BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor boys soccer team had outscored its first 13 opponents this season by an astounding 80-3 — dominance that isn’t always the best preparation for the upscale competition of postseason play.
That’s why Tuesday evening’s 3-1 victory over Waterville was so valuable for the Rams, for not only did they complete an unbeaten regular season, but they did so amid an atmosphere filled with playoff intensity against an opponent with its own long-term aspirations.
“They’re a strong team and we knew they’re a strong team,” said Bangor senior Ryan Larochelle, whose insurance goal with 24:32 left subdued what had been growing Waterville momentum. “We’ve got to play up to that level of competition or a letdown against an even better team in the playoffs won’t enable us to win.”
Bangor (13-0-1) will finish first or second in the final Heal Point ratings set to be released Wednesday, while 10-4 Waterville is likely to finish fifth.
And their second match of the season — Bangor won 2-1 at Waterville on Sept. 18 — lived up to those rankings, as senior striker Johnny Warren scored twice to stake the Rams to a 2-0 halftime lead before the Purple Panthers fought back.
“We didn’t come out well in the first half, we let them control midfield,” said Waterville coach Jeff Ross. “But we made a some changes that helped us do a little better job of controlling midfield and take the game to them. I think they were a little nervous as we gained some pressure, but we just didn’t finish the way we wanted to.”
Bangor had with a 10-6 advantage in shots on goal, with Rams goalie Bud Angst making five saves and Waterville’s Nick Lee handling seven stops.
Warren teamed with junior forward Nick George to give Bangor early control. His first goal came with 21:45 left in the first half, after George stole the ball from a Waterville player on the left side of the Purple Panthers’ penalty area.
George then dropped the ball back to Warren, who rifled a quick shot inside the far post.
“Honestly, [George] had no clue where I was, he just heard my voice,” said Warren. “I was yelling from behind, ‘Nick, lay it off,’ and he did and I didn’t have any time so I just one-timed it with my left foot.”
Warren scored again on a counterattack with 9:24 left before intermission. Angst had just made a strong save on a shot by Waterville’s Wilson Guthro, and when Bangor worked the ball to the other end George gained control in the right corner before making a short pass to Warren, who worked around a defender before powering home a sharp-angled shot.
“[Nick] got the ball for me after they coughed it up and I was just there to support him,” said Warren. “I just grabbed it, and the kid went left so I went right, then he went back right so I went back left and ripped it and it went right in.”
Waterville came out more assertive in the second half, and cut its deficit to 2-1 when Jacob Sirois worked the ball on the left wing before feeding Ian Rowe, who slid a low shot into the net with 34:51 left.
Waterville continued to apply pressure, but eventually Bangor counterattacked and regained a two-goal lead on a restart with 24:32 left.
George took the initial kick, centering the ball to senior midfielder Dan Taft. Taft quickly redirected the ball through the goal crease to Larochelle, who scored from amid the crowd.
“It was off a corner and Dan was [at the] near post and nobody’s getting by Dan,” said George. “So near post was a good choice and Dan made a nice play.”