When his North Yarmouth Academy boys’ soccer team fell behind Madawaska exactly four minutes into the Class D state championship game, Coach Branden Noltkamper admitted his first thought was “Not again.” NYA, making its fourth straight trip to the championship game, had lost in 2019 and 2021.

His players had a different thought. Not this time.

Thanks to goals on rebound chances by Jack Byrne in the first half and Cooper St. Hilaire just 20 seconds into the second half, NYA won 2-1 at Deering High on Saturday to capture its first state title since 2018.

“Redemption this year. We had a bunch of seniors in the starting lineup, so we knew from the get-go we had to win it this year,” St. Hilaire said.

St. Hilaire said he and his teammates knew Madawaska (15-3) wanted to play a possession game that built from the back in an effort to spring counterattacks to its top scoring threats, Carsen Cyr and Brady Gagnon. That meant the Panthers needed to keep pressure on the ball the whole game.

“We had a game plan and we were going to stick to it the whole game, and the game plan worked,” St. Hilaire said.


Immediately following Madawaska’s goal, the Panthers (11-7) asserted their size, speed and skill advantage. Playing in full sun with unseasonable 70-degree temperatures, NYA midfielders St. Hilaire, Byrne, Alex Wignall, Wyatt Thomas, and Rodgers Crowley – all seniors – were consistent winners on contested balls and caused numerous Madawaska turnovers. NYA piled up a huge advantages in shots (25-3) and corner kicks (11-0).

“They’re the best team that we’ve seen this season. You can tell they all play club soccer all year round,” said Madawaska Coach Ben Gagnon. “Twenty seconds into the second half, a mental error, and they capitalized.”

Byrne’s goal came after Madawaska keeper Chris Boucher had made two rapid-fire saves. St. Hilaire was left unmarked to pick up a rebound off a defensive save on a shot by Grey Perham after Boucher had batted away a dangerous cross from Crowley.

“The crashing of the goal on their part was insanely good,” Boucher said. “They’re a great group of kids, they’re all very talented.”

Brady Gagnon put the Owls on top when he tapped in a beautiful cross from Cyr, who had taken a long boot from Boucher.

Byrne knotted the game 4:01 later.

Boucher kept Madawaska in striking range with 19 saves. His defenders cleared four shots away.

Madawaska, which borders Canada, was making its first appearance in a Class D final. The Owls had played in eight previous championships; twice in Class A (1975, 1979), once in Class B (1982), and five times in Class C (1992, 1998, 2004, 2007, 2013), losing each time. The team made the nearly 350-mile trip to Portland early Friday, went to a Maine Celtics basketball game Friday night, and came to the field hungry for the school’s first soccer title, with a large blue-and-white crowd of supporters behind them.

“This was the first time our boys’ team has been to the states in 10 years, I think,” Boucher said. “I think we had a huge crowd behind us that came all the way to support us. It was an amazing experience.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.