BANGOR — If there’s one thing members of the George Stevens Academy boys’ soccer team have sought to improve as of late, it’s been their finishing.
Even as GSA has gone unbeaten for more than a month, the team has seen some decent opportunities go to waste at times. In recent games, that inability to convert scoring chances has seen the Eagles settle for a 1-1 draw against Orono and play goalless soccer for 77 minutes before pulling out a late win in Tuesday’s playoff game against Washington Academy.
“We’ve been lacking in our finishing ability, that’s for sure,” GSA senior Owen Vinall said. “We needed a game where we took advantage of everything and put it all together.”
On Saturday, GSA produced no shortage of opportunities in its biggest game to date. This time, the Eagles buried nearly every chance they got to earn a decisive win in a much-anticipated showdown against a fellow Hancock County team.
GSA rode clinical finishing to a 7-0 win over Sumner in Saturday’s Class C North semifinal game at Husson University. The game saw the Eagles match their highest scoring output of the season to advance to their third regional final in four years.
The game got off to a high-flying start as No. 4 GSA (11-2-3) nearly connected on a dangerous cross into the box just 18 seconds after the opening whistle. Sumner came close to a goal at the other end moments later, but a shot from sophomore Eduardo Figueroa sailed wide to keep the game scoreless.
With 33:34 left in the first half, Sumner’s Damon Warren suffered a leg injury after colliding with GSA goalkeeper Parker Allen on the edge of the penalty area. Warren put the ball in the back of the net on the play, but the goal was ultimately disallowed after the senior was ruled to have been marginally offside. He did not return to the game.
Although No. 1 Sumner (14-1-1) continued to apply offensive pressure after the loss of its leading scorer, GSA went up 1-0 with 26:17 left in the half on a header from Andrew Zefanya. The Eagles made it 2-0 five minutes later as Lars Hooper scored from close range.
“I think those two goals changed the game for us,” Hooper said. “Once we got those two, our confidence went way up. We started playing a lot better all around.”
Sumner kept GSA from scoring for the remainder of the first half, but the Eagles added three goals, two from Vinall and one from Hooper, in a span of just 4:49 to take a 5-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the second. A goal from Nate Mason made the score 6-0 with 14 minutes left before Franklin Sealander scored GSA’s seventh with 1:48 to play.
“When you get rolling like we did, it sometimes gets difficult for the other team to stop you,” GSA head coach Mark Ensworth said. “We just kind of rode our wave and took advantage of the momentum that was on our side.”
The result marked the first loss of the year for Sumner, which was held scoreless for the first time since a 2-0 prelim loss to Piscataquis on Oct. 21, 2017. Yet the Tigers still enjoyed the best season in program history, claiming Class C North’s No. 1 overall seed and outscoring opponents 93-21.
Despite GSA’s struggles in front of goal in previous games, the Eagles still entered Saturday’s showdown on an eight-game unbeaten streak. Although GSA and Sumner did not play one another during the regular season, Ensworth’s team was well aware of the challenge it would be facing.
“Sumner is a dangerous team, and they can score quickly and in a lot of different ways,” Ensworth said. “We had to stay focused and stay on our toes because they can change the game real fast.”
GSA will take on No. 3 Mount View (14-2) in the Class C North championship game at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, at Hampden Academy. Mount View defeated No. 7 seed and two-time defending Northern Maine champion Fort Kent in the regional semifinals Friday after topping sixth-ranked Central in Wednesday’s quarterfinal bout.
A win over Mount View would send GSA to its first state championship game since 2002. After falling short in the 2016 and 2017 Northern Maine finals, the Eagles will be especially eager to get over the hump this time.
“We’ll be 100 percent ready,” Vinall said. “We want to go to states.”
Update: This story has been updated to reflect the relocation of Tuesday’s Class C North championship game from Johnson Athletic Complex in Presque Isle to Hampden Academy.