David Patterson greeted a reporter just before Saturday night’s Class A boys soccer final and revealed what seemed like an ambitious strategy.
“We’re playing for two goals in the first 10 minutes,” he said.
Patterson, who took over the Bangor program three years ago after playing professionally in his native Ireland and then coaching collegiately after moving to the United States in 1990, based that optimism on a decision to counter a talented Portland team with the Rams’ own brand of aggression, a 3-5-2 format that utilized two strikers, five midfielders and just three defenders.
The strategy worked nearly to the level of Patterson’s pregame hopes, as Phil Frost scored 4 minutes, 3 seconds into play to give Bangor a 1-0 lead.
And while the Rams soon relinquished that advantage, Bangor rallied for a 3-2 halftime lead, then held on through a scoreless second half to win the program’s second state championship in five years.
“We talked in the pregame about how important it is when you’ve worked as hard as you’ve worked to put yourself in a position to do something important or exciting, whatever it may be in life, to not shy away from it, to not be afraid of it and to not be conservative,” said Patterson. “So we decided we were going to go for it, and that’s why we came out in a 3-5-2.
“We wanted to win the game, and we weren’t going to sit back and let somebody beat us. We didn’t want to leave anything on the field.”
Surely they didn’t — making sure not to forget the gold ball they won after an 80-minute battle of the most intense proportions on the artificial turf at Falmouth High School.
But as much as the move to a 3-5-2 was strategic from an on-field perspective, it also served a motivational purpose consistent with the confidence-building done in the Rams’ camp since practices began in mid-August.
Making this team believe it could match the success of its most recent predecessors — Bangor had won one state title and two Eastern Maine crowns in the previous four years and was coming off a third straight undefeated regular season — was one of the tallest tasks facing Patterson and assistant coach Don Erb.
So the coaches constantly reinforced the players’ belief in themselves at the same time they tinkered with the lineup to create the most effective combinations, and the team soon developed its own chemistry through captains Adam King, Luke Hetterman, Jacques Larochelle, Jack Stacey and Frost.
“We didn’t think we had that strong a team at first,” said King. “But we worked hard every day in practice.”
As a result, the one-goal struggles of early September became more convincing victories by mid-October, leading to the high-quality play of postseason that propelled this Bangor team to a championship moment it wasn’t always sure it would experience.
And for that, credit not only the players, but also the coaches and Saturday’s one final strategic message about pursuing goals — both on and off the field — with confidence.
“It’s always satisfying to bring a group of players together to achieve something that’s satisfying or something that’s important, and this is important to them, it showed in the way they played tonight,” Patterson said. “I can’t be more proud of our captains and seniors, they’re the guys who welcomed everybody else in as a group this season and they’re the ones who helped shape the team as we went forward. That’s why we won a state championship tonight.”