FREEPORT — In the 11th minute of the scoreless Class D South boys soccer final, Cooper St. Hilaire got the ball, planted, fired a hard shot – and could only watch as it slammed off the crossbar.

A bad omen? Not exactly.

St. Hilaire, a former Lewiston High School athlete, scored the first two goals of the game, helping to open the floodgates as fifth-seeded North Yarmouth Academy took down No. 2 Islesboro, 5-0, to return to the Class D final for the fourth straight time.

The game was a rematch of last year’s regional final, a 4-0 NYA win. And once again, the Eagles (9-3-0) had few answers for a Panthers team (10-7-0) that attacked at will.

“We fell short (in the D final) last year, and we just wanted to get back this year,” said St. Hilaire, one of four scorers for NYA along with twin Daxton St. Hilaire, Jack Byrne and Wyatt Thomas. “We want to get the job finished the next game.”

It wasn’t a smooth trip back to this game. NYA started the season 2-5.

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“We were worried that we wouldn’t even make playoffs,” Cooper St. Hilaire said. “We had to turn it around. The boys got rolling, and now we’re here.”

NYA spent the majority of the first half on the attack, but a resilient Eagles defense led by Dylan Frank (11 saves), who was starting in goal with Robert Conover unavailable due to a red card in the semifinals, held on. In the 11th minute, Cooper St. Hilaire fired off the bar from 25 yards out, and Frank made a save on the follow-up.

“You kind of have that feeling sometimes, that it’s going to be one of those days,” NYA Coach Branden Noltkamper said.

Cooper St. Hilaire, however, was encouraged.

“I usually nub it,” he said. “It felt good to have that shot. It got me going.”

He found the net moments later, getting the ball after a Byrne set piece and scoring from a straight-on look with 20:50 to go in the half. He struck again on a pretty play early in the second half, as Thomas lofted a corner kick that Cooper St. Hilaire headed in with 35:11 to play.

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“The twins, man, they’re amazing on headers,” Thomas said. “They really fight to get that ball in the back of the net, and I always find their head right there on the top of the six.”

Having broken through, the Panthers poured it on. Less than two minutes later, with 33:29 to go, Frank made a save on a Grey Perham shot but Byrne jumped on the rebound. Daxton St. Hilaire scored after running down a through ball with 30:36 left, and Thomas rounded out the scoring with 21:52 to play.

“I’m proud of them. We were talking before the game, 38 days ago we were 2-5 and kind of unsure of where everything was going to be,” Noltkamper said. “We’ve always talked about peaking in October. Here we are.”

Islesboro Coach Rob McHugh praised the effort from his group, which returned to the D South final despite one of the sport’s smallest enrollments.

“It’s been a lot of hard work,” he said. “Everyone’s got to be in, 100 percent. That’s how it works.”


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