The Hayden Kingsbury-to-Bryan Anthony connection may have been well-known in Aroostook County soccer circles this fall.
But now that collaboration comes with a gold-ball recommendation. Anthony scored twice in the final 6:30 of play at Hampden Academy on Saturday to rally undefeated Central Aroostook of Mars Hill to a 2-1 victory over North Yarmouth Academy and its first Class D boys soccer state championship.
Anthony, a junior right wing, took long clearing passes from Kingsbury deep into the offensive end and twice scored on counterattacks, first with a left-footed shot to tie the match and again with his right foot for the game-winner with 1:12 left.
“We’ve been doing that a lot this season, he’s been sending me through,” said Anthony, the Panthers’ leading scorer. “That last one, I don’t know. The goalie came out, the ball got loose and I kicked it right into the goal.”
The goals were similar to Central Aroostook’s winning goal in overtime in its 2-1 victory over Penobscot Valley of Howland in the North regional final.
“Bryan’s a lot faster, so if I can play a good ball over the top it’s Bryan’s all day,” Kingsbury said. “Sure enough, it happened twice today.”
Central Aroostook, which had lost in the D North final each of the previous two years, finished with a 15-0-3 record while NYA is 9-8-2.
“We were behind 1-0 at halftime of our last game so I knew we could come back,” Central Aroostook coach Wally Endy said. “We just had to contain ourselves and play hard.”
The Panthers were somewhat fortunate to trail by just one goal at intermission because North Yarmouth Academy came out firing at the outset. It needed just 69 seconds to take the lead as Chas Rohde redirected Stefan Kulhanek’s corner kick past CA goalie Brayden Bradbury.
NYA continued to press the attack looking for a bigger first-half advantage but Bradbury wouldn’t allow it — making eight of his 10 saves for the match before intermission.
“They came out and they pounded us, and at first I was thinking, ‘What have we gotten ourselves into,’” Bradbury said. “Then all of a sudden we began asserting ourselves and showed them it was no joke that we were here.
“I felt like as the game went on we gained momentum more and more.”
NYA finished with 25-14 shots advantage for the match, but Central Aroostook outshot the South regional champs 9-7 in the second half.
While Bradbury was the Panthers’ final line of defense, Kingsbury was active in both the midfield and in the back. He was either clearing the ball from danger or creating danger by sending the ball downfield to his front-line mates.
“Hayden’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with in creating for others,” Bradbury said. “Bryan Anthony’s one of the fastest kids on the field every time he steps on, so one so we really like to send him through a lot.”
Yet while Central Aroostook was building momentum, it still trailed by a goal entering the late stages of the game — until Kingsbury set off a sudden counterstrike by kicking the ball long from the defensive end where only Anthony could chase it down.
Anthony finally gained possession some 15 yards out to the right of the goal, wheeled around a defender and ripped a low, hard left-footed shot past NYA goalie Alexandre Saul for the equalizer with 6:30 to play.
“With Bryan over there on the right wing, sometimes teams forget about him and we can really capitalize on that,” Bradbury said.
Anthony scored the winning goal from nearly the same spot six minutes later, this time accepting another Kingsbury clearing pass and quickly re-routing the ball into the net, this time with his right foot.
All that was left was the celebration.
“There’s no words to describe this,” Bradbury said. “We’ve never even been here before, let alone win it. It’s awesome.”