BLUE HILL — Local teams have been among the cream of the crop in Class C boys’ soccer all season long. On Friday, that success culminated with a battle to be the last Hancock County soccer team left standing.
Both the George Stevens Academy Eagles and Bucksport Golden Bucks have lived up to expectations this season, and in front of hundreds of fans cheering on both teams, both teams met in a much-anticipated showdown. The result was an efficient win for one team and a bittersweet reward for a bounce-back season for another.
The third-seeded George Stevens Academy boys’ soccer team posted a 4-0 victory over No. 6 Bucksport in the Class C North quarterfinals Friday. The win marked a successful start to the playoffs for the Eagles, who advanced to the regional championship game for the second year in a row the following day.
The game remained scoreless for the first 20 minutes before Tanner Stegner ripped a shot just wide of the net for Bucksport. GSA had a chance to take the lead at the other end moments later, but Bucksport’s Christian Chase-Hurd made a key save to keep the Eagles off the board.
Yet the home team wouldn’t stay down for very long. GSA took the lead with 13 minutes, 45 seconds to play when Michael Moon fired a shot past into the top-left corner past Chase-Hurd for the opening goal, and the Eagles doubled that lead six minutes later when Taylor Schildroth converted a penalty kick after he was fouled in the area.
“We needed those goals,” GSA head coach Mark Ensworth said. “We didn’t get them right away, but they were early enough in the game that we could put ourselves in a good position as it went on.”
Although GSA hit the post four minutes into the second half, the Eagles increased their lead to 3-0 two minutes later with a goal from Ben Cole. Moon added his second goal of the game with 21:49 left, and GSA’s defense held Bucksport the rest of the game for a shutout win.
Bucksport’s season ended at 7-8 with the loss. Nevertheless, the Golden Bucks’ run to the Class C North quarterfinals, which included a stretch of five wins in six games from late September to early October, was the result of an improvement from last year’s winless campaign.
The Golden Bucks have a chance to be even better in 2018. The team has 13 incoming freshman players, and with just four players set to graduate in June, head coach John Boynton’s squad has a chance to take a step forward once again.
“We were able to do everything we did this year as a young team,” Boynton said. “That’s not an easy thing to do, but these guys stayed determined all season and believed.”
After beating Bucksport, GSA (11-1-4) earned a trip to the Class C North championship for the second year in a row with a 1-0 win over Orono (10-2-4) on Saturday. The win broke a season-long deadlock between Eagles and No. 2 Red Riots, who finished the regular season with the same record and drew twice earlier this year.
Before those two games in two days, GSA had gone nearly a week without playing. There were 12 days between the team’s final regular-season game Oct. 13 and the originally scheduled date for the Bucksport game, and the teams then had to wait two more days because of adverse weather conditions.
“We had to work on staying fresh because it was a long wait between games,” Ensworth said. “Fortunately, Washington Academy was nice enough to host us for a scrimmage, and that helped us break up that long stretch.”
GSA will face either top-seeded Fort Kent (12-1-2) or Houlton (8-6-1) for the regional title Thursday, Nov. 2. A win would send the Eagles to the state championship game for the first time since 2002.