High school boys soccer

Searsport shuts down Vinalhaven-North Haven in prelim playoff battle

Visiting Vikings advance to play at Temple Academy in quarterfinals
By Mark Haskell | Oct 23, 2017
Courtesy of: Karen Oakes Searsport's Gabe Kneeland (24) and Vinalhaven-North Haven's Keaton Lear, right. along with others, during an Oct. 21 high school boys soccer match on Vinalhaven. The visitors bested the islanders 2-0 in a Class D South prelim playoff game.

Vinalhaven — Searsport coach John Frye said his boys soccer team is not the typical 11th seed — and his squad proved that in its Class D South prelim playoff game with No. 6 Vinalhaven-North Haven on Saturday, Oct. 21 nearly 16 miles out in Penobscot Bay.

Searsport’s Liam MacMillan tallied a goal in each half — while the visitors held the islanders to only two shots on the afternoon — and triumphed in the battle of the Vikings by a 2-0 score.

With the win, Searsport (4-8-3) will travel to face undefeated and No. 3 Temple Academy of Waterville (14-0) in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. The Vikings and Bereans do not play each other during the regular season.

The host islanders, who dressed only 15 players for Saturday's morning playoff game, saw its season conclude at 6-6-2.

Ben Powell made two saves on two shots in goal for Searsport, while Joe Hopkins made seven saves on nine shots in net for Vinalhaven-North Haven. The islanders also held a 4-2 edge in corner kicks.

“We thought we were capable of going there and pulling out a win,” said Frye. “We’ve been there a couple times before and come away with wins, but their field is short and we had to adjust our game to that because we like to go wide and short fields don’t help that. But after the first 10-15 minutes we started to develop our passing game and started passing around Vinalhaven and made them chase us.”

“I thought we played pretty well,” said Vinalhaven-North Haven’s Keaton Lear. "It was just a little difficult for us to get the ball in the goal. We had a couple of good chances, but we couldn’t finish.”

Lear, a junior wing, admitted Searsport was a tough prelim playoff draw for them.

“They’re actually a Class C school who are in our league,” said Lear. “The only other Class D school they play in the regular season is Islesboro, so that’s kind of why they were behind [us] in the standings.”

By Maine Principals' Association enrollment cutoff standards, Searsport is Class C in basketball, but Class D in fall and spring sports.

Searsport has an enrollment of 173 and Vinalhaven and North Haven combine for 83 (61 for Vinalhaven and 22 for North Haven). For Class D South soccer, Wiscasset, Searsport, Buckfield, Richmond and North Yarmouth Academy have enrollments of 140 or more, while each of the remaining 12 teams in the region have enrollments of 85 or fewer.

“The game started off pretty balanced for the first 20 minutes, but we couldn’t make those key passes and connect with the ball in front of the net that should have been goals,” said Vinalhaven-North Haven coach Richard Carlsen. “Their goals came from missed clears that we couldn’t wrap our feet around. I’m proud of the boys for how they played today.”

Carlsen also voiced frustration for having to play significantly larger schools and opponents — such as Searsport, which is Class C in some sports and Class D in others — while other schools that play in Class D in all sports struggle to have enough student-athletes to support their programs.

“I think it’s time that the MPA makes it fair for the smaller schools,” he said.

In Saturday's game, MacMillan’s first goal came with roughly 15 minutes to go in the first half, which saw him in the right place at the right time after a shot by Shawn Dakin clanged off the crossbar.

“The ball bounced straight down and the [Vinalhaven] goalie was out of place,” said Frye. “It bounced down right to Liam. It hadn’t completely crossed the line and Liam was right there to finish it up.”

MacMillan’s second score came, off an assist from David Estes, with about 27 minutes to play on a give-and-go between the duo.

“Liam juked the goalie, the goalie came out, he went to dive for it [and] he gave him a one-fake, went around him and scored,” said Frye.

Searsport has been outscored by opponents 31-17 this season. Frye said the Vikings have had trouble putting the ball in the net, though he hopes those troubles are behind them now that they are back to full strength.

Connor Kneeland, who has been out of athletic action after suffering an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury as a junior during basketball season, should be back for Wednesday’s quarterfinal game. He played sparingly Saturday and logged a few minutes in the team’s senior game against Islesboro on Oct. 10, but likely will see significant minutes on Wednesday.

MacMillan, a striker, also has been battling knee and hip injuries for much of the season, but returned during the team’s 2-1 win against Bucksport on Oct. 11.

Frye said the MacMillan and Kneeland have combined for “about 110 goals in their high school careers.”

“Liam’s our leading scorer and he’s only played in four games,” said Frye. “Him coming back is definitely helping us put the ball in the net. So having that one-two punch back against Temple will be good.”

Being back at full strength, Searsport continues to play with confidence and looks forward to its quarterfinal showdown with the Bereans.

“It’s going to be a tough battle,” Frye said. “They’re 14-0 for a reason and they’ve only given up like seven goals all season and they’ve scored a lot, but they haven’t faced any team out there like us. I think we have a chance to go in there and steal one.”

Vinalhaven-North Haven's Henry Noyes (2) and Keon Arey, left, as well as Searsport's David Estes (40), and a teammate behind. (Courtesy of: Karen Oakes)
Vinalhaven-North Haven's Andrew Moody. (Courtesy of: Karen Oakes)
Vinalhaven-North Haven's Tim Farrelly, left, and Searsport's Gabe Kneeland. (Courtesy of: Karen Oakes)
Vinalhaven-North Haven's Elijah Bineau-Ames, left, and Andrew Moody (1), as well as Searsport's Shawn Dakin. (Courtesy of: Karen Oakes)
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