Defending champions, perennial contenders and first-time finalists all will be part of the mix Wednesday when the four Eastern Maine boys soccer finals are contested.
In Class A, top-ranked and undefeated Bangor will seek its second straight regional title and third in the last four years when it hosts second-ranked Brunswick.
This also will mark the third time in the last four years that Bangor and Brunswick have met in the EM final, with Bangor winning 2-1 in 2006 and 2-0 in 2008.
These teams will be playing for the second time in less than two weeks after battling to a 1-1 tie before Bangor edged Brunswick in penalty kicks at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championship match on Oct. 23.
“They’re definitely a really good program that’s always been strong.,” said Bangor junior forward Luke Hetterman after the Rams defeated Erskine Academy of South China 3-0 in the semifinals. “The defense is really strong, it’s hard to get by, but we’re up for the challenge.”
The goal scored by Brunswick in the non-countable KVAC match was just the second allowed by Bangor this season.
Coach David Patterson’s Bangor club (16-0) has outscored the opposition 63-1 in Maine Principals’ Association-countable matches, with Nick George (16 goals, 11 assists), Phil Frost (14-5), Cody Cormier (9-5), Hetterman (8-5) and Brian Loiselle pacing the attack.
Brunswick (14-1-1) is playing in its fifth straight EM final and sixth in the last seven years under 38th-year head coach Peter Gardner.
Most recently a regional champion in 2007, Brunswick has been led offensively by Scott Jarosz (8-4), Zach McMillan (7-4), Pete Morrell (7-2), Justin Rosner (5-2) and Conor Kelly (4-5).
As is the case in Class A, the Class B final will match the last two Eastern Maine champions when top-ranked Ellsworth hosts No. 2 Presque Isle at Del Luce Stadium.
Presque Isle is the reigning Eastern B champion, while Ellsworth won the 2007 crown.
These unbeaten rivals also met earlier this season, playing to a 1-1 tie at Ellsworth on Sept. 12.
Ellsworth (15-0-1) suffered a blow during its 1-0 semifinal win over Camden Hills of Rockport when goalie Jordan Carter was sidelined by a broken arm. Tom Sawyer replaced Carter in goal to preserve the shutout against the Windjammers, and is expected to get the start against Presque Isle.
Ellsworth is led by seniors Zach Emeigh (16 goals, five assists) and Matt Duhaime (14-3), along with Kyle Haslam (10-3) and Andrew Austin (3-7).
Wilder York (13-2), Josh Allen (8-3) and Nathaniel Postell (6-6) lead 14-0-2 Presque Isle, while goalie Dillon Kingsbury has seven shutouts.
In Class C, Fort Kent and Orono will attempt to end lengthy title droughts when they square off in the St. John Valley.
No. 2 Fort Kent is in search of its first EM crown since 1981, when the Warriors were still playing in Class A. No. 4 Orono last won an Eastern Maine title as a Class B program in 1992.
Fort Kent (11-3-2) is led offensively by Tom Levesque (21-3), along with Jared Soucy (11-6) and Sam Chasse (6-6).
Orono (14-1-1) counters with Miguel Caballero (12-6), Dan Lesser (8-6) and Sean Kilpatrick (6-1), along with Chris Johnson (5-0), Paul Ohno (5-3), Nick Peterson (4-6) and Charlie Boyle (4-0).
A.J. Coleman has led Orono to nine shutout victories, including 1-0 wins over previously unbeaten Penobscot Valley of Howland and top-seeded Madawaska during its current playoff run.
Alex Charette has five shutouts in goal for Fort Kent, including a 1-0 semifinal win over 2008 state champion Washington Academy of East Machias.
In Class D, No. 2 Bangor Christian will face No. 5 Central Aroostook of Mars Hill for the regional title.
Bangor Christian was the only team among the top four seeds to advance beyond the quarterfinals, and is after its first EM crown since winning the 2005 state championship.
BC (14-2) is led offensively by Brad Wilcox (21 goals, 10 assists), Zach Sirois (13-5), Brandon Wilcox (8-2) and Ben Bragg (7-2), while Tyler Alexander has handled the goalkeeping duties.
Central Aroostook (13-3) features a top scorer in Dan Brewer (21-3) along with Garrett Stiles (11-6), Logan Thomas (7-1) and Spencer Stetson (7-0). Ross Grass handles the goalkeeping duties.
The Panthers are seeking their first regional title in boys soccer.