Keeper´s injury opens the door for Houlton
SCARBOROUGH — The elbow Hall-Dale keeper Sam Shepherd took to his nose late in Saturday´s Class C boys´ soccer state championship soccer game had a dramatic affect on the outcome.
Shepherd came out of a scoreless game with 3:46 left after colliding with a Houlton defender as he was chasing a loose ball. He lay on the ground for a couple minutes before leaving the playing field.
"It got me up here around my nose," Shepherd said. "I started bleeding. I snorted and blood came out and the ref was right there, so I had to come out."
Shepherd was replaced by sophomore Brian Allen, who had scarcely played this season. The Eastern Maine champion Shiretowners tallied 46 seconds later when leading scorer James Fitzpatrick headed home a pass from Kyle Bouchard. Thirty-three seconds later, Houlton struck again when Isaac Cone took a cross from Fitzpatrick and scored into an open net.
The Shiretowners hung on for the 2-0 win to capture their first state championship. After losing its first two games of the season, Houlton went unbeaten over its final 16 to finish at 15-2-1.
Western Maine champion Hall-Dale finishes at 16-1-1.
"It´s just ironic when you take out a key player like Sam and put in someone who hasn´t had any playoff experience," Hall-Dale Coach Andy Haskell said. "It´s just like a bang-bang play. They capitalized on that restart and that´s how they scored. Hats off to them."
The winning goal began with a throw-in by Daniel Swallow to the right of the Hall-Dale goal. The 6-foot-4 Bouchard skimmed the ball off his head to Fitzpatrick, who led the Shiretowners with 38 goals this season.
"Dan´s got a big throw and Kyle gets his head on the ball well," said Fitzpatrick, who collected the pass near the left post and headed it in. "I made a diagonal run."
Cone scored into an open net after Allen raced out to shut off Fitzpatrick, who flicked a pass across the goalmouth for an easy score.
"We spent all year preparing for this game," said Fitzpatrick, whose team lost 2-1 to Waynflete in last year´s state final. "Obviously the south plays much different soccer than we do. We´re a little bit more aggressive. We knew they played different soccer, we knew what to expect."
The Bulldogs outshot the Shiretowners 7-4 in the first half. Houlton goalkeeper Kole Buzzeo made six saves, two of them diving stops against sophomore striker Nat Crocker. Houlton´s best chance came when Fitzpatrick rang a shot off the left post late in the half.
The second half belonged mostly to Houlton, which outshot Hall-Dale 6-3.
The Shiretowners paid more attention to Hall-Dale´s Colin Lush, who directs a lot of the Bulldogs´ offense.
"We had to rotate," Houlton Coach Mike Carlos said. "We weren´t rotating at all. Alec (Casillas) had to rotate up and guard their stud.
"You find out what the other team likes to do and you take it away from them. That´s what we were able to do today."
Neither team had great scoring chances, though, until the Shiretowners broke through.
"Their goalie getting hurt had a big impact on this game," Carlos said. "I think he might have made a play on that ball that went through, the first one, but we´ll never know now, will we."