The Bangor High School boys soccer team is in familiar territory as Wednesday’s Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinals draw near — undefeated and atop the Class A standings.
And while the Rams just completed their fourth consecutive undefeated regular season — the bulk of a 67-match unbeaten stretch in regular-season play that dates to the 2006 campaign — this march to the No. 1 seed in the region has been less predictable than its predecessors, in part because rivals felt the gap between themselves and coach David Patterson’s club had narrowed.
“At the start of the season I didn’t know what to think, but as we progressed I knew we had it in us,” said senior back Adam King, one of just four returning starters from the 2009 team that fell to Brunswick in overtime in the Eastern A final. “It feels good to keep on the tradition.”
But with the leadership of King and fellow senior captains Phil Frost, Luke Hetterman, Jacques Larochelle and Jack Stacey, Bangor won four straight one-goal matches to open the season and survived a 2-2 tie at Lawrence of Fairfield before closing out the regular season with four shutouts in its final six matches.
The Rams’ 13-0-1 record entering Wednesday’s quarterfinal against No. 8 Erskine Academy (8-5-1) of South China at 6 p.m. includes seven one-goal victories, two in overtime.
“We spent the last eight weeks making sure we have trust in each other and knowing that someone will be there when you need him to back you up,” said Larochelle, a midfielder who missed several games at the outset of the season due to injury.
The development of trust was perhaps most important on the defensive end of the field, where only King and Frost offered experience when preseason practices began in August. But senior goalkeeper Jesse Perkins has four shutouts and allowed just 12 goals in his first year as the starter, while senior Andy Prusaitis and junior Bobby Winchell have meshed with King and Stacey as a cohesive defensive crew.
King also has provided an offensive punch with his long throw-ins, and he leads the Rams with 13 assists to go with five goals — three directly from throw-ins that went into the net off goalies’ hands.
Frost, one of the state’s top offensive threats, leads the team with 18 goals and seven assists, while Hetterman (12 goals, four assists), senior midfielder Seth Freudenberger (five goals, one assist) and Larochelle (three goals, four assists) are other key playmakers for a Bangor team that scored 51 goals during the regular season.
“Definitely, our communication has gotten better, passing the ball around, playing as a team,” said Freudenberger. “In preseason it was a lot of one-man soccer, but now we’re knocking it around, running onto balls and passing well. There’s definitely a little physicality there because you have to be aggressive to win the 50-50 balls, but it’s also about developing trust in your teammates and knowing they’re going to get the job done just as you are.”
Given that Bangor’s lone losses since the Rams’ 2006 state-title run — when nobody on the current roster was in high school — have been in a 2007 EM quarterfinal to Hampden, the 2008 state final to Scarborough and in last year’s EM championship game — these players understand the target that is on their collective backs.
“We have a lot of strength going forward,” said Larochelle, “but I know that everybody’s going to be coming hard at us so we need to stay level-headed until we get the job done.”