BANGOR, Maine — Playing with a lead provides an added level of confidence, especially when a championship is on the line.
Bangor Christian made sure it grabbed the momentum early in Wednesday’s Eastern Maine Class D soccer title game, and the Patriots kept it throughout.
Senior midfielder Brandon Wilcox scored the first of his three goals 2:56 into the game Wednesday, sparking the second-seeded Patriots to a 3-0 victory over No. 5 Central Aroostook of Mars Hill.
Coach Aaron Wilcox’s Patriots (15-2) play Western Maine winner Richmond (13-2) in Saturday’s state championship game at Hampden Academy.
It was the second regional boys soccer title for Bangor Christian, which won in 2005.
“I told them, they have the skills, so don’t get caught up in how another team’s going to play, play the way you know how to play,” Aaron Wilcox said. “They’ve really been able to do that in the playoffs.”
The well-organized Patriots proved a difficult matchup for Wallace Endy’s Panthers (13-4), who were on the defensive most of the afternoon. Bangor Christian remained in attack mode.
“From the start, he [Wilcox] wants us to come out strong,” said junior midfielder Zach Sirois, BC’s heady playmaker. “He says the first five minutes are what’s crucial in the game to set the tone.”
The players were barely warmed up when Brandon Wilcox kept his feet after getting tangled up with Central Aroostook defender Kasey Brewer and blasted a high shot from 25 yards out that beat Panthers goalkeeper Ross Grass.
“We wanted to get the momentum on our side early, so we really looked to put the attack on,” Brandon Wilcox said.
Central Aroostook worked hard to keep Bangor Christian at bay despite facing frequent pressure. The hosts took 13 shots in the first half alone, many of them quality chances.
Grass made six saves in the half, which included a Brandon Wilcox penalty kick that missed the goal to Grass’ left.
“I was thinking whoever scored first would have a slight advantage,” Endy said. “We weren’t able to score, so that’s the game.”
Brewer was a workhorse on the Panthers’ back line, breaking up several threats.
Bangor Christian finally established some breathing room with a determined surge to open the second half. Wilcox scored goals one minute apart during the first two minutes, extending the hosts’ advantage to 3-0 with 38:01 remaining.
Bradley Wilcox, who is playing with a cast on his broken right hand, set up the second goal. He slid a pass from outside the box into the penalty area where his brother Brandon connected with a low, hard shot 59 seconds into the half.
Brandon Wilcox made it 3-0 when he maneuvered around a CAHS player and bounced a shot off Grass’ outstretched arm. The ball trickled toward the goal line, and Wilcox tapped it in.
CAHS didn’t muster its first shot until 3½ minutes into the second half. The Panthers finished with nine, most of them long-distance bouncers to Tyler Alexander (five saves).
BC generated 21 shots, with Grass recording nine saves, including some tough ones.
Aaron Guimond, Nate Kutz, Nate Fowler and Matt Swanson were among the defensive standouts for BC. Seniors Brewer, Carter Grass, Garrett Stiles, Logan Thomas and Zach Amnott were key contributors for Central Aroostook.