DEXTER - After battling each other through 80 regulation minutes, four overtimes, two sets of penalty kicks and a sudden-death penalty-kick session last year, the boys from George Stevens Academy and Dexter expected another tight playoff game.
Saturday afternoon's Eastern Maine Class C regional title tilt between the fifth-seeded GSA Eagles of Blue Hill and the No. 2 Tigers was exactly that, although it took considerably less time than their 2004 regional semifinal marathon.
Dan Beatham's goal off a perfectly delivered pass from Rick Stewart 6 minutes and 42 seconds into the second overtime gave Dexter a 2-1 victory.
The 15-1-1 Tigers play Western Maine champ North Yarmouth Academy on Saturday in the Class C state final at a site to be determined. The Eagles wind up 10-4-3.
"We had to go into penalty kicks to beat them last year, so we knew this was going to be a tough game. We kind of expected this," said Beatham, who scored both of Dexter's goals. What he didn't expect was for GSA senior goaltender Collin Henry to put on a clinic in leaping, lunging, diving saves to hold the Tigers at bay despite a 22-12 Dexter shot advantage.
Five minutes before the deciding goal, Henry made lunging dive to get a hand on a hard shot to the right corner and deflect it away from the net.
It was a cool, clear day, but the sun was warm and conditions ideal except for one thing. The Parola Field surface was still soft and muddy from two weeks of rain and players were having some footing problems.
"Trying to keep the mud out of our cleats was a big problem and we tried to play the right side of the field because it was way too slippery on the left," said Stewart, who Henry robbed of a goal with his dive.
Henry almost did it again, but Stewart got control of the ball on the left side, faked his defender, and dribbled around him to find Beatham wide-open near the penalty line on the left side of the net with Henry far on the right. Beatham's shot was slightly deflected by a diving Henry, but still made it into the left corner of the net.
"I was looking to the far side and saw the goalie. That's why I went straight to Danny. I was surprised [Henry] even got a hand on it," Stewart said.
Henry, who made 18 saves, almost made it 19 despite being caught on the opposite end and having to cover some slippery ground very quickly.
"I actually got pretty good footing, which surprised me, because the goal mouths are pretty bad," Henry said. "Both teams played fantastic. All it takes is one little slip and we had two on that last play."
Dexter goalie Chris Eastman made nine saves. Dexter's first goal came 12 minutes into the game as Eastman headed in a crisp pass from David Wilks.
George Stevens tied it up with 19:14 left in the half when Seth Brayton belted a worm-burner shot from the middle of the 18 to the left corner of the goal off a Blake Wessel pass.
"Their defense is probably the best we've seen all year in terms of marking people," said Dexter coach Paul Shaw. Not bad for a battered Eagles squad. Wessel was playing with two bad ankles and forward Mansor Aljarbot, a Saudi Arabian exchange student, was weakened from Ramadan fasting. Then forward Austin Dobson broke his collarbone in warmups and was taken to the hospital.
"We also had to play Friday, so we were running on fumes," said GSA coach Jim Sperry. "I was very proud of them to come out and play like this. They had nothing left."
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