BOX SCORE

Waynflete 9 NYA 8

W- 4 1 1 2 0 1- 9
NYA- 3 0 3 2 0- 8

First quarter
11:15 W Hopkins (unassisted)
9:43 NYA Warde (unassisted)
6:46 W Cloutier (Burton-Johanson) (MAN-UP)
5:45 NYA Waterman (Tourigny)
2:23 W Hopkins (unassisted)
36.3 W Kirby (unassisted)
28.2 NYA Warde (Thomas)

Second quarter
11:54 W Hopkins (Burton-Johanson) (MAN-UP)

Third quarter
11:16 NYA Oney (unassisted)
7:45 NYA Rohde (unassisted) (MAN-UP)
6:52 NYA Waterman (Leinwand)
5:50 W Hopkins (unassisted)

Fourth quarter
5:10 W Kirby (Hopkins)
4:11 W Kirby (Cloutier)
59.5 NYA Rohde (unassisted)
2.2 NYA Rohde (Oney)

First overtime
No scoring

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Second overtime
2:15 W Woodman (unassisted)

Goals:
W- Hopkins 4, Kirby 3, Cloutier, Woodman 1
NYA- Rohde 3, Warde, Waterman 2, Oney 1

Assists:
W- Burton-Johnson 2, Cloutier, Hopkins 1
NYA- Leinwand, Oney, Thomas, Tourigny 1

Faceoffs (NYA, 11-10)
W- Isherwood 7 of 13, J. Curtis 3 of 7, H. Curtis 0 of 1
NYA- Thomas 8 of 15, Donnelly 2 of 5, Poulin 1 of 1

Ground balls:
W- 34
NYA- 41

Turnovers:
W- 26
NYA- 22

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Shots:
W- 29
NYA- 45

Shots on cage:
W- 13
NYA- 22

Saves:
W (Israel) 14
NYA (Curtis) 4

PORTLAND—This will be the game against which all past and future Waynflete-North Yarmouth Academy battles will be measured.

A game that was truly worth the wait, an epic of ebbs and flows that needed more than 48 minutes to decide.

A game that will never be forgotten.

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Friday evening’s Class C boys’ lacrosse state final at Fitzpatrick Stadium pitted the top-ranked Panthers against the sixth-seeded, defending champion Flyers and each squad played well enough to bring home the title.

But ultimately, only one could emerge victorious.

Waynflete started fast, as junior Roan Hopkins scored twice in the first period, helping the Flyers open up a 4-3 lead. Hopkins added a third goal six seconds into the second quarter, but both offenses went cold from there and Waynflete held a two-goal advantage at the half.

NYA then flipped the switch to start the third period, scoring three goals in less than five minutes, as senior Caleb Waterman capped the run and gave the Panthers their first, and what proved to be their only, lead of the game.

Hopkins tied the score midway through the frame, then in the fourth quarter, sophomore Nico Kirby scored twice in a 59-second span to give the Flyers a seemingly safe 8-6 advantage.

With a minute to go, NYA was still down two and was on the brink, but in a heroic comeback, the Panthers got a goal from senior Chas Rohde with 59.5 seconds on the clock, then Rohde scored arguably the most dramatic regulation goal in state history, finishing with 2.2 seconds showing, to improbably send the game to overtime.

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One four-minute, “sudden-victory”  session didn’t produce a goal, so the game went to a second.

There, NYA had a great look to prevail, but Waynflete junior goalie Avi Israel robbed sophomore Nick Pelletier to extend the game.

Then, with 2:15 left in the second OT, sophomore Jacob Woodman entered Flyers lore, beating Panthers junior Jack Curtis to give Waynflete an unforgettable, scintillating 9-8 victory.

The Flyers won their second consecutive Class C crown and their third in five years, finished the season 11-5 and in the process, ended NYA’s campaign at 11-4.

“This is the Class C game that everybody wanted and it was incredible,” said Waynflete coach Andrew Leach. “I told the guys, ‘You had an opportunity to play your rival in a state championship game in double-overtime and you were fortunate to come out on the winning side.’ I feel blessed.”

What we’ve been waiting for

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Since Class C was created for the 2018 season, NYA and Waynflete have annually been the two best teams, but the vagaries of the Heal Points system kept them from meeting in the state final, necessitating semifinal round showdowns instead, with the winner going on to easily capture the championship each time.

This season, at last, the Flyers and Panthers were on opposite sides of the bracket and not surprisingly, battled their way through.

