ELLSWORTH, Maine — One of the trademarks of Brian Higgins’ Ellsworth High School boys soccer teams is their ability to score off restarts (corner kicks, free kicks and throw-ins).
Sophomore striker Kyle Haslam scored off a long flip throw-in by Andrew Austin with 25 seconds left in the first half and junior stopper Austin converted a Matt Duhaime corner kick 2:41 into the second half as Ellsworth beat Presque Isle 2-1 Wednesday in their Eastern Maine Class B final at Del Luce Stadium.
The top-seeded Eagles improved to 16-0-1 and will face 15-0-2 Falmouth in Saturday’s state championship game.
It is the Eagles’ third EM title in six years and Higgins’ 16th in 36 years.
“Their big strong point is their set plays,” said Wildcats center back Nate Ackerson.
“That’s where we get most of our goals,” agreed Ellsworth senior striker Duhaime.
Eight of their nine playoff goals have come off restarts, according to Higgins.
There was a bit of good fortune for the Eagles on Haslam’s 12th goal of the season.
Austin’s long throw glanced off the head of a Wildcat right to Haslam standing in the middle of the penalty area.
“It went off my midsection and I just volleyed it. I hit it to a corner,” said Haslam, whose 14-yard shot off his left foot sailed past a helpless Dillon Kingsbury, who dove to his right.
“I was where I was supposed to be and it looked like we were going to win it and then it kind of went to [Haslam] and he had a nice hit right into the corner,” said Kingsbury. “There’s really not much I could do about it.”
Early in the second half, Duhaime and Austin teamed up on a textbook corner play.
Austin made his run toward the far post and headed it home from 12 yards out.
“I’m always in the back corner of the 6. Matt kicked it right to me and I ran in and hit it. There was a guy marking me but he was behind me,” said Austin.
It was his fourth goal.
“There was nothing I could do about that one, either,” said Kingsbury.
“Andrew is real good in the air,” said Duhaime. “I was just aiming for someone in that area.”
The desperate Wildcats played with a sense of urgency and mounted some sustained pressure but couldn’t parlay it into quality scoring chances.
Ellsworth, led by sweeper Brad Folmer, forced the Wildcats to shoot from the perimeter most of the time.
The Wildcats, who are used to playing on their artificial turf field, hurt themselves with poor first touches and by continually missing the net.
The Wildcats never quit and Wilder York scored his 14th goal as the game ended when he headed in an Ackerson rebound that glanced off the crossbar.
“You’ve got to give Ellsworth credit. They pressured us into doing things we didn’t want to do,” said PI coach Scott Young.
“The defense really stepped up tonight,” said Eagles goalie Tom Sawyer, who is playing for the injured Jordan Carter and made six saves on 24 shots.
His best save came on Nathaniel Postel’s 22-yard free kick with five minutes left as he parried it over the bar.
Kingsbury also had six saves, including a couple of gems. He faced 17 shots.
Back Brandon Bonville turned in an exceptional performance for the 14-1-2 Wildcats as did Kingsbury.