The Bangor Christian boys soccer team won the Class D state championship the hard way a year ago — playing a man down for the final 21 minutes of the second half, successfully blocking a penalty kick and then scoring the winning goal on a penalty kick of its own with 2:20 remaining.
The Patriots return to the scene of that game, Hampden Academy’s Weatherbee Complex, at 5:30 p.m. Saturday with the same goal in mind, a second straight state title and a third in the last six years.
And the opponent? Same as it has been, the Richmond Bobcats, representing Western Maine in the Class D title game for the sixth consecutive year.
“We have similar styles,” said Bangor Christian coach Aaron Wilcox. “We both like to have a lot of possession.”
The BC-Richmond rematch is one of two boys finals to be played in Hampden, with the Class C match between Fort Kent and North Yarmouth Academy scheduled for 10 a.m.
The Class B boys final between Ellsworth and Yarmouth is set for 10 a.m. at Falmouth High School.
Eastern Maine has won six of the last seven Class D boys state championships, with Richmond the only exception in 2007.
Bangor Christian, 15-1-1 this season, routed the Bobcats 5-0 in 2005, then fought off Richmond 2-1 last fall on Brandon Wilcox’s late penalty kick.
Brandon Wilcox has graduated but younger brother Brad is back. The junior striker, already Bangor Christian’s career goal-scoring leader, ranks as one of the state’s top scorers regardless of class this season with 42 goals and nine assists.
Also back is goalie Tyler Alexander, who stopped a Richmond penalty kick last year just before Brandon Wilcox converted the game-winner. He anchors the Patriots’ defense along with sweeper Nate Kutz, while Zach Sirois heads up the midfield corps.
“I wouldn’t say we’re much different from last year,” said coach Wilcox, whose team graduated just three starters from last year’s team before losing a fourth, Ben Bragg, to an injury this fall.
Fort Kent also is in the state final for the second straight year and hoping the experience it gained during a 4-1 loss to Saint Dominic of Auburn in 2009 will be beneficial against NYA.
“We’re a bit different,” said Fort Kent coach Tim Desjardins. “We have a little more speed and quickness this year, and we’re definitely more experienced. We were a young team last year.”
Among the returnees for the Warriors is senior striker Thomas Levesque, who has led Fort Kent in scoring each of his four varsity seasons.
“He’s the same type of player this year, he’s just playing with a lot more confidence, which makes him even scarier,” said Desjardins.
Another four-year starter, Jared Soucy, anchors the midfield and along with freshman Abraham Desjardins rank as the team’s second- and third-leading scorers.
The defense is back largely intact from a year ago, led by sweeper Curtis Bouchard and wing fullbacks Cubby Naranja and Spencer Levesque in front of senior Alex Charette, a second-year starter in goal.
“This year we’re not satisfied with just winning Eastern Maine,” said Desjardins, whose team practiced on artificial turf in Presque Isle on Thursday and were set to make the trip south Friday afternoon. “Last year we were satisfied with winning the Eastern Maine championship and there were a lot of other things going on at the time, so when it came to the states we were already satisfied. We thought, ‘let’s just go out and see what happens.’
“This year is different. We want to go into the game well prepared and ready to bring home the championship.”
Ellsworth, at 17-0 the only unbeaten and untied team left in the boys’ field, returns to the state final for the second straight year and 17th time overall in Brian Higgins’ 37-year coaching tenure.
But even Higgins — he of the 492 career victories — wasn’t sure his team still would be playing this November given the state of affairs during preseason.
“We had the question of how we were going to make up for (graduated) Zach Emeigh and Matt Duhaime, between them they scored 35 goals for us last year,” said Higgins.
“We lost badly to the alumni back in August, and all of a sudden we didn’t have a go-to guy.”
So Ellsworth opted for offense by committee, and the strategy has worked. Senior Cote Card and junior Nick Holt have 16 goals apiece, while junior Kyle Haslam is in double figures in both goals and assists and sophomore Josh Bean has emerged as another key playmaker.
And with senior Andrew Austin launching flip throw-ins from anywhere on the offensive end of the field to the goal crease, the Eagles have an everpresent threat for instant offense.
“We don’t know from one game to the next where the goals are going to come from,” said Higgins. “But we also know that with Andrew there’s a good chance we’ll be able to get the ball into the penalty box without having to create a number of passes from midfield to get it there.”
And with Jordan Carter, a three-year starter, in goal and Mike Curtis sparking the defense, the Eagles enter the state final with 12 shutouts and having outscored their opposition 76-8, including 9-3 during postseason play.