Final berth set after win by Central Aroostook
FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Central Aroostook coach Cody Tompkins decided to take a defensive mindset into Friday’s Class D North semifinal against the defending state champion Tigers.
The approach paid off until midway through the second half, but Tompkins and the Panthers found out you can only hold down a strong offensive team like the Tigers for so long.
Chris Giberson broke a scoreless tie by scoring off a Ryan Player assist with 23:24 to play and Fort Fairfield added an insurance goal with just over seven minutes left, giving the top-seeded Tigers a 2-0 win over a hard-working CA squad.
The win moves them into the regional finals against Bangor Christian this afternoon at 2 p.m. in Fort Fairfield. The teams met in the same round last year, with the Tigers prevailing and going on to defeat Buckfield for the state title.
On Friday, the fifth-ranked Panthers decided to go with the strategy of keeping plenty of players inside the 18-yard line and preventing the Tigers from taking quality shots on net.
“Fort Fairfield possesses the ball so well and they move it with quickness,” Tompkins said, “so with all the scorers that they have, I just felt our best chance was to load up the box.
“We worked on a formation the past couple days and for nearly the first 60 minutes it worked. You try to give your team the best chance to win and I think that’s what we did today.”
Giberson, who scored the game-winning goal in last year’s state game, was the hero again as he took a pass from fellow senior Ryan Player and was able to break the deadlock on a blast from 15 yards out that was tucked inside the lower right corner of the goal. “I just kind of settled it,” Giberson said,”but it bounced and I took it out of the air and it went in.”
Fort Fairfield coach John Ala and his Tigers felt relief to finally break through.
“It can be a frustrating style to play against,” said Ala, “and in the first half you could see the frustration building a little bit. But halftime was big because it gave us a chance to regroup. As long as we stay organized defensively and believe we are going to get one, we knew we’d be okay.
“We stuck with it, kept our composure and played with confidence,” Ala added.
Sixteen minutes after Giberson’s goal, sophomore Jonah Daigle took a cross in front of the goal from left wing Landen Kinney and buried the shot to secure the victory.
The Tigers, who improved to 16-0, held a 41-3 advantage in shots on goal. Shots by Yoni Mejia and Isaac Cyr in the first half and Kinney in the second all caromed off the crossbar and represented three other quality chances to score by Fort Fairfield.
Central Aroostook had a direct kick off the foot of sophomore Ben Thomas in the first half that FF goalkeeper Malcolm Langner was able to snag to snuff out the Panthers’ top offensive opportunity. A direct kick by Colby Kingsbury with just over 15 minutes remaining in the match, with the score still at 1-0, floated high but Langner came out to grab the ball amidst plenty of traffic in the box.
Brayden Bradbury, a freshman, handled the goalkeeping duties for 11-5 Central Aroostook and made some nice saves to keep the Panthers in contention.
In Fort Fairfield’s quarterfinal against No. 8 Schenck of East Millinocket last Tuesday, three Tiger players garnered hat tricks in the 9-1 triumph. Mejia had his three goals in the first 10 minutes of the match, while Giberson and Player notched three each after intermission.
Chris King scored the Wolverines’ lone goal.
“I was pleased with the intensity that we came out with,” Ala said. “We were able to pressure them defensively throughout, which led to our offense having numerous scoring opportunities.”