READFIELD — When Maranacook needed him most, he was in the right place at the right time.


Having subbed back in just seconds prior, Mitch Root followed Aric Belanger’s header off the crossbar, firing home in the 108th minute to lift the top-seeded Maranacook boys soccer team to a 2-1 double-overtime win over Waynflete in a Class C South semifinal Saturday night at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams.

Connor Stockwell’s corner from the right side found Belanger perfectly in the middle of the mixer, and his header had Waynflete goalkeeper Max Winson cleanly beat. But as it rang off the iron — and as arms and gasps flew into the dense night air in dismay — Root never stopped following the ball.

His sure-footed strike pounded the back of the net to lift Maranacook (15-1-0) into a Class C regional final for the first time since 2014.

“Aric made a great header and I was there for the rebound,” Root. “It went to my feet and I one-timed it in. I’m speechless.

“Coach always tells us to look at the next play and not focus on the last one.”

The Black Bears felt like their conditioning paid off.

“I work them to death, and that’s really where it paid off,” Maranacook coach Don Beckwith said. “Composure. Young kid in a good spot. It’s all good.”

Maranacook led 1-0 until late in the second half, taking the lead through Richard Down in the 25th minute. Down, a junior, scored his third goal in two playoff games by fighting through traffic in front to punch home the opening goal.

Waynflete, with a dangerous counter-attack that found its legs in the second half, equalized in the 67th minute on senior midfielder Christain Brooks’ fluke goal. Brooks evaded the wall to the short side with his free kick from just inside 30 yards, and Black Bear goalkeeper Ryan Worster had a clear view as the ball rolled in on him.

But instead of fielding cleanly, the shot skipped through Worster to tie the score at 1-1.

The Flyers carried the play through the remainder of regulation, but could not crack through again. Ilyas Abdi had two glorious chances to send Waynflete through to the regional final, but Worster turned him away in the 80th minute and his rocket in the first overtime period smacked the crossbar.

“Coach told us to never give up,” Root said. “We always stay hopeful.”

Even after giving up the tying goal late, just the fifth goal surrendered by the team this year, Maranacook stayed focused on the task at hand. The Black Bears were determined not to let a fluke goal or near-misses from either side dictate the final outcome.

“You’re going to have moments,” Beckwith said. “You’re going to have peaks and valleys through games. We’ve talked about fighting through those for years. You’ve got to fight through the valleys and enjoy the peaks.”

“We’re going to enjoy this peak.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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