FALMOUTH — Phil Frost looked more like a battered UFC competitor than a soccer player Saturday night, his bloodied nose filled with cotton and the left side of his face swollen — the result of on-field collision moments earlier.
But the wide grin that dominated even that visage told a much different story — that of a state champion.
Bangor’s senior striker scored three first-half goals and the Rams’ defense withstood a late-game flurry by Portland offense to outlast the Bulldogs 3-2 and win the 2010 Class A boys soccer state title before a crowd of 1,300 at Falmouth High School.
“It’s definitely worth it,” said Frost after helping 17-0-1 Bangor complete an unbeaten season while winning its second state championship in school history and the first since 2006.
The three-goal outburst was the second of this postseason for Frost, who finished the fall with a team-high 26 goals.
“Phil’s a humble guy, and he’d be the first one to say it was a team performance,” said Bangor coach David Patterson. “But when you’ve got a guy who can score three goals like that in a state final, it’s a nice luxury to have.”
And while Frost was the individual standout, this final victory also displayed the balance that elevated the Rams from a roster of players uncertain of their ability to compete for a championship in preseason to becoming the standard by which all other schoolboy soccer teams in the state are measured by this year.
“It’s amazing,” said Bangor senior back Andy Prusaitis. “I have no idea what to do with myself right now.”
Yet the Rams needed to fend off a furious comeback bid by Portland in the final minutes after Bangor had taken a more defensive posture by moving Seth Freudenberger from midfield to defense and Frost to the midfield in anticipation of the Bulldogs’ onslaught.
And true to its explosive reputation, Portland’s offense complied. While Bangor’s taller defenders were able to head away several entry passes and corner kicks, a long shot by Paley Burlin slipped just wide of the right post, a blast from within the penalty area by Fazal Nabi was blocked away by the maze of players in front of the net, and finally an 18-yard shot by Ralph Houanche sailed just over the crossbar, leading to a goal kick that finally enabled the Rams to take a breath — and begin a celebration.
“It felt like five or six hours back there instead of five or six minutes, the clock couldn’t go down fast enough,” said Freudenberger. “It got down to four minutes and then three minutes, and you just kept telling yourself to stay focused and do what you’ve got to do. And then it got down to that last free kick and when it went over the crossbar, we were like ‘did we really just win?'”
Portland finished with a 26-12 shots advantage.
“We had chances, we just couldn’t finish,” said Portland coach Rocco Frenzilli, whose team wound up 15-2-1 after having its 14-match winning streak ended. “(Bangor) did a great job down the stretch making it tough for us to get anything through, which is what you want to do when you have a one-goal lead.”
While Portland entered the match with a collective speed advantage over Bangor and a star of its own in senior midfielder Nabi, the Rams opted to match aggression with aggression and were rewarded four minutes into play when Frost scored on an assist from Luke Hetterman for a 1-0 lead.
“The ball came into me, I beat a defender and then the ball started bouncing a bit,” said Hetterman. “Then I saw Phil out of the corner of my eye, so I clipped it forward and he was alone with their goalie and finished and got us off to a good start.”
Portland responded in dramatic fashion, getting two goals by sophomore Tim Rovnak within a 41-second span moments later to take a 2-1 lead. The first came when Nabi headed the ball from the center of the penalty area toward the left post, where Rovnak quickly one-timed the ball into the net. The second goal was set up by a long entry pass from Feliks Cobanovic, with Rovnak winning a footrace to the high-bouncing ball and heading it over oncoming Bangor goalie Jesse Perkins.
But Bangor regained its composure amid the game’s fast-breaking tempo and struck for the final two goals of the half. Frost received a lead pass near the 18-yard line from Jacques Larochelle, wheeled left around two defenders and slipped the ball past Portland goalie Taylor Mannix (five saves) and just inside the left goal post with 12:37 left in the period to tie the match.
Moments later, Frost struck again with a direct kick from just beyond the 18-yard line on the left side of the field to the upper right corner of the net. Portland protested the play, saying an indirect kick had been signaled, but Frost said players on the field were aware the call was a direct kick.
“I thought when we came back and got the lead … but you credit the Frost kid,” said Frenzilli. “He danced around us twice and then hit a great dead ball and was deserving of the goals that he got. We were just unable to stop him on those plays. Those are the plays you have to make to win a state championship and he did it.”
Nabi had three chances to generate the equalizer before intermission.
First he whiffed on a fairly open shot from the middle of the crease, then Perkins made a diving save on a Nabi header. Finally with 20 seconds left, Nabi took a direct kick from just beyond the 18 that Perkins deflected off the inside of the left post. The ball then caromed tantalizingly across the goal mouth, but it never crossed the line and no one from Portland could get to it before Bangor cleared it away.
“(Nabi) hit it while we were setting up the wall and I wasn’t quite ready,” said Perkins, who made nine saves. “But I dove and hit it with my fingertips and then it hit off the inside of the post. We were lucky it didn’t go into the goal.”
The second half was slightly less frenzied for its first 25 minutes, with Bangor’s defensive tandem of Prusaitis, Bobby Winchell and Jack Stacey providing sure-footed clearing kicks while the midfield corps of Larochelle, Freudenberger, Adam King, Alex Shi and Connor Griffin were more effective in limiting Nabi’s offensive forays
“We knew they were going to be strong up front, but we felt confident that our back three could do it because they’ve been playing great,” said King. “We just had to lock up in the middle and keep (Nabi) in front of us.”
Then came the final minutes, when Bangor finally pulled back — again from a position of confidence.
“That was the hardest experience of my life because they were coming at us and coming at us and coming at us,” said Stacey. “But finally we finally got a goal kick and I knew were going to win. It was the best feeling of my life.”