NYA began the season with a home victory over Waynflete, started 5-0 and later, enjoyed another four-game win streak en route to a solid 9-3 record (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

As the top seed in Class C, the Panthers easily dispatched No. 8 Gray-New Gloucester (15-3) in the quarterfinals, then had to rally to hold off No. 4 Wells (8-7) in Tuesday’s semifinals, thanks to a late goal from junior Brayden Warde.

The Flyers learned that defending a title wouldn’t be easy, as they started 3-4, but Waynflete hit its stride and won four of its final five games, with the only loss coming in overtime to two-time reigning Class B champion Yarmouth.

The Flyers wound up sixth in Class C, but after dominating No. 11 Lake Region (22-3) in the state preliminary round, they became road warriors and knocked off No. 3 Maranacook (19-7) in the quarterfinals and second-seeded Oak Hill (8-4) in the semifinals to make it back to Fitzy.

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Both teams have long been a presence in the sport.

Waynflete had split six prior state game appearances dating to 1992 (see sidebar for previous results), while NYA was 4-7 in its state final history, dating to 1988.

In the teams’ regular season meeting, way back on April 14, each squad managed just one goal in the first half, but the Panthers got three second half goals from junior Wyatt Thomas and a solid defensive performance to prevail.

Friday, on a pleasant 70-degree evening which saw the sun peek out, followed by period of light rain, both would-be champions had moments of greatness, but it would be the defending champs who saved their best for last.

Junior Cole Isherwood won the opening faceoff for Waynflete and 45 seconds into the game, Hopkins got some room up top and fired a rocket past Curtis to break the ice.

NYA quickly answered, tying the score with 9:43 left in the opening stanza, as Warde fought through the defense and beat Israel.

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After Israel robbed Warde moments later, the Flyers went man-up and with 6:46 remaining in the quarter, sophomore Nils Burton-Johanson set up junior Seth Cloutier for a goal which gave Waynflete the lead back.

Again, the Panthers responded, as senior James Tourigny passed to Waterman, who shot through traffic and tickled the twine, making the score, 2-2.

NYA nearly took the lead, but Israel denied Tourigny and with 2:23 on the clock, Hopkins scored his second goal, unassisted, spinning and firing a shot past Curtis.

“We got a bunch of shots in before the game,” said Hopkins. “I took that right into the game. Preparation-wise, it’s all about repetition. I live right near NYA and I’m out there all the time shooting.”

After Israel preserved the lead by saving a shot from Panthers senior Henry Bergeron, Kirby bounced home a shot with 36.3 seconds left.

NYA countered eight seconds later, as Thomas won the faceoff and passed to Warde, who scored, cutting the deficit to 4-3.

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Just before the end of the quarter, the Panthers were called for a push and Waynflete not only took a one-goal lead to the second period, it had a man advantage to begin.

And after Isherwood won possession to start the frame, Burton-Johanson set up Hopkins for a man-up goal just six seconds in to make it 5-3.

Then, both offenses suddenly went cold.

Israel saved a pair of shots from Rohde and another from Thomas and with a minute to go, he robbed Waterman and that allowed the Flyers to hold a two-goal advantage at the break.

In the first 24 minutes, Waynflete won six of nine faceoffs and got seven saves from Israel.

But you can only hold NYA down so long and the Panthers came out for the second half on fire.

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Just 44 seconds in, senior Elliott Oney fought his way through traffic and scored unassisted to end a 13 minute, 12 second scoring drought.

After Curtis denied Burton-Johanson, NYA went man-up and Rohde tied the score with an unassisted goal with 7:45 on the clock.

A mere 53 seconds later, freshman Zach Leinwand set up Waterman for a goal and just like that, the Panthers had their first lead.

But Waynflete would respond with 5:50 remaining in the quarter, as Hopkins scored his fourth goal, unassisted, to snap an 18 minute, 4 second drough.

Late in the frame, senior Bryce Poulin and Oney missed wide for NYA and Israel denied shots from Tourigny and Warde, sending the game to what everyone expected to be the final stanza deadlocked, 6-6.

But in truth, the fun was just beginning.

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Neither squad could score early in the fourth period, as Oney and Pelletier missed the mark and after the Flyers went man-up, Hopkins twice fired wide and Curtis denied Burton-Johanson.

Finally, with 5:10 left, Hopkins set up Kirby up top for a shot which eluded Curtis and Waynflete was back in front, 7-6.

Fifty-nine seconds later, Kirby scored again, this time on a somewhat fluky play, as Cloutier passed him the ball and it deflected off him into the net to make it 8-6.

The Panthers were on the ropes and things got even more dire when Israel saved a pair of shots from Waterman, Rohde missed wide and with 1:13 to play, Israel stopped a shot from Thomas.

But NYA kept possession and with 59.5 seconds showing, Rohde finished unassisted, cutting the deficit to just one.

