WATERVILLE — After calming its nerves and changing its strategy, the Temple Academy boys soccer team had the playoff win it’s sought since rejoining the Maine Principals’ Association a few years ago. A pair of second-half goals lifted the Bereans to a 2-1 win over Searsport in a Class D South quarterfinal Friday at Thomas College.

No. 3 Temple (15-0-0) will play at No. 2 Buckfield (14-1-0) Monday in a regional semifinal. No. 11 Searsport finished 4-9-3.

“It feels so great. It’s huge for us to get that,” said Temple senior midfielder Micah Riportella, a co-captain. “This is one of our first real competitions we’ve seen. We got put to the test, and we saw we could raise our game.”

Temple coach Phil Hubbard said he felt his team was too passive in the scoreless first half, attributing much of that to nerves. At halftime, Hubbard calmed his team and urged it to be more aggressive.

“We sat back too much in the first half. We said, we can’t sit here in the second half and not score a goal and go home. We went after them,” Hubbard said.

The Bereans also made an adjustment to their attack. Rather than continue trying to come at the Vikings from the outside — after striker Nikola Kekie was lost for the game to injury midway through the first half — Temple went to a dribble penetration approach, hoping to force defenders to make more choices and open up scoring opportunities.

“Our outside attacks, they were doing a good job shutting our lanes down,” Hubbard said. “It worked, because once you dribble penetrated, they had to make decisions they weren’t comfortable with, and the goalie (Ben Powell) had to make decisions. He was just sitting back letting us come to him. We just couldn’t get through with our passing game.”

Temple broke the scoreless tie with 25:58 left in the game. Junior Noah Shepherd intercepted a short Searsport pass just outside the box, took a few dribbles, and fired a low shot to the right corner of the net. The ball was just out of reach of a diving Powell for a 1-0 Bereans lead.

“It was a bit of a scrap, honestly. It wasn’t an intended play… I didn’t really think about it. I just let one fly. I got lucky. It tipped the goalie’s hands, went off the post, and just got it in,” Shepherd said.

Just over three minutes later, Temple gave itself a cushion. Will Paradis fired a high shot that hit the crossbar and came straight down. Nathan Riportella beat Powell to the ball, tapping it in for a 2-0 lead.

Defensively, Temple focused on Searsport forward Liam MacMillan. Late in the first half, MacMillan had a scoring chance with a high shot that was deflected up and over the net by Temple keeper Eli Austin.

“When (MacMillan) gets freed up, he’s dangerous. The first half, he got freed up and made that upper corner shot and we got a save. We tried to shadow him, but a good player like him does get freed up after a while,” Hubbard said, “but we had to commit offensively. We couldn’t sit back.”

The Vikings finally got on the board with 11.7 seconds left in the game, when David Esties scored on a rebound of a Gabe Kneeland shot.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTN

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