OAKLAND — For all intents and purposes, the Medomak Valley and Gardiner boys soccer teams are as even as two high school pitch squads come, as the foes split 2-1 decisions in the regular season.

And for 75 minutes on Tuesday, Oct. 26 at Messalonskee High School, the No. 6 Panthers and No. 3 Tigers again were as equal as opponents could be as the sides churned out goose eggs on the scoreboard.

Medomak Valley’s Jake Bickmore, left. Photo by Mark Haskell

In the end, the Class B South quarterfinal playoff game was decided on a Tiger corner kick with 4:46 to go, which was all the higher seed needed en route to a hard-fought, 2-0 victory over the Panthers.

The game originally was scheduled to be played at Gardiner High School, but was moved to the turf field at Messalonskee High School given the steady rain that pounded the state in recent days.

Medomak Valley’s Mohamedi Ngido. Photo by Mark Haskell

Ironically, any bad weather held off throughout the 90-minute affair as it misted through most of the first half, before the second half cleared with little to no rain.

“We tend to play pretty well on the turf,” said Panther coach Brian Campbell. “It was a battle back and forth and I was really happy with how we played.”

With the win, Gardiner (12-4-1) advanced to the Class B South semifinals, where it lost to No. 7 Cape Elizabeth 3-0, while Medomak Valley, which defeated No. 11 Fryeburg Academy 1-0 in the prelims, saw its season end at 13-3, with two of its three losses on the campaign coming at the hands — or paws — of the Tigers.

Medomak Valley goalie Eli Plueker slides to make a save while being surrounded — and leapt over by Gardiner’s Sam Rizzo. Panthers Jaiden Starr and Patrick McKenney are at left and right. Photo by Mark Haskell

Casey Paul had the game-winning goal, while Cam Rizzo added an insurance goal moments later for Gardiner.

Medomak Valley held a 20-12 edge in shots, while the teams attempted six corner kicks.

Eli Pluecker made nine saves in net for the Panthers, including a leaping stop of a Braden Derogi direct kick on a ball scorched to the high upper 90 with 13:30 to play.

Medomak Valley’s Isaac Swain. Photo by Mark Haskell

“We threw him right out there at the beginning of this year and just said, ‘Let’s go, we have confidence in you,’ ” said Campbell of his keeper. “He’s super agile, he moves left and right and he’s grown so much during the season. He loves being the keeper and he’s very good at it and I’ve got high expectations for him in the next couple years for us.”

Sean Doyle made seven saves in net for the Tigers.

The game was sensational from the onset as the Tigers doubled down defensively on speedy Panther forward Mohamedi Ngido, who still managed to get a few quality looks on frame, including a breakaway that went just over the crossbar with about 12 minutes left in the first half.

Addison Mellor also had a few quality looks from just outside the 18-yard line, but could not get much separation from his defenders and those shots settled quickly into Doyle’s hands on most occasions.

“Knowing that Mo and Addy are heavily-marked, we want to make sure we support and run off of them so they can get a quick two-touch and move the ball up,” Campbell said. “That was our plan today.”

The defenses bent, but did not break for the majority of the contest, until a Panther infraction led to a Tiger throw-in, which promptly deflected off a Panther defender and resulted in a Gardiner corner kick with about five minutes to play.

The ball was booted into the short side of the goalmouth by Dylan Staples and pinballed between players, before it settled on the foot of Paul, who touched it into the net amid the scrum with 4:46 to play.

Seventy-five seconds later, the Tigers doubled their lead when a Panther pass was intercepted in the midfield by Rizzo, who outworked three closing Panther defenders and, falling to the turf, chipped a ball around the trio and to the far post past Pluecker with 3:31 to go.

“At that point we knew, ‘Hey we’ve got to stick a ball in the net’ and we were being a little more offensive-minded [in the midfield],” said Campbell. “But Gardiner’s a hard-working team.”

The veteran coach said he was proud of the his team’s effort not just Tuesday, but from start to finish of the 2021 campaign.

“We played good soccer all season long,” he said. “I hate to lose some of these seniors that I have. They’ve been in the program for a long time. But we have a lot of good, young talent coming up too.”