Junior Jasper Curtis won the ensuing faceoff for the Flyers, but they turned the ball over, giving the Panthers one last chance.

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Out of a timeout with 15 seconds to play, Oney ran up the left sideline, barely stayed inbounds, then managed to get the ball to Rohde with time winding down and Rohde turned and somehow got his shot past Israel and with just 2.2 seconds on the clock, NYA had tied the score, 8-8.

“That was the play,” Rohde said. “Coach drew it up in the huddle. It was an amazing pass from Elliott. All I had to do was catch the ball and put it in the back of the net. It was a perfect pass.”

“We know we can score in transition,” Panthers coach Peter Gerrity said. “It was all heart in the last minute of the game there to get it to overtime. There are a handful of guys who can score, but under pressure, Chas is the guy.”

Waynflete couldn’t believe it.

“I was a little disappointed in myself when I let in that last-second goal,” Israel said. “He snuck it in under my arm.”

“We thought for sure we’d hold on,” Leach said. “I wondered how did he get open, but it was meant to be.”

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When Jasper Curtis whistled a desperation prayer just wide of the mark at the horn, the contest was headed to overtime, the first time in the short history of Class C that more than 48 minutes were necessary and the first overtime game in any class since Thornton Academy edged Falmouth in a memorable Class A state final in 2019.

Thomas was able to win possession for NYA to start OT, as Pelletier pounced on the ground ball. The Panthers set up in the offensive zone, where Waterman had a look, but shot just wide.

“The plan was to win the faceoff, go down and push it in transition and put one in, like we did (earlier this season) at Oak Hill, but it doesn’t always go to plan,” Gerrity lamented.

After an NYA timeout, Waterman tried again, but this time, his shot was saved by Israel.

Waynflete then had its chance and out of a timeout, Burton-Johanson tried to end it, but his shot was blocked.

Hopkins then missed high and while the Flyers kept the ball, they couldn’t manage another shot and it was on to the second overtime.

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There, the Panthers again got possession first and after Oney missed just wide and Waterman sent a shot wide, Waterman from behind the goal, hit a cutting Pelltier and with 2:58 left, Pelletier fired a promising shot that could have delivered the championship to NYA, but instead, Israel made the save of his young life.

“I saw him stepping in and I was thinking, I can’t let it happen again (and give up an overtime goal like I did against Yarmouth), so I clenched my legs as hard as I could and I stopped it,” Israel said. “I heard silence for a second and everyone thought it went in, but I kept it out. It was the best feeling.”

“I’m standing there and my heart was in my mouth,” Hopkins said. “That was an in-between the legs save. He’s a hockey goalie and he knew how to make that save. I congratulated him and I knew it was our turn on offense.”

“That was a goal, same thing as the Yarmouth game, but this time, (Avi’s) foot or his leg stopped it,” added Leach.

The Panthers thought they had the game won, but instead, were left stunned.

“I really thought we had it there,” Rohde said. ‘That was an amazing save by their goalie.”

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“We had a couple great shots,” Gerrity said. “That one was so close. It was a great save.”

Waynflete then transitioned to offense and with 2:41 left, called timeout.

Out of the timeout, the Flyers initially weren’t able to do anything against the NYA zone defense, but Woodman then got the ball, moved to his right and found just enough room to fire a shot.

And with 2:15 on the clock, Woodman’s bid eluded Jack Curtis, who did get a piece of it, but not enough, the ball found the net and Waynflete was champion once more, 9-8.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Woodman said. “When it happened, I was shocked. Originally, we had something else set up, but Roan told me that I had a short-stick (defender on me) and he’d set me a pick and we’d make it work and that’s what we did. I was trying to go low. I saw no one was on me and when I shot it, I knew it was going to go in. It was unbelievable, just what you dream of.”

“I knew when I got the ball out of there that my boys would get it done for me,” Israel said. “I knew it wasn’t coming back down my way. It felt a little unreal for a minute. My first thought was I didn’t think he scored. It was scary to be an overtime situation. Seeing (Jacob) score was the best feeling and I just fell to the ground.”

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“I knew the pole would be right on me, so I called a pick and Jacob did well to get his body in the way,” said Hopkins. “I went hard to right, bounced out and Jacob was there and knew exactly where to be. He picked that corner. I was standing there in disbelief for about five seconds.”

“We talked about spacing, knowing they’d pack it in,” Leach added. “We had to find our spot and knowing when a double- or triple-(team) comes, we’d have openings. We were able to get that finish. Woody put it in there. It’s an incredible moment for a sophomore.”

At 6:56 p.m., a massive celebration ensued.

