ELLSWORTH — The pursuit of titles never gets old for the Ellsworth boys soccer program, and now the defending Eastern Maine Class B champs are within one victory of yet another regional crown after a 3-0 semifinal victory over Old Town at Del Luce Stadium on Saturday.
“We worked hard all summer, so to get here is a good feeling,” said Ellsworth junior striker Nick Holt, who contributed a goal and two assists. “There was no fooling around, and it’s definitely paying off now.”
Coach Brian Higgins’ top-ranked and undefeated club (16-0) hosts No. 2 Camden Hills of Rockport in Wednesday’s regional final. Camden Hills (15-0-1) scored a 1-0 semifinal win over No. 3 Presque Isle on Saturday.
No. 5 Old Town ends its season with a 7-5-4 record, with three of the losses coming against Ellsworth.
Ellsworth stymied Old Town with a defensive effort fueled in part by its ability to control the midfield but also from successful marking, particularly by junior back Mike Curtis.
Curtis teamed with classmate Ben Curtis (no relation) and senior sweeper Jake Jordan to help senior goalie Jordan Carter (nine saves) record the Eagles’ 12th shutout of the season.
“We had a rough first half,” said Old Town coach Mark Graffam. “I don’t think we stayed in the middle and they kind of controlled the midfield and isolated our forwards. The [Mike] Curtis boy did a great job marking our top scorer Jake Leithiser, that’s his responsibility as a marking back, and then they used the effective throw-ins from Andrew Austin to their advantage.”
Austin, a senior stopper, initiated the plays that produced both Ellsworth goals in the first half with penetrating flip throw-ins.
“This is probably one of our better defensive units,” said Mike Curtis. “But we’ve got a good offense, too, and Andrew’s a big part of with his flip throws. We probably wouldn’t win as many games as we have without that flip throw, but we’ve got a strong enough team to win this whole thing, and if we keep at it we can do it.”
Holt gave Ellsworth a 1-0 lead with 23:12 left in the first half by heading an Austin throw-in from the left sideline to the goal crease past Old Town goalie Dan Gastia (six saves).
“We just attack the goal, that’s what we do,” said Holt. “We’re a pretty tall team so we try to get in there and get a head on it before it gets to the goalie.”
The Eagles then made it 2-0 before intermission off another restart that began with an Austin throw-in. His flip throw, again from the left side, sailed beyond the goal crease toward the far post, where Holt first headed the ball, then regained possession and shot it off a defender right to teammate Tyler Palmer, who booted the loose ball into the center of the net.
“It deflected off a defender and I just hit it toward the goal and one of our guys happened to be there,” said Holt.
Ellsworth added its final goal with 3:02 left in the match when senior Cote Card one-timed a short header from Holt inside the right goal post.
“We played hard,” said Holt. “We know that everyone’s coming out hard to beat us since we’re No. 1 and it’s the playoffs. We’ve got to come out with fire every game.”