The four Western Maine schoolboy soccer champions that will play for state titles Saturday include three consistent contenders in their divisions and one team making its first trip to the final game in 16 years.
The relative newcomer is Western A champion Portland, which defeated Gorham 2-1 on Wednesday to claim its first regional title since 1994. The Western A field was thrown wide open in the quarterfinals when two-time defending champion Scarborough was upset by No. 8 Kennebunk on penalty kicks, and a second-seeded Portland team (15-1-1) featuring 14 seniors used that experience to battle its way through the surviving field with victories over No. 7 Cheverus of Portland (6-0) and No. 3 Cape Elizabeth (2-1 in overtime) before outlasting No. 4 Gorham in the final.
Portland, guided by longtime coach Rocco Frenzilli, is led on the field by senior Fazal Nabi, a playmaking midfielder considered one of the state’s top players. The four-year varsity performer has two goals and two assists in postseason play, and has a team-high 18 goals this season. Other top-goal scorers for the Bulldogs are sophomore forward Tim Rovnak (16 goals), junior midfielder Alain Tuyishlime (10 goals) and freshman forward Tony Yekah (seven goals). Feliks Cobanovic anchors the Portland defense in front of goalie Taylor Mannix.
The Bulldogs enter Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. state final against Bangor at Falmouth High School riding a 14-match winning streak since a 1-1-1 start to its season.
In Western B, Yarmouth and Falmouth own the last 10 state championships, and this year it will be Yarmouth’s chance to keep the title trophy in the West after the Clippers edged 2009 state champion Falmouth 1-0 in overtime in Wednesday’s regional final.
Coach Mike Hagerty’s club (17-0) will play for its second state championship in three years when it faces Eastern winner Ellsworth (17-0) in a battle of unbeatens beginning at 10 a.m. at Falmouth. Ellsworth, which lost to Falmouth in last year’s state final, was the last Eastern B team to win a state championship — in 1993.
The Clippers have allowed just seven goals this season and posted 12 shutouts, not necessarily a good omen for Ellsworth since the East has not scored a goal in the Class B state final since 2003.
Senior co-captain Luke Pierce, a four-year player for Yarmouth, leads his team in scoring for the second straight season with 16 goals, while Sam Torres (nine goals), senior co-captain Campbell Belisle-Haley (seven goals) and Ryan Maguire (six goals) are other top offensive players. Cotter Jackson provides the Clippers a strong midfield presence, while Chris Knaub has 12 shutouts in goal — three straight during postseason play — and also provides an offensive threat with his long throw-ins.
In Western C, North Yarmouth Academy rose from the No. 8 seed to advance to the state final for the first time since winning it all in 2005 by avenging two regular-season losses with a 1-0 victory over No. 3 Waynflete of Portland on Wednesday. The Panthers’ 10-5-1 record is deceiving, however, because coach Martyn Keen’s club plays a challenging schedule that includes several Class B and even Class A teams. Of NYA’s losses, one was to Cape Elizabeth, a Western A semifinalist, a second was to Western B champion Yarmouth and a third was to another Class B program, Fryeburg Academy.
Senior midfielder Ryan Rousseau is a standout for the Panthers, while Matt Michaud is the team’s leading scorer. Jordan Haskell handles the goalkeeping duties for NYA, which is 7-0-1 in its last eight matches after a 3-4 start.
NYA will match up with two-time Eastern C champion Fort Kent at 10 a.m. Saturday at Hampden Academy.
In Western D, No. 2 Richmond (11-3-2) will return to the state final for the sixth straight season after its 2-1 double-overtime victory at top-ranked Greenville on Wednesday.
The Bobcats now get to face defending state champion Bangor Christian for the state crown in a 5:30 p.m. start Saturday at Hampden Academy — a game that’s a rematch from last year’s state final won by BC 2-1 on a late penalty kick.
Graduation took a significant toll on the Bobcats, but some talent remains led by senior midfielders Michael Christie and Tommy Carter, junior forward Peter Lorbeski and junior goalie Tyler Harrington.
Richmond has outscored its opposition 63-15 this season with five shutouts, but interestingly one of its losses was a season-opening 2-1 decision to Calvary Chapel of Orrington, the team Bangor Christian defeated 2-0 in the Eastern D final Wednesday.