Hayden Hunter expected this breakthrough might take place a year ago.
So as the senior midfielder and his Caribou High School teammates celebrated Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Mount Desert Island — the program’s first Class B North championship in boys soccer — at Hampden Academy, the emotion was as much about satisfaction as it was celebration.
“We always talked about unfinished business and how much last year hurt,” Hunter said of the Vikings 4-2 home loss to Washington Academy of East Machias in the 2018 regional semifinals — a game the Vikings led 2-0.
“We didn’t want to go through that again, so we were going to make sure we won.”
Junior forward Ethan Holdsworth scored the lone goal of the match in the 11th minute, and while MDI had its chances later in the opening half, the top-ranked and undefeated Vikings came on strong after intermission to control the final 40 minutes.
“I’d say it was 60-40 first half. They put us on our heels a little, but we expected it,” Caribou senior midfielder Cullin Caverhill said. “I’m glad we came out the way we did in the second half. We finally started possessing the ball, and our confidence came out.”
The win advances coach Scott Hunter’s club (15-0-2) to Saturday’s 10 a.m. state final at Falmouth High School against South champion Yarmouth (14-0-3).
Yarmouth, also the top seed, defeated No. 3 Greely of Cumberland Center 5-1 in Wednesday’s Class B South final.
MDI, the No. 3 seed in the North, ended its season at 12-3-2.
Caribou and MDI had played to a 1-1 tie Sept. 25 at Bar Harbor in their only meeting of the regular season.
“We had tied them, so I wouldn’t say we were worried, but we knew it was going to be a hard game,” Caverhill said. “We’ve come into some games thinking it should be pretty easy, but we knew this was definitely going to be hard.”
Caribou nearly took the lead 3 minutes into the match when Caverhill centered the ball from deep along the right wing to Alex Bouchard inside the penalty area. Bouchard’s hard shot eluded MDI goalie Nathanael Philbrook but slammed off the bottom inside of the left goalpost and rolled back into the field of play.
The Vikings cashed in on another centering pass from Caverhill moments later. Holdsworth eventually gained enough possession of the ball in the middle of the penalty area for a quick shot that Philbrook blocked but could not control as it trickled across the goal line.
“There was a little bobble in the box and somehow it dropped in front of me,” Holdsworth said. “I just kicked it as hard as I could toward the net. They have a good goalie, and he made a save on it at first, but it just trickled in.”
MDI had the better of play for much of the rest of the opening half, with junior Leao Nelson creating several opportunities for coach Tyler Frank’s team.
But Caribou came out after intermission with a couple of quick bids, and the Vikings went on to control much of the play over the final 40 minutes. The effort was led by strong work in the midfield and a defense led by senior sweeper Parker Deprey that recorded its third straight postseason shutout.
“They moved [Nelson] up to the offensive end and that opened up the midfield for us,” Deprey said. “It was easier for us to possess with him out of there.”
Caribou finished with a 19-8 shots advantage, 11-4 in the second half. Junior goalie Cory Herbert made three saves for the Vikings, while Philbrook stopped 10 shots for MDI.
“Last year’s loss was heartbreaking because I thought that was the year for us,” Hayden Hunter said. “But after I looked at the team we had coming back, I knew we’d have a good year this year. It feels good to come back and finally win.”