The rivalry between No. 8 Belfast and No. 9 Mount View reached a fever pitch Monday afternoon, Oct. 22 with both high school boys soccer squads looking to take the rubber match with the season on the line.

Squaring off for the second time in six days and third time this season, the Lions and Mustangs were embroiled in a scoreless game for nearly the entire first half before Belfast forward Tyler Baker cleaned up a Yanni Rakis corner kick attempt with 31 seconds remaining.

Baker scored two insurance goals in the second half to complete the hat trick and keeper Sam Kulikowski picked up the shutout in net as the Lions (9-4-2) roared to a 3-0 Eastern Class B prelim playoff victory, eliminating the Mustangs (9-5-1) from the playoffs.

The game between the Waldo Country rivals originally was to be played Oct. 20, but inclement weather and unplayable field conditions forced the switch to Oct. 22.

Click for photos from this game.

Belfast will move on to face top-seeded Ellsworth (13-1) in the regional quarterfinals on Wednesday, Oct. 24, time to be determined, in Ellsworth. The Lions and Eagles do not face each other during the regular season.

In two previous games this season, the Lions fell to the 'Stangs 6-1 Sept. 21 in Belfast before earning a 5-4 double-overtime win over their Waldo County rivals in double overtime Oct. 16 in Thorndike.

Monday's win was the icing on the cake for the Lions, who have not realized much playoff success in recent years.

"I'm pretty happy," said Baker. "I'm more happy with the performance of our keeper [Kulikowski]. Having a young keeper come in halfway through the season, [he] came off an injury and played a great game."

Kulikowski made eight saves in the win after having to leave the team's season finale against Mount View with less than 10 minutes left in regulation after suffering a knee contusion and a bruised shin.

The sophomore keeper showed no lingering effects from last week's injury and stood tall in front of the Lion net against the Mustangs.

Belfast coach Kevin Coombs said Kulikowski "didn't show any lingering effects at all" from the recent injury during the game and made "some spectacular saves" in what was a strong overall effort for the Lions.

"What I told [my kids] at the end of the game was, 'Hey, you guys just beat a really good team,' " said Belfast coach Kevin Coombs. "Mount View has a lot of players and a lot of talent over there, but we did a good job playing team defense today. It was a real team win for us."

Ironically, it was Baker who played goal in Kulikowski's stead last week, helping Belfast preserve the win over Mount View and ultimately, earn a home playoff game — contested Monday.

Baker could barely explain his performance Monday.

"I'm just going with it right now," said Baker. "Just roll with the energy right now. But I owe it all to the keeper right now. Sam Kulikowski played great."

Belfast narrowly outshot Mount View 22-21, while Mustang goalie Mikey Hustus made 10 saves. The visitors held an 8-7 edge in corner kicks.

Rakis, Cristian Williams and Jake Levangie-Thompson all added assists in the win for the Lions.

"I thought we played well, we just couldn't finish," said Mount View coach Chris Hink. "That was the difference. In a playoff atmosphere like this with two teams that are pretty evenly matched, it's all about whoever scores first and how [the opposition] overcomes."

With time winding down in the first half, the left-footed Rakis, using the wind to his advantage, bent a corner kick heading into the Mount View net, which Hustus initially saved, but the ball tricked out of the goalie's hands and right to the unmarked Baker, who pummeled the ball into the net with 31 seconds remaining.

"Just right place, right time and I was able to put it in," Baker said. "I give credit almost to Yanni. He almost had it, I just had to knock it home."

"We talked in pregame about making sure to crash the net," said Coombs. "On a day like this with real windy field conditions, field conditions aren't optimal, you just always want to be there when their keeper is making a save, and sometimes they don't."

Hink admitted that first goal was certainly a letdown going into halftime.

"That's the story of our season," he said. "We've let up 33 goals now this season, 25 or so were due to an unmarked man watching the ball. And we tried to fix it but we just couldn't. And it ended up being our downfall at the very end."

Baker fired home a shot from well outside the 18-yard line with 23:28 remaining in the game, on a pass from Williams, and put the game out of reach with 4:53 remaining with a goal on a pass from Levangie-Thompson.

Mount View certainly had its opportunities in the game, including an open shot from close-range by James Philbrick that went just outside the upper 90 with about 20 minutes remaining in regulation.

"That's the story of our game," said Hink. "We just couldn't finish."

Now, with the Lions playing the role of David, BAHS will look to win the battle against Goliath — the Eagles — who are perennially state championship contenders. The Eagles are led by Brian Higgins, who has more than 500 career coaching victories.

"We're just going to have to play another game like we played tonight," said Baker. "A strong, physical game and a game where we're all here. That's all we need to do to stick with any team we play really."

"They've got three of four good scorers, so we're really going to have to mark up well and execute our game plan," said Coombs. "They're well-coached. [Coach Brian] Higgins was here scouting the game tonight so I can expect he knows us very well. It ought to be a good game."

Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@courierpublicationsllc.com.