BANGOR, Maine — In the aftermath of Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Brunswick in the Eastern Maine Class A boys soccer final, Bangor senior Johnny Warren linked his team’s present championship quest with its original template — the Rams’ run to the 2006 state title.
“I was saying before the game that the emotions that were there two years ago, we finally felt them again tonight,” said Warren, who also was on Bangor’s roster for its 1-0 double-overtime victory over Scarborough in the 2006 state championship match.
“They were finally back, and they’re still here. Now we just need to bring them into Saturday’s game and use them to our advantage and see what we can do.”
This year’s state game, also against Scarborough, is set for 1 p.m. at McMann Field in Bath and will mark another chapter in a remarkable run for a Bangor program that had never reached a regional final until two years ago.
But the Rams are 45-2-3 since the start of the 2006 season, with one state title, one major disappointment and one more opportunity still remaining.
The 2006 championship effort featured a storybook finish, as Bangor hung on tenaciously against a talented Scarborough team that outshot the Rams 30-11 and won when sophomore Ryan Larochelle redirected a Nick George corner kick past Scarborough goalie Adam Blanchard for his first varsity goal with 5:07 left in the second overtime.
Ironically, all three principals in that play are back for the rematch.
“I think there are 10 of us on that team that are still here, and six or seven returning starters,” said Larochelle, one of nine seniors on this year’s roster.
That somewhat unexpected breakthrough was followed by a dose of unanticipated harsh reality when last year’s undefeated Bangor team was upset in the Eastern Maine quarterfinals by Hampden Academy.
And that frustration makes this year’s return to the ultimate match all the more rewarding.
“We’ve been looking forward to getting back to this game,” said Larochelle. “Last year obviously stung, losing in the quarterfinals, because we were a better team than that.
“This year I really think we’re peaking at the right time, and coming through the playoffs I know we still haven’t played our best game yet.”
Bangor largely rolled through the 2008 regular season, outscoring its opponents by a collective 83-4 in compiling a 13-0-1 record, good for first place in Eastern A.
“The key has been the leadership on the field,” said David Patterson, who became Bangor’s coach this year when Adam Leach stepped down after nine seasons. “We’re very fortunate that we’ve got a great bunch of seniors who absolutely lead on the field. They play with their hearts on their sleeves.”
That No. 1 seed paid homefield dividends in the regional final, as Bangor hosted a Brunswick team that had edged the Rams 1-0 less than two weeks earlier in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship match.
In the rematch, Brunswick controlled play early but did not score, leaving Bangor to draw energy from an external source when the teams switched sides of the field for the second half.
“We call that end the Broadway end,” said senior mid-fielder Dan Taft. “We like going toward Broadway in front of all of our fans. We got energy when the second half started and went from there and were lucky enough to get a couple of goals.”
Jacques Larochelle and Cody Cormier supplied the offense in Bangor’s 2-0 win over the 2007 regional champions, the Rams’ third straight playoff shutout en route to their biggest challenge of the season.
Undefeated Scarborough (17-0) has outscored its opponents by a combined 83-3, including a 1-0 win over defending state champion Greely of Cumberland Center in the Western A final. The Red Storm feature an all-senior defense of Ryan Kane, Nick Tolman, Ted Palmer and James Wright in front of Blanchard.
Coach Mark Diaz’s club will be playing in its fourth state final in the last six years, having won it all in 2005.
Bangor’s players believe their state-championship game experience from 2006 will serve them well in their encore appearance against Scarborough.
“I think we’ll be more prepared mentally and physically,” said Taft. “Most people in their lives don’t get to go to one state championship game, and here we are getting ready for our second one. We’ve just got to make the most of it, enjoy it and just have fun.”