Men’s football: NYA returns to Class D final with shutout win over Islesboro
FREEPORT — In the 11th minute of the men’s goalless Class D South soccer final, Cooper St. Hilaire picked up the ball, planted it, fired a hard shot — and could only watch it slam on the cross-bar.
A bad omen? Not exactly.
St. Hilaire scored the first two goals of the game, helping to open the floodgates as fifth-seeded North Yarmouth Academy beat No. 2 Islesboro, 5-0, to return to the Class D final for the fourth consecutive time.
The game was a rematch of last year’s regional final, a 4-0 NYA win. And again, the Eagles (9-3-0) had few answers for a Panthers (10-7-0) team that attacked at will.
“We failed (in Final D) last year, and we just wanted to come back this year,” said St. Hilaire, one of NYA’s four scorers along with twin Daxton St. Hilaire, Jack Byrne and Wyatt Thomas. . “We want the job done the next game.”
It was not a smooth return to this game. NYA started the season 2-5.
“We were worried about not even making the playoffs,” Cooper St. Hilaire said. “We had to turn around. The boys went for it, and now we’re here.
NYA spent the majority of the first half on offense, but a resilient Eagles defense led by Dylan Frank (11 saves), who started in goal with Robert Conover unavailable due to a red card in half- final, held on. In the 11th minute, Cooper St. Hilaire shot the bar 25 yards out and Frank made a save on the follow-up.
“You sometimes get this feeling that it will be one of those days,” NYA coach Branden Noltkamper said.
Cooper St. Hilaire, however, was encouraged.
“I usually bang it,” he said. “It was good to have this photo. It kept me going.
He found the net moments later, collecting the ball after a set piece from Byrne and scoring with a direct look with 20:50 to go in the half. He hit again on a nice play early in the second period, as Thomas kicked in a corner kick that Cooper St. Hilaire headed in with 35:11 to go.
“The twins, man, they’re amazing on the heads,” Thomas said. “They really fight to get that ball in the back of the net, and I always find their head right there on top of the six.”
After breaking through, the Panthers poured it. Less than two minutes later, with 33:29 to go, Frank made a save on a Gray Perham shot but Byrne hopped on the rebound. Daxton St. Hilaire scored after driving a through ball with 30:36 remaining, and Thomas completed the scoring with 21:52 remaining.
“I’m proud of them. We were talking before the game, 38 days ago, we were 2-5 and we weren’t sure where everything was going to go,” said Noltkamper. “We always talked about a peak in October. Here we are.”
Islesboro coach Rob McHugh praised the effort of his group, which made it back to the D South final despite having one of the lowest entries in the sport.
“It was a lot of hard work,” he said. “Everyone must be present, 100%. This is how it works.