Thursday.
The teams had only met once previously and it came a long, long time ago, in the 1985 Western C preliminary round, when the Flyers prevailed, 3-1.
Tuesday, on a pleasant late-October afternoon (the temperature was 51 at kickoff), Waynflete needed two-and-a-half-hours to find a way to prevail.
Carrabec announced it wasn’t just happy to be here when it got the game’s first shot, a good look no less, just 41 seconds in, but Belleau turned aside a bid from senior Nick Sansone.
The Flyers’ first good chance came in the 14th minute, but with Richardson out of the play, senior Aaron Lee’s flick went just wide.
After seniors Willy Burdick and Christian Kabongo shot high, Lee had a rush blocked, Weston had a low shot saved and senior Ahmed Mohamed and Lee had shots saved by Richardson.
As time expired in the first half, the Cobras almost broke through, but Sansone shot just high.
“Credit to Carrabec,” Salway said. “They played extremely well and defended extremely well. They outplayed us in the first half. We were really flat. We lacked intensity. I don’t know if it was rust.”
The frustration continued in the second half.
With 34:37 to play, Mohamed shot wide.
After Burdick shot wide on a free kick, Bollinger sent a through ball to Kabongo, but Richardson got there first.
With 14:16 left in regulation, Mohamed got through three defenders, then touched the ball a little too far ahead and Richardson scooped it up.
Down the stretch, Waynflete sophomore Christian Brooks had a shot saved, senior Tommy Silk had a shot in close blocked, sophomore Ilyas Abdi headed Silk’s feed just wide and Brooks fired a rising shot which required Richardson to make a leaping save.
Carrabec almost stole it in the final minute, but junior Cade Chipman’s header off a Sansone serve was saved by Belleau and it was on to overtime.
In the playoffs, teams play two 15-minute, “sudden victory” overtimes and if no one scores, it’s on to penalty kicks to decide a survivor.
And as the temperature dropped and darkness approached, that’s exactly how it would play out.
Early in overtime, Mohamed sent a shot just wide, Brooks’ through ball was cleared from the box, Weston and Brooks shot wide and an Abdi header resulted in a Richardson save.
The Flyers’ best chance came with 4:18 to go, when the ball ricocheted to Bollinger, who had a great look in front, but Richardson dove to knock the ball out and extend the game.
Waynflete couldn’t produce a shot on the ensuing corner kick and it was on to a second OT.
There, Carrabec ratcheted up the pressure and after earning a corner kick, junior Dustin Crawford headed a shot on frame which Belleau had to leap to tip out at the last second, keeping the Flyers alive.
Neither team had a great chance from there and it was on to penalty kicks.
In the 110 minutes of normal play, Waynflete had a 29-8 advantage in shots (12-4 on frame). Richardson made 12 saves, while Belleau stopped four shots. Both teams had three corner kicks.
In the PK phase, teams alternate five kickers trying to beat the goalie and after they finish, the side with the more successful conversions wins.
Unless they’re still tied, in which case five more shooters step to the line.
When Mohamed kicked the ball right to Richardson for an easy save and Sansone beat a diving Belleau to his right, the Cobras had the jump.
Burdick was then robbed by a diving Richardson and Carrabec senior Tyler Reichert made his shot for a 2-0 lead.
Weston kept hope alive and got Waynflete on the board with a low shot to Richardson’s right and Belleau saved Crawford’s shot, but Flyers senior Abel Alemayo was robbed by a diving Richardson, meaning if Chipman converted, the game would be over.
Belleau made sure that didn’t happen, making the save.
Brooks then had to convert to keep the game alive and did so, to Richardson’s left.
Junior Paul Kaplan then had a chance to end it, but he shot it right at Belleau, who turned the shot aside, sending the game to a second round of PKs.
“I just tried to get my team another chance, honestly,” said Belleau. “That’s all that went through my mind. I wasn’t nervous except for the fifth kick that could have ended it. I’m just looking for different signals and where they’re looking, then I give it my best shot. I felt confident against all of their PK takers.”
Starting the second PK round, senior Cooper Chap buried his shot and Waynflete had its first lead, but Cobras senior Brandon Dixon got his shot to hit the left post and deflect in to make it 3-3.
Abdi converted before Richardson had a shot saved by a leaping Belleau.
