The Bangor Christian boys soccer team battled its way to the Class D state championship last fall — and the Patriots would like to do it again.
BC, which finished 16-2 last season after edging Richmond in the state final, is off to a 6-0-1 start this fall heading into Wednesday's match against Foxcroft Academy.
"We're playing pretty well," said junior striker Brad Wilcox, who already has 20 goals and five assists this year after earning All-Penobscot Valley Conference first-team honors after a 22-goal sophomore season. "We struggle with our communication at times, but it's getting better. We have pretty good chemistry."
That chemistry should not come as a surprise, because while Bangor Christian graduated 10 seniors from last year's team, it lost just three starters.
"We've got a lot of seniors, and we get a lot of good leadership from them," said Patriots' coach Aaron Wilcox, Brad's father.
Bangor Christian is anchored by a veteran defense that features senior Tyler Alexander, a third-year starter in goal, and senior sweeper Nate Kutz. They are joined by senior wing fullbacks Aaron Guimond and Chris Parent and junior stopper Matt Swanson.
"We've had a couple of games where because of our experience on defense we've been able to draw eight to 10 offsides," said coach Wilcox. "Kutz provides a lot of leadership back there, he's always talking with the guys and that helps us catch teams offsides."
Senior Zach Sirois (nine goals, seven assists through seven matches) sparks the midfield play.
"He's a very skilled performer," said coach Wilcox.
Seniors Christopher Parent — not to be confused with the senior Chris Parent on defense — and Ben Groski and sophomore Rem Poulin also play key midfield roles.
Brad Wilcox teams with freshman Zach Palmeter up front, with Palmeter recently replacing Ben Bragg. He is one of two starters already lost to the Patriots this season due to knee injuries.
Brad Wilcox's game is enhanced this year after he worked out during the summer with former BC player Zach Kutz, now one of two BC graduates playing at Lancaster (Pa.) Bible College along with Wilcox's brother Brandon, the 2009 state Class D player of the year who scored the winning goal for the Patriots in the state final on a penalty kick.
"I worked a lot on what I could this summer," said Brad Wilcox. "I worked a lot on touches so I wouldn't just be using my speed game, and on being more aggressive."
Bangor Christian began the week ranked just sixth in Eastern D, in part because Aroostook County teams in the division such as Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook, Central Aroostook of Mars Hill, Wisdom of Saint Agatha and Washburn — all ranked in the top five — started their seasons earlier and thus have played more games and generated more Heal points.
But coach Wilcox hopes his team will contend for top-four status by the end of the regular season, with Southern Aroostook, Calvary Chapel of Orrington and Machias among Bangor Christian's top rivals.
"We're getting closer," he said. "There are things we've got to tweak, but we're getting there."