News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 16, 2023 and The Weekly Packet, November 16, 2023
GSA falls 1-0 in state championship game

Junior Reed Pambianco

Junior Reed Pambianco (#7) elevates to head the ball during the state championship game, while teammates Adam Metcalf (#10) and Malcolm Page (#22) look on. George Stevens Academy fell just short, losing 1-0 to the Mt. Abram Roadrunners.

Photo by Erik Atwell Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Erik Atwell

Sometimes in sports, achievement is not determined by outcome, and rewards cannot be measured by mere numbers on a scoreboard.

This was the case on Saturday, November 11, on a sunny and crisp afternoon at the Mt. Ararat High School stadium, where the George Stevens Academy Eagles fell to the Mt. Abram Roadrunners 1-0 in the Class C State Championship game.

Entering the contest, the Eagles of George Stevens knew they were facing an opponent the likes of which they had not encountered all season. The top-ranked Roadrunners sported a perfect record of 17-0, dismantling opponents to the tune of 81 goals scored over the season to only three given up.

Right from the opening kickoff, it was clear that Mt. Abram was on another level. The Roadrunners were bigger, faster and more skilled than previous opponents, and they immediately went on the attack, nearly putting one in the net on a spectacular bicycle kick just two minutes into the contest.

During these opening minutes, Mt. Abram generated a series of corner kicks, one of which proved to be the decisive goal in the 16th minute of the game. A simple corner led to a fluke deflection that snuck past Eagles’ goalkeeper Haven Smith, and suddenly it was 1-0.

Faced with a deficit against a team with a nearly spotless defensive pedigree, the Eagles didn’t buckle. They started to press the action offensively, and when the Roadrunners had their turn on attack, Smith made several key saves to keep it a one goal game.

The Eagles had two great chances in the final five minutes of the half. One when junior Reed Pambianco sliced into the box and got off a shot, and another just two minutes later when junior Dominic Nevells worked through traffic toward the Mt. Abram net, but was unable to get off a shot.

Trailing 1-0, the determined Eagles were more assertive in the second half, utilizing their possession game as they had done in their previous playoff games. Whenever the Roadrunners attempted to muscle their way to goal, the Eagles matched their intensity, showing that they were not about to wilt in the face of adversity.

In the 21st minute, freshman Jack Carson settled a ball from 20 yards out, and ripped one just over the crossbar. Though the Eagles weren’t able to fully crack the Mt. Abram defense, they were finding small openings. And in this sport, all it takes is one crazy bounce.

With just under 10 minutes to play, Pambianco set up a free kick from about 50 yards out. At such a distance, no one could expect any sort of immediate threat. Yet Pambianco was unfazed by the distance, firing a long blast toward the Mt. Abram goalkeeper, who was unable to field the shot cleanly. The ball trickled through the goal mouth, but before any of the onrushing Eagles could pounce on it and tuck it into the net, the keeper managed to regain control.

This would prove to be the last big Eagles’ threat on the day. The Roadrunners held on to the 1-0 victory, and took home the title.

The expectation after such a difficult and hard fought loss would be to hold one’s head down, but these Eagles found silver linings in their silver medals. Though the outcome wasn’t what they had hoped for, their moods were upbeat.

“I’m feeling great,” said Smith after the match. “This year we really turned it around. We started practicing as a team without the coaches before the season even started, and it just turned into a good run. Played a lot better than we did last year, and we can’t be sad about where we are right now.”

Smith is one of three senior starters on the team, and Coach Mark Hundhammer reflected on each of their contributions to the program. “Haven Smith—just been incredible all year. He had a great game again today, made some great plays. Then Brady Pert came over, hadn’t played in a while, but he completely changed the dynamic and the culture of our team. And Cam Walden, the same thing. The seniors have just been awesome, great for team chemistry.”

Pambianco was similarly reflective about the season. “This summer, me and my friends—we worked really hard,” he said proudly. “This is a tight-knit team. We’re basically like a family. We’ll be here next year. I’m confident of that.”

Junior co-captain Aubrey King seconded this notion. “Coming from last year, getting knocked out in the quarterfinals, we really used that to motivate us,” said King. “We were able to make it all the way through to states, and we put up a really good game against these guys. We’re the first team from GSA in 20 years to make it to state finals, and we’re not done. We’re coming back next year.”

In the end, the scoreboard showed that the Eagles lost 1-0. What the scoreboard did not show, however, was the powerful personal impact that this season had upon the team. The scoreboard did not display the countless hours the team spent together on their own free will, pushing themselves to be better than they were before, and to be there for one another at all times.

Lastly, the scoreboard did not measure the incredible heart and soul of the 2023 George Stevens Academy boys soccer team, two things which were truly immeasurable. To that end, they were all winners on this day, as well as going forward.