After Bollinger shot high, Carrabec sophomore Jacob Atwood shot low, but Belleau dove to make the save.
When Kabongo beat Richardson to the goalie’s left, the Flyers led, 5-3, and were on the brink of victory, but Cobras sophomore Dylan Willette made his kick and after Waynflete junior Jack Meahl missed with a chance to ice it, Carrabec sophomore Jackson Lawler Sidell extended the game as his shot was tipped by Belleau off the underside of the crossbar, but it fell across the line to make it 5-5.
The two coaches then had to select someone who had already shot for the “sudden victory” portion of the PKs.
Weston went first and launched a low shot to the right of the diving Richardson into the net.
“I was just doing my routine,” Weston said. “Brandon’s a really good coach and he just tells us to have a routine. He drills it into us. I felt like I had the routine down and I was comfortable. I struck it well.”
“He made his shot in the first round and made it confidently,” Salway said. “Confidence is important in that situation. It’s a really tough spot. We put a lot of time into penalty kicks the past month. We practiced it with Gorham Saturday (in a scrimmage) and you can’t replicate the pressure we faced here today.”
Sansone stepped to the line with a chance to tie and with Belleau cutting off as much of the goal as he could, Sansone shot high.
“I was a little more energized on that one knowing we had a chance to seal it,” Belleau said.
At 5:37 p.m., after 2 hours and 34 minutes of high stakes, high anxiety soccer, the Flyers had somehow found a way to win it, 0-0 (6-5 PKs).
“We fought for 110 minutes,” Weston said. “It’s exhausting to be out there so long. Honestly, we underestimated them. We weren’t ready today, but we got lucky. Milo bailed us out so many times.”
“We’re still alive,” Belleau said. “As much as teams want to count us, we’re still in it and we’ve put ourselves in a position to win and that’s what it comes down to. This has got to be the craziest game I’ve played in, scenario-wise. We needed another chance and we got several chances and it finally ended. Obviously there’s nothing better than winning a close one like this.”
Including PKs, Waynflete had 40 shots, while Carrabec took 19 (the Flyers had a 21-14 edge in shots on frame). Richardson made 15 saves, while Belleau finished with nine.
Every single one saved his team’s season.
“When we were down in the penalty kicks, I was saying to my assistant, ‘Milo just has to pick us up once and I feel like he will,'” Salway said. “(Milo’s) special. He’s a tremendous goalie and a tremendous competitor. He stepped up and made some saves and that put pressure on their other shooters.”
Friday, Waynflete figures to get a similarly tough test in the semifinals.
The Flyers don’t play St. Dom’s in the regular season, but the teams have squared off seven previous times in the playoffs. The Saints won the first three, but the Flyers have won the last four with a 3-0 shutout win in last year’s quarterfinals the most recent.
Waynflete beat visiting Sacopee Valley, 4-0, and settled for a 0-0 tie at the Hawks during the regular season. The teams’ lone prior playoff meeting came in the 2007 Western C preliminary round and ended in Sacopee Valley’s favor (1-1, 3-1 on PKs).
Regardless of who they play, the Flyers know they’ll need a much better effort next time out.
“Our thought of winning a state championship is still alive,” Belleau said. “I’m hoping that going through this will make us work hard in practice and we’ll come out with more energy early. I’d be very surprised if we came out again with a lack of energy.”
“We have to focus every day, every game,” Weston said. “We have to be better on the offensive side. We didn’t create enough chances or have enough opportunities.”
“We just have to be ready earlier next time,” Salway added.
Waynflete senior goalkeeper Milo Belleau is mobbed by his teammates after helping the Flyers survive Carrabec in penalty kicks in a Class C South quarterfinal marathon Tuesday afternoon.
Brian Beard photos.
Waynflete senior Ahmed Mohamed races up the field.
Waynflete senior Jack Weston, who later scored the winning PK, gets his head on the ball.
Waynflete senior Willy Burdick gets the ball away from a Carrabec attacker.
Waynflete senior Tommy Silk plays the ball off his chest.
Waynflete senior Christian Kabongo kicks the ball away from Carrabec junior Cade Chipman.
Waynflete senior goalkeeper Milo Belleau goes all out to make a save during the penalty kick phase of Tuesday’s win.
1985 Western C preliminary round
Waynflete 3 Carrabec 1