Player took a free kick from 30 yards out in the middle of the field and lofted it beautifully to Giberson, who was running down the left side. Giberson needed just one touch and he struck the ball into the upper right corner of the goal, breaking the scoreless draw.

“It was a nice through ball by Ryan over the top of their defense,” Giberson said, “and I just volleyed it in.”

The play was part of a dominant stretch by the Tigers after an even first half between the two teams. Fort Fairfield applied solid pressure on the Bucks throughout the first 10 minutes following intermission before finally scoring.

“We struggled early to get the ball to the flanks, which is a strength of ours,” said Tiger coach John Ala. “In the second half, we were able to get the ball moving laterally as well as north and south, and we built our runs a lot better.”

The coach added that Player, the team’s most talented player, was fighting a calf injury which limited his minutes in the first half. Ala said there is a noticeable difference when he’s not in the game, so the team made some adjustments during the break.

“We wanted to keep him on the field as a target player so we moved him out of midfield and put him up front,” Ala said, “and it made a big difference. We started to play off him and it created some scoring opportunities.


“He’s a true competitor and he really gutted it out for us,” he added.

Ten minutes after the goal was scored, the South champion Bucks launched a sustained threat. Long throw-ins by Hunter Wiley and the powerful flip throws by Ethan Jackson put the ball in the middle of the box a few times, only to see the Fort Fairfield defense clear it away.

Buckfield’s Sidney Jackson blasted a shot with four minutes remaining that went just right, while Bryan Chabe had a final opportunity with under 10 seconds left. On that one, Tiger goalkeeper Dalton Cassidy made his seventh and final save with the dive to his left and he raced around with the ball as time wound down to punctuate his team’s 17-0-1 season.

It was Fort Fairfield’s third shutout of the playoffs and 10th overall.

“They work really well together and their defense is very, very good,” said Bucks’ coach Kyle Rines. “I thought going in we’d have the advantage with our forward play, and we did have our chances, but they showed why they went undefeated and were No. 1.”

Tiger sophomore Colin Goshorn, one of the talented backs, said working hard and working well together have been constant keys throughout the year.

“It’s all in the heart and we just have the fire to win and have been striving to do this the whole year,” Goshorn said.

Goalkeeper Jacob Kraske made 12 saves on 19 shots for Buckfield, who finished the year at 16-2 after coming out of the South as the No. 1 seed.

“In a game like this, you have a tendency to play more ‘hero ball’ and we got away from what we usually do,” Rines said. “We’ve got to live with the result, but we have a lot to be proud of.”

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