PORTLAND—Talk about a jaw-dropping debut.

For the defending state champions.

And for senior Myles Culley, whose first appearance in a varsity game was simply unforgettable.

Thursday afternoon at Fore River Fields, Waynflete’s boys’ soccer team, winners of the past three Class C Gold Balls, welcomed rival North Yarmouth Academy, last year’s Class D runners-up, and thanks to the heroics of Culley, who might have been considered a secret weapon prior to the game but is no longer, made quick work of the Panthers.

Just 16 seconds in, Culley was fouled in the box, awarded a penalty kick and finished to put the Flyers ahead to stay.

Culley was just getting started, as he added three more goals before the break for a commanding 4-0 advantage.

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Senior Liam Anderson and junior Spencer Kline added second half goals as Waynflete opened in style with a 6-0 victory.

Culley finished with four goals and one assist and the Flyers served notice that they’ll be satisfied with nothing short of another state title as they opened with a victory for the sixth consecutive season.

“This was a nice start, but we can get better for sure,” said longtime Waynflete coach Brandon Salway, after career victory number 317. “The good thing about this group is we’re pretty good right now and we have the potential to get quite a bit better.”

Looking for more

Both teams reached their respective state finals in 2021 and the Flyers and Panthers expect big things again this fall.

Waynflete continued the most prolific stretch in program history by downing Fort Kent, 2-1, to cap a 14-2-2 campaign and win its third consecutive Class C championship. The Flyers have a lot of talent back from that squad are are highly touted again.

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NYA, meanwhile, got to the Class D state final in 2021, but lost to Lee Academy, 5-0, to finish 11-5-2. The Panthers lost some key players and have a new coach, Branden Noltkamper, but can’t be overlooked.

Last fall, Waynflete took both meetings, 2-1 and 2-0, to make it seven straight in the series (see sidebar, for recent results).

Thursday, on a beautiful early September afternoon (low 70s throughout), the Flyers made an immediate statement.

Then another.

And another.

Waynflete went on the attack to start, the ball came to Culley and he raced into the box with a defender on his heels.

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Then, just 16 seconds in, Culley was brought down and a penalty kick was awarded.

Waynflete senior Myles Culley sends a penalty kick past North Yarmouth Academy senior goalkeeper Tanner Anctil for the game’s first goal. Hoffer photos.

Culley then opened the scoring with a left-footed blast into the upper right corner, past diving NYA senior goalkeeper Tanner Anctil to make it 1-0.

“I just kind of look at the keeper and whatever instinct tells me to do, I do,” Culley said, of the PK. “It felt great. It was great for my confidence to get that quick goal and I built off it.”

For the next 14 minutes, the Panthers held the Flyers at bay, as Anctil robbed senior Cole Isherwood, junior Jacob Woodman and Culley.

NYA nearly drew even in the 14th minute, but senior Cooper St. Hilaire sent a blast just wide.

Waynflete then transitioned to offense and made it 2-0 with 25:27 to go in the first half.

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Culley sent the ball to the wing where senior Bryan Stark-Chessa got the ball and centered it back, where senior Roan Hopkins passed up a shot to allow it to come to Culley, who blasted another shot past Anctil to make it 2-0.

“That was a great team goal,” said Culley. “It started in the back with (senior) Matt (Adey), then it came up to me. Bryan made a great run down the wing, I found him and he showed great composure to cut the ball back. Rowan left it and that was a great goal. It sums up our team chemistry. We have a great connection. I’m surrounded by a lot of great players.”

“Sometimes you let down a little bit after a quick goal and we were flat for maybe a few minutes after that,” Salway said. “We can move the ball a little bit better, but we capitalized on chances and did a good job getting shots on frame.”

Suffice to say Culley, who spent his first two high school years playing for academy teams before missing out on his junior campaign due to injury, has gotten the attention of teammates and foes alike.

“It’s exciting stuff,” said Culley. “I had a tough injury last year, so it was amazing to get out here today. My mindset is to do whatever I can for the team. Score some goals, get some assists and get the team going.”

“Myles helps make up for the loss of Henry (Hart) and Samir (Sayed), who were two of our more creative players,” said Salway. “Myles has made a nice transition on to the team. He has great vision and a great soccer IQ. He’s a pretty complete player. He makes the rest of the guys better.”

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“Myles Culley is just a different breed,” said Noltkamper. “He’s one of the best players in the state.”

After Anctil leaped to rob Hopkins, went sprawling to deny Culley and stymied sophomore Porter Beaule on the rebound, Culley made it 3-0 with 16:21 to go before halftime, as Hopkins played him a through ball and with Anctil coming out to play the ball, Culley slid and with his left foot, one-timed it past the keeper and into the net.

“Instinct kicked in,” said Culley. “I just slid and got there first and put it in the net.”

Culley struck one final time in the final minute, settling the ball and firing it past Anctil with 46 seconds to go to make it 4-0 at the break.

“I took a quick free kick, got the ball back, cut into the middle, then I let it fly,” Culley said, of his fourth goal.

Waynflete junior Jacob Woodman plays the ball while NYA senior Cooper St. Hilaire defends during second half action.

The second half was more of the same.

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Waynflete made it 5-0 with 30:08 to go, when Culley served in a corner kick and after the ball wasn’t cleared, Anderson slammed it home.

Then, with 25:44 left, junior Dana Bigelow served a nice cross to Kline, who finished for a six-goal lead.

“We try to get our backs involved on free kicks and get them up the field as much as possible,” Salway said. “I was impressed with what Dana Bigelow did at outside-right (back) today, it’s a new position for him. He played well. Our two center-backs, Matt and Liam, did a terrific job. Our left back, (senior) Dudley (Holdridge), did a nice job.”

NYA’s best scoring chance came on a shot from freshman Jackson Bartick, but Flyers junior keeper Nico Kirby made the save and Waynflete closed out its 6-0 victory.

“We played a really challenging preseason and when you do that, you make some mistakes,” Salway said. “We came into today not really knowing what to expect. We were far from perfect today, but Myles started the game in a great way. Their keeper made some nice saves early to help keep them hanging around. We’ve stressed putting the ball on frame and we did a good job of that and the end result is getting more goals.”

The Flyers enjoyed a 16-1 shots advantage and took eight corner kicks to the Panthers’ three.

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NYA got 10 saves from Anctil.

“(Waynflete’s) a phenomenal team,” Noltkamper said. “It’s fun to watch them play. Expectations are so high, then you give up an early goal like that and it’s tough to rebound.”

Game two

NYA, which plays its first four games away from home, seeks its first win next Thursday, at Richmond, a Class D South rival.

“We’re still learning,” said Noltkamper. “A lot of teams had all summer to do workouts, but I was appointed the coach here just a few days before the hands-off period started. I didn’t really know any of the kids until the first week of preseason. We still have a long way to go. This was a good wakeup call for us. A good opportunity to see where we stack up. We want to peak in October.”

Waynflete is back in action Saturday, when St. Dom’s pays a visit.

“I think we’ll be really good again this year,” Culley said. “There’s a little bit of pressure, but we have experience and we can handle it. At times, we don’t move the ball as well as we should. We play a little too direct. Other times, more communication on the field will help us. We have to be up to par when we play the top Class B teams.”

“We only have 13 of these regular season games left and they’re all golden opportunities to get better,” Salway said. “We know everyone wants to be the team that beats us, so we have to be ready every game.”

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

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