By Jessica Bloch/Special to the BDN
HAMPDEN –- One year after a disappointing loss in the Class C state championship game, the Fort Kent boys soccer team found itself Saturday morning back at Hampden Academy’s Weatherbee Complex, again playing in the title contest.
But unlike 2009, the Warriors this time left the stadium with a state title –- the first in the history of the program.
Fort Kent standout Thomas Levesque scored the game-winning goal with more than 17 minutes left in the game to lift the Warriors to a 2-1 triumph over Western Maine representative North Yarmouth Academy in an exciting, back-and-forth matchup.
Although it was the second time since 2008 an Eastern Maine team has won the Class C final, it was only fourth-ever state crown for an Eastern Maine team since 1974.
“Last year we didn’t know what the fans were going to be, what the field was like, and it was a bad (loss),” Fort Kent senior captain and midfielder Jared Soucy said of St. Dominic of Auburn’s 4-1 victory over the Warriors, who finished their season with a 14-1-3 record. “This year, we knew, and we had more confidence.”
Senior forward Levesque put in his game-winner with 17:09 left in the second half as he found himself around 25 yards away from the goal. With defenders converged, he kicked the ball on the ground and it rolled past lunging Panther goalie Jordan Haskell and into the back right corner of the net.
“I didn’t really hit it that hard but it took a little dip and that bothered the ‘keeper and ended up going in,” said Levesque, who was playing with a pulled right hamstring he suffered Nov. 3 in Fort Kent’s Eastern Maine final win against Orono. “We kept pushing on and we got the goal.”
Fort Kent coach Tim Desjardins said he told his forwards ball placement would be key to getting shots past Haskell, who finished with four saves on 16 shots.
“The scouting report was that the ‘keeper was good high, so I told (Fort Kent’s forwards) to put some velocity on the high shots, but also pick a spot and place it,” he said. “Both goals got by low on the ‘keeper, and they did exactly what they were supposed to do.”
Although the Panthers were able to make some runs down the wings in the first half and tested Warrior goalie Alex Charette (seven saves on 11 shots), Fort Kent maintained control of the midfield and went ahead 1-0 with 37.4 seconds left in the first half on a Soucy goal and assist by Cubby Naranja.
The Warriors gave up the lead just 56 seconds into the second half when NYA’s Matthew Kibler headed in a Ryan Rousseau corner kick, but Fort Kent continued to attack the midfield. The payoff came in Levesque’s goal.
“We’re a quick-striking team and we’ve been down 1-0, we’ve been down by two goals, and come back to win,” Desjardins said. “We’re not a possession team. So when we get outpossessed, the boys don’t panic.”
NYA, which was the No. 8 seed in Western Maine, wrapped up its season with a 10-6-1 record, including 7-0-1 in the eight games before Saturday’s state final. Striker Matthew Michaud was NYA’s most consistent threat as he sent crossing passes through the penalty area, but the Panthers were unable to get to the ball before the Fort Kent defense cleared it away.
“The team that I’ve had the last eight games just didn’t come today,” said NYA coach Martyn Keen. “It was a shame. The only time they really had the intensity that they needed was coming out of (halftime). … We just weren’t getting enough numbers forward and when we did, it just wasn’t quite falling (our) way.”