Richmond’s Andrew Vachon runs past an NYA defender during the second half of Wednesday’s Class D South Regional Final in Lewiston. Eric Maxim / The Times Record

LEWISTON – North Yarmouth Academy tallied the first two goals and then held off a feisty Richmond team to advance to its second consecutive State Class D Championship with a 2-1 victory over the Bobcats in boys high school soccer at Don Roux Field.

The Panthers will face D North champ Central Aroostook — a 2-1 winner over Penobscot Valley — on Saturday at Hampden Academy at 10 a.m.

NYA (9-7-2) advanced to the State D Final for the second year in a row with its second victory over Richmond this season. Top-seeded Richmond’s season ended at 12-3-1.

“From where we started to where we finished, I could not be more proud of our kids,” Richmond coach Peter Gardner said. “We may have not had the numbers we’ve had in the past, but the ones that did play this year worked hard for us. I’ve been doing this for 40-plus years. It’s rewarding, as they gave everything they had.”

NYA attacked Richmond early, putting pressure on the Bobcats, resulting in the game’s first goal at the five-minute mark. Panther senior Stefan Kulhanek beat Bobcat keeper Kyle Underhill-Tilton for the score.

Richmond’s Justin Vachon beats NYA’s Wyatt Thomas to the ball during the first half of Wednesday’s Class D South Regional Final in Lewiston.

NYA continued to put shots towards the net in the opening half, sending a total of five shots on goal in the first 40-minutes, with Underhill-Tilton turning away four of them.

Richmond meanwhile struggled to create offensive opportunities. With NYA possessing the ball throughout the half, Richmond managed only a pair of shots on net despite holding the edge in corner kicks, 3-1. NYA keeper Alexandre Saul made both stops for the Panthers.

Although it was a one-goal game, Richmond didn’t quite feel in it early on.

“They were quicker in different places than we were,” Gardner said. “We were getting back in the back, when they can take a ball in front of the goal and get it to (midfield) and someone from their team grabs it. It shouldn’t happen.”

Much like the first half, NYA used it’s athleticism to maintain possession of the ball early in the second frame. With two-thirds of the half gone by, Richmond began creeping more and more into NYA’s defensive zone, putting more shots on Saul.

I thought the kids did well in the second half,” Gardner said. “There were times they were able to attack and put the ball into area.”

But with 6:05 on the clock, Chas Rohde broke free and fired a shot to the back of the net to give the Panthers a two-goal lead.

Bobcats strike

Two minutes later, Richmond showed some grit as the Bobcats moved down the field with Ben Gardner pushing the ball to the right side. From there, Justin Vachon  drove in, crossing a pass to the far side while sophomore Cole Alexander settled and tucked a shot under the far right side of the crossbar for the goal, cutting the deficit to 2-1.

“I knew Justin was coming down that wing, so I had to be on that back post in case it was there,” Alexander said. “I got the ball and one-touched it and let it rip.”

Vachon also felt the urgency to get a goal back.

“When I was bringing it down I felt like I was swimming through people,” Vachon said. “I passed it over and Cole got the goal. That gave us hope. That’s something this team never loses, we don’t give up. We learned that throughout the year, if we fell behind, we learned that we aren’t out of it, taking one goal at a time.”

“That’s who they are. That’s how they play and have to play,” Gardner said. “They weren’t about to be denied, they play right until the end.”

Richmond maintained its attack, firing more shots on Saul, only to be turned away. As the clock ticked down to the final seconds, Richmond’s Andrew Vachon broke through a pair of defenders on his way to a loose ball. But Saul arrived at the same time and the ball bounced away as the final horn sounded.

“We never gave up, and that comes from our seniors,” Alexander said. “They have given us great leadership all year and it rubs off on to the younger guys.”

Richmond outshot the Panthers, 10-9, and held the edge in corner kicks, 7-3.

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