Lions have bite, remain unbeaten with boys soccer win over PanthersBAHS explodes offensively versus visiting Medomak Valley for sixth win
Belfast — In the second half of Belfast's Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B high school boys soccer game against Medomak Valley on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 19, Lion senior Yanni Rakis lined up for a direct kick from about 30 yards away from the goal that sailed over the net and doinked off the upright of the football goal post behind the soccer goal.
Rakis turned and put both arms in the air signifying a made field goal, while chucking with his teammates, and jogged down the field.
In short, the high-flying Lions are having fun this season. And their play on the field, to the midway point of the campaign, certainly shows it.
Belfast scored five unanswered goals against the Panthers Wednesday and roared to a 6-1 win on Bryant Field. The Lions are 6-0-1 on the year and one of a few teams in Eastern Class B unbeaten at the midway point of the season, a first for the BAHS boys soccer program.
"We've really played well," said first-year Belfast coach Kevin Coombs. "We had a great preseason, we played [summer league] down in southern Maine and it was a great experience for us and we played against a lot of top-level teams down there. We've really done nothing but win since we played Cheverus [in the summer] and that's attributed to the kids' desire. They play hard and they train very hard."
The Lions have only one playoff win in the program's history, which came in 1994. The Lions were the No. 6 seed and knocked off No. 3 Ellsworth in the quarterfinals before falling to No. 7 Mount Desert Island in the semifinal round. Coombs was a senior on that year's squad.
Rakis had a hat trick and added an assist Wednesday against the Panthers to give him nine goals through seven games.
"Yanni's such a dynamic player," coach Coombs said. "He looks to pass first and shoot second, but he can also score. He's so good on his feet, he's very well-balanced and he's got impressive vision. He makes everyone around him better."
Rakis demands a lot of attention for defenses, which opens opportunities for teammates such as David Flood, Jake Levangie-Thompson, Ryan Rice and Tyler Baker, the latter of whom has spent a great deal of time in goal for the Lions the past few seasons.
Also contributing to the potent Belfast attack on Wednesday were Christian Williams (goal), Baker (goal, assist), Gabe Alex (goal), Tyler Martin (assist) and Jack Schnetzer (assist).
For Medomak Valley, Jonathan Hendrickson-Belloguet had the lone tally.
Tremmil Groene made nine saves in goal for the Lions, while Ryan Ripley, who was busy all afternoon, made 26 stops in net for the Panthers.
Belfast outshot Medomak Valley 32-15 and held a 4-3 edge in corner kicks.
"We came out flat today," said Medomak Valley coach Brian Campbell. "We said we need to match their intensity right from the start [and] make sure we win the 50/50 balls, and that's just something we didn't do early. They were beating us to the ball, and they've got some talented kids and they move the ball well."
Belfast jumped to a 2-0 lead early with goals from Williams and Rakis before Hendrickson-Belloguet got the Panthers on the board, taking advantage of a deep punt by Ripley that bounded through the Lion defense.
However, the Lions got that goal back quickly when Baker fired in a ball kicked from just outside the 18-yard line with 5:27 remaining to put the hosts back up by two goals.
The Lions extended their lead to 4-1 after one of their players was taken down in the box, which resulted in Rakis buring a penalty kick with 35:44 remaining. Rakis then popped in a well-placed ball on a free kick with 12:42 left — eluding a four-player Panther wall and threading it between Ripley and the left post — to put the game out of reach.
Alex then added the final tally with 53 seconds left to round out the scoring.
With the first half of the season now in the rear view mirror, the Lions must look forward, and the road only becomes more difficult with two games against Waldo County-rival Mount View of Thorndike, as well as games against Maranacook of Readfield, Lincoln Academy of Newcastle, Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston and Camden Hills, last year's regional champion.
"There's a lot of [Heal] Points still out there in the second half of our season," said Coombs. "That's what I've said to the boys all along. We've played some very tough teams and we've played well against them, but we have tougher teams still to face."
"We've got our work cut out for us. It's been a great first half [of the season], but we've got to finish it out," the coach said.
In the Maine Principals' Association Heal Point Standings for Eastern Class B, Belfast (6-0-1, 21.4286 points) is fourth, while Winslow (5-0-2, 30.1786 points) is first in the 18-team region. The top 12 teams qualify for the playoffs.
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.