“For a split second, I thought they had momentum after they scored with 2.2 seconds left, but these boys have more heart than any other team I’ve been on, so I didn’t doubt,” Hopkins said. “They had momentum, but we had heart. When it comes to age, I don’t see any grades. I see heart, hard work and us showing up to practice every day. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman, a senior, anything in-between, it’s all about how hard you work.”

“We have a lot of talent all the way through freshmen through juniors and everyone put their hearts into it,” Woodman said.

“We were able to jump on them early, then NYA battled back and we told the guys they had to hang in there,” Leach added. “It was a great match up. We responded to their three-goal run and came right back. We just kept telling the guys, as we have all season long, it’s about the next-play mentality. These guys bounce back so well, they’re incredible kids.

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“This is what championship lacrosse is all about. I feel like we have the best defense in the state. I think we have great offensive players. The lacrosse Gods favored us today. We just put it to the guys that the hard work they put in not only on the field but in the weight room and watching film, we just kept getting one percent better each day and the guys bought in.”

Hopkins paced the Flyers with four goals. Kirby added three and Cloutier and Woodman had one goal apiece.

Burton-Johanson finished with two assists, while Cloutier and Hopkins each had one.

Israel was superb, making 14 critical saves.

“I think it’s a pretty crazy feeling, especially since it’s my first year,” Israel said. “I was sitting on the bench last year.”

Jasper Curtis had a team-high seven ground balls, while Isherwood collected five.

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Waynflete overcame 26 turnovers.

Everything but a title

For NYA, Rohde had three goals, while Warde and Waterman added two apiece and Oney finished with one.

Leinwand, Oney, Thomas and Tourigny each had one assist.

Jack Curtis made four saves.

The Panthers had an 11-10 edge in faceoffs, won the battle of ground balls, 41-34 (Rohde led the way with seven and Bergeron had five) and out-shot the Flyers, 45-29 (22-13 on cage). NYA turned the ball over 22 times.

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“We showed all season that we’re resilient.,” Rohde said. “We’ve had comeback wins, but unfortunately, we didn’t come out on top today. I’m so proud of this group. We had so much heart. I knew what we had in us and what I had in me. We demonstrated when we played like a team, no one could stop us. Credit to Waynflete’s defense. They were outstanding. In the end, they did a great job. We’ve been the top two teams in Class C and it was coming for us to play in the finals. I’m disappointed it ended up this way, but congratulations to Waynflete and doing what they did as a six seed.”

“It’s hard to separate the emotion, but the game was fantastic,” Gerrity said. “It was pretty fun for everybody. There’s a lot of history here. It’s a special time of year to be at Fitzy. It was tough playing from behind. We’ve had that happen a few times. It feels different when you’re chasing the whole game. That’s emblematic of the season. We’ll either have a good or bad first half, then the second half is the opposite. We knew we hadn’t played as well as we could have and that it was still within reach, so we went for it.

“We knew we were going to be strong coming back and we knew Waynflete would be one of the teams to beat in Class C. It was fun to see like six teams be competitive. Everybody played us hard in the playoffs. I’m super-proud of these guys and what we did today.”

Unlike the Flyers, the Panthers will be hard-hit by graduation, as Bergeron, Oney, Poulin, Rohde, Tourigny and Waterman lead the list of 10 departing seniors.

“We lose guys all over the field,” Gerrity said. “Most of those seniors were here in 2019, so they had a feel for what this was like.”

Don’t write off NYA in 2023, however, as it will return a team led by Curtis, Leinwand, Pelletier, Thomas and Warde.

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The Panthers will have no trouble getting motivated next spring after coming oh-so-close to winning this year’s championship.

“We’ll have some holes, but we’ve got a lot of guys returning,” Gerrity said.

Back for more

Waynflete, meanwhile, is in the rare position of returning everyone next season, as there isn’t a single senior on the roster.

This might have been the year for Class C to hold the Flyers at bay, as they’ll be viewed as the favorite heading into next spring.

“They can put a target on our backs, but we’ll keep going,” Hopkins said. “We’ll have that heart still and we’ll have that fire.”

“I think next year, there’s a lot of things I want to accomplish,” Israel said. “A state championship would be awesome, but a lot of people thought they buried us this year and got us back from last season. I think next year, we’ll show who’s on top. We’ll be right back here.”

“I think we just have to keep improving and work on what we need to work on and we’ll keep this going,” Woodman said.

“I’ve never been in a situation like this,” Leach added. “We got everybody’s best shot this year coming back (as champs) and we’ll get everybody’s best shot next year too. We had some losses this season we’ll have to make amends for and we have the guys to do it. It’s going to be incredible next year and I can’t wait.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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