BANGOR – A late goal in the first half gave the No. 1 Bangor boys soccer team plenty of momentum Saturday in the Rams’ Eastern Maine Class A semifinal game.
Bangor’s second goal, however, was the knockout punch as the Rams earned their second regional title berth in three years. Bangor got goals from seniors Ryan Larochelle and Johnny Warren in a dominating 2-0 win over No. 4 Mount Ararat of Topsham.
The victory puts the Rams, now 15-0-1, as the host for Wednesday’s EM Class A title game against No. 2 Brunswick, the same team Bangor beat in 2006 to win the regional crown en route to the state title.
Brunswick beat Bangor, 1-0, last month in the non-countable Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference title game.
The relief on the Bangor sideline was palpable after Warren was credited with the goal on a play that had started with a Zane Gray throw-in from the near sideline. The ball went into the goal, however, off a Mount Ararat defender with 18 minutes, 3 seconds left.
As the Rams often do, Gray was aiming for the head of 6-foot-3 midfielder Dan Taft, who was marked by two Eagle players. The ball went over Taft and headed toward Warren.
“I slid in there and [the ball] went off my shoulder, hit a defender and went in,” Warren said. “I was just trying to get something on it.”
The goal allowed the Rams to drop into defensive mode and bottle up Mount Ararat in the final 18 minutes.
“If we could get something in transition we would take it, but we just really wanted to hold the ball,” senior sweeper Nate Frazier said.
Bangor’s defense held the Eagles to just three second-half shots, all of which were saved by Bangor goalie Bud Angst.
Defense was especially key on long throw-ins by Mount Ararat’s Scott Rogers.
“We worked on it in practice, and we knew we had to defend that,” Taft said. “I think we did a pretty good job of that, clearing the ball out.”
Bangor’s first goal, which was scored 25 seconds before halftime, gave the Rams something to show for after they outshot the Eagles 11-0 in the first half. But Bangor couldn’t get anything past Mount Ararat goalie Matt Bickford..
There was little Bickford could do to stop the ball at the end of the half, when Nick George sent in a blast that bounced in front of the goal, hit the crossbar and fell down. Larochelle was there to make sure the ball went in.
“That, to me, was the deciding factor,” Mount Ararat coach Rich Renaud said. “If we had held them before halftime… my kids might have kept their heads up a little more. That’s just a dagger, when [they scored] just before halftime.”
Bickford finished with 10 saves on 19 shots. Backup Alex Dolan recorded one save on two shots, both in the second half.