MONMOUTH — Hayden Fletcher had scored 109 career goals. He picked a good time for No. 110.

Fletcher scored the game-winning goal in the 62nd minute, leading the fourth-seeded Monmouth Academy boys soccer team past No. 5 Hall-Dale 2-1 in a Class C South quarterfinal matchup on a rainy, dreary Monday afternoon.

Monmouth, which also got the tying goal from Ryan Michaud, improves to 11-2-2, and will face either No. 1 Mt. Abram or No. 8 Maranacook in the regional semifinals. Hall-Dale, which led by a score from Ihsan Adbalnabi, finishes 7-6-0.

“My four years, it’s been tough to win a playoff game, and we always struggle,” Fletcher said. “This year, we’re starting to come through and everyone’s contributing. It’s just great.”

The win snapped a frustrating streak for the Mustangs, who hadn’t won a postseason game since reaching the Class C final in 2016.

“We’ve had some tough draws. The southern Maine teams are good,” Monmouth coach Joe Fletcher said. “We lost to Traip two playoffs in a row, both times we had them at home but we had to play on the road on turf because of the conditions. I was pretty adamant this year, we’ve earned home field. Let’s play on this.”

So there the teams were, outside in rain that constantly fell and sometimes poured. But the field at Monmouth held up, and out of the sloppy and slippery conditions came a suspenseful back-and-forth game of chances and opportunities between the two rivals.

“We’re evenly matched teams. This is how we play every game,” Joe Fletcher said. “I have a lot of respect for them, Jesse does a good job. They play hard against us.”

“This is what we do every time we play, the two sides,” Hall-Dale coach Jesse Rowe added. “All year long, it’s been a one-goal game. It just so happened that the ball got to Hayden’s feet, and he made a good shot.”

Hall-Dale and Monmouth boys soccer players mix it up while going for the ball during a Class C South boys soccer quarterfinal game Monday in Monmouth. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Fletcher got the ball on a play started by Travis Jamison after a Bulldogs possession, and was facing the Hall-Dale net with a defender in front of him near the top of the box. Fletcher made a move to shake free, and then planted and booted a shot past a diving Jackson Leach and into the right side of the net with 18:35 to play.

“I gave him some scissors and shot nice and low and hard,” Fletcher said. “I work on that in practice, just trying to get a good shot off.”

The goal was an example of the foot skills that have allowed Fletcher to become the leading scorer in program history.

“He’s a special player,” Joe Fletcher said. “He puts us on his back a lot.”

The Mustangs’ defense held tight from there, not allowing much in the way of chances as Hall-Dale looked for the equalizer.

“Our defense played extremely well today,” Joe Fletcher said. “They had probably as many opportunities as we did, and (keeper) Hunter (Frost) played really well, our outside backs played extremely well, and Ben (Hamann) and Blaine (Paradis), they’re solid in the middle.”

Hall-Dale’s Caleb Lerette, front, heads the ball past Monmouth Academy defenders during a Class C South boys soccer quarterfinal game Monday in Monmouth. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Until Fletcher’s goal, Hall-Dale had the best look at a go-ahead goal in the second half when Camden Adams fired a shot off the crossbar in the 54th minute and Frost denied two follow-up cracks at the net.

“I can’t say enough about the the way my guys played,” Rowe said. “I thought they played really great soccer, moved the ball all around. It just was one of those unlucky chances, and those things happen. I’ve got to give credit to (Monmouth), they didn’t stop working.”

Hall-Dale’s goal was one for the highlight reel, with Breton Lucas hitting a pretty cross from the right side that Adbalnabi was able to redirect in with a perfect header for a 1-0 lead with 6:31 to go in the half.

“That was probably one of our best goals of the season,” Rowe said. “It showed what type of teamwork the guys have. They move without the ball, and went to the right spots. Breton Lucas has been working all year on putting together quality crosses, and that was by far his best. And then Ihsan just went ahead and finished.”

The advantage lasted for roughly a minute, as Monmouth came right back when Michaud went 1-on-1 with Leach and got it past the charging keeper.

“This is a kid that plays year-round. We’ve been waiting for him to step up and score a big goal for us,” Coach Fletcher said. “That’s about as big as he’s ever scored. Maybe that’s a sign (of things) to come.”

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