ELLSWORTH – After Chris Archer scored late in the second half of Wednesday’s Eastern Maine Class B boys soccer semifinal against Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield, the Ellsworth senior acknowledged the crowd with a polite bow.
And when Brian Higgins took Archer out of the game seconds later, the Eagles’ coach offered Archer a bow of his own for a job well done.
Such is the respect one earns after a three-goal half, a hat trick by Archer that led Ellsworth to a 4-1 win over the Huskies at Del Luce Stadium.
The victory sends No. 3 Ellsworth (15-1-1) to Saturday’s EM final in Bangor against No. 1 John Bapst. No. 7 MCI finishes 8-6-3.
Archer, who did not play soccer as a sophomore or junior, was making just his second start this fall as the Eagles compensate for the loss of starting striker Chris Leighton, injured late in the season.
“We have very good depth,” said Higgins, whose lineup also was without midfielder Pat Nabozny, who underwent an appendectomy Tuesday. “Chris hadn’t started until the last game, but he’s been playing.”
While Archer was an offensive juggernaut on this day, Ellsworth’s defense contained MCI’s playmakers, particularly midfielders Owen Campbell and Troy Murray and forwards Dustin Varney, Brandon Glencross and Kyle Liimatainen.
Ellsworth had a 14-4 edge in shots on goal, but the differential in total attempts was closer.
“We were rushing our shots, not showing enough patience,” said MCI coach Scott Varney. “Ellsworth was putting on good pressure defensively, and we tried to do things too quickly.”
Credit that to the Ellsworth tandem of senior Evan Beal and juniors Alex Emigh, Jesse Abbott and Dan Duhaime.
“They were a scary team, they have great speed,” said Higgins. “But we’ve got a veteran defense. This is the second year they’ve played together, and they’re all good friends.”
Ellsworth’s Demetrios Katsiaficas scored the lone goal of the first half. The senior tracked down the ball deep in the right corner near the end line and lofted a high centering pass into the swirling wind. The ball came down in the hands of MCI goalie Benson Mensah-Bonsu, but he was behind the goal line and the Eagles had a 1-0 lead with 30:35 left in the half.
“I was just trying to get to the ball and cross it,” said Katsiaficas. “I was struggling to get to the ball, but I got a foot on it and crossed it.”
Archer made it 2-0 with a sharp-angle shot from the right side 5:33 into the second half.
MCI scored with 28:06 left, after Jonathan Downs sent a long pass toward Ellsworth goalie Greg Berry. Berry came out to make the play but couldn’t control the ball and Glencross scored into an open net.
Archer scored twice less than four minutes apart to create some late breathing room. The first came with 14:20 left as he curled a shot from 18 yards out inside the right goalpost after some strong setup work by Katsiaficas and Hans Haugen.
Archer grounded a shot past Mensah-Bonsu from close range with 10:40 left to make it 4-1.
Then it was time for Archer – and all the Eagles – to take a bow.
“I’ve never been that much of a goal scorer,” said Archer, “but after [Leighton] went down I’ve been one of the guys trying to fill that spot and today I got some chances to score.”