OAKLAND — It was the third and deciding round of a season-long slugfest for the Gardiner and Medomak Valley boys soccer teams.

On Tuesday night at Veterans Field, the round — and final decision — went to the Tigers.

Thanks to goals in the final five minutes of play by junior Casey Paul and senior Cam Rizzo, Gardiner dealt the final, deciding blow, beating the Panthers 2-0 in a Class B South quarterfinal.

Gardiner moves on and will host No. 7 Cape Elizabeth on Saturday. The Capers beat No. 2 Erskine Academy 5-1 earlier in the day in South China. According to Gardiner head coach Nick Wallace, this will be the first semifinal game for Gardiner, and with a 12-3-1 mark, the Tigers have the most wins in a season in program history.

“It’s amazing, it’s amazing,” Rizzo said. “Just knowing that Gardiner has never made it to semis ever. It makes it fun.”

“It means a ton,” Paul said. “Especially for the seniors, being their last year… This is one of the best seasons we’ve ever had. It’s obviously paying off a ton.”

The Panthers finished 12-3-0.

The Tigers beat the Panthers 2-1 in the first meeting Sept. 7. Medomak exacted revenge with a 2-1 win of its own on Oct. 8 in Waldoboro.

Gardiner goalkeeper Sean Doyle (88) makes a save as Medomak Valley’s Slavic Moody (1) pursues the rebound in a Class B South boys soccer quarterfinal game Tuesday at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“That was a great game,” Wallace said. “We played those guys twice this year, 2-1 at our place, 2-1 at their place. We knew coming in that was the kind of fight we were going to get. I love the fact that we came through in the end, with resiliency. It’s kind of our team motto, keep fighting until the end.”

Battling rainy conditions that picked up throughout the contest, neither team gained much ground in the first half, though Gardiner had a 5-2 shot advantage over Medomak.

Both teams continued to battle for positioning in the second half, with Medomak holding the slight edge in offensive momentum. But with 4:45 remaining in regulation, both teams were caught up in a scrum in front of the Medomak net, and Paul found the ball and knocked it into the net for the 1-0 lead.

“Dylan Staples, he had it and kicked it off the post, I think he might have been kicking it away, I don’t know,” Paul said. “I found the back of the net though. It feels nice.”

“A lot of our goals have come from mad scrambles, because we just keep fighting,” Wallace said. “But again, the first ten minutes of that second half, Medomak took it to us. I’m glad we kind of took the pressure, took the pressure. (Medomak) got a little frustrated, I think, and at the end it helped us in the momentum side of it to get that W.”

Just one minute later, Rizzo took a pass and managed to make a move on a couple of Medomak defenders, taking off for a breakaway goal that gave Gardiner the final 2-0 score.

“The ball came out and I saw my opportunity,” Rizzo said. “I just kept going and tucked it left and (shot it) low right (in the net). It was fun.”

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