BLUE HILL, Maine — After amassing 46 goals in its first eight matches, the undefeated Washington Academy boys soccer team was still scoreless — and trailing — with 20 minutes left in Saturday’s Class C clash with host George Stevens Academy.
Not to worry. Two corner kicks by Nick Forte produced instant offense, and the defending state champions from East Machias rallied for four goals over the final 18:02 to earn a 4-1 victory and extend their winning streak to 26 matches.
“We started out slow,” said WA senior forward Noah Von Rotz, who scored twice for the Raiders. “We had played them before and beaten them 5-1 and we didn’t know how they would be this time, but they were a lot better. So we started slow, but we came out in the second half and picked it up.”
Ben Teer also scored twice for coach Chris Gardner’s club, which has now outscored its opposition 50-3 in building its 9-0 record this season.
But it wasn’t easy.
GSA (3-4) struck for a 1-0 lead off a restart with 14:41 left in the first half.
Jesus Henares launched a direct kick toward goal from about 35 yards out and, while WA goalie Bryce Colbeth got both hands on the ball just under the crossbar, he couldn’t gain control.
The ball dropped toward the right goalpost where Ben Phlor headed it and teammate Michael Senter-Zapata then chested it over the goal line to leave WA trailing for just the second time this season.
Coach Dan Kane’s Eagles made that lead stand up for more than 30 minutes of playing time with a disciplined effort that kept WA from sustaining its offense too close to goalie Ben Olivari.
But as the Raiders intensified their offensive pressure midway through the second half, they finally were rewarded with some restarts of their own.
“In the first half we started out going forward but when they scored we started dropping back,” said Teer, “so at halftime coach said to keep going forward and to keep pushing like we were down two [goals]. We did that and it paid off.”
WA scored the equalizer with 18:02 remaining. Forte left-footed a high corner kick from the right side toward the goal crease, where Teer then skimmed a header behind him toward the far post.
That’s where Von Rotz had run for a header of his own just inside the post to forge a 1-1 tie.
An identical corner kick from Forte set up the go-ahead goal off a header from the crease by Teer with 8:10 left, the first of three WA goals within a span of 3:57.
“Nico’s great at corner kicks,” said Teer. “We were having trouble with them at the beginning of the year, but coach had a practice where we just worked on corner kicks and it started getting better. It paid off today.
“Nico can put the ball right where he wants to all the time.”
Von Rotz netted his second goal with 4:56 left thanks to some strong setup work by Roman Richards and Li Yizhou.
Richards’ defensive pressure forced a loose ball that he tracked down in the left corner of WA’s offensive end.
Richards made a short pass to Yizhou, who kicked the ball back to Richards near the left end line for a centering pass that Von Rotz headed inside the far post.
Teer added his second goal 43 seconds later on an assist from Nick Hixson.
Washington Academy outshot George Stevens 30-10, with Colbeth making three saves to preserve the victory and Olivari making 10 stops for GSA.
“George Stevens played extremely well today, they frustrated us,” said Gardner. “We were able to control from 18 to 18, but once we got inside the 18 the George Stevens defense stood strong.
“That first 60 minutes all belonged to them, but we were finally able to get back to our game plan in the final 20 minutes and we put four in the back of the net fairly quickly.”