ROCKPORT, Maine — Rocky moments have been rare this fall for the Camden Hills boys soccer team.
But there were the undefeated Windjammers last Saturday in their homecoming contest at Don Palmer Field, trailing Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield 2-0 less than 14 minutes into the contest.
Not only had coach Ryan Hurley’s club not trailed by two goals in a game this season, until the Huskies struck for that early lead Camden Hills had not been scored upon in any of their previous 10 matches this year.
Not to worry for the Windjammers, however, as Malcom Steele scored before intermission to make it a one-goal game before Camden Hills ultimately pulled away to a 6-2 victory to extend its regular-season unbeaten streak to 28 matches.
“I think Saturday was a great test for us, falling behind 2-0 in the first (14) minutes,” said Hurley. “They only had three shots the whole game, but they had a forward (Aaron Park) who was very crafty and able to make some plays.”
Steele finished with three goals and an assist against MCI, while Sam Predham, Alex Blohm and Peter Vannorsdall each scored a goal, Andrew Flanagan had two assists and Ben Welt also assisted on a goal.
“The whole season we’ve talked a lot about mental toughness, and that if we can get to a big game we’re going to have to be tough in the head,” said Hurley. “So this was a good test. We were still down 2-1 at halftime, but we did a good job of not panicking.”
Camden Hills erupted for five goals after intermission against an MCI team that had allowed more than two goals in a full match just once previously this season.
“We talked at halftime about keeping it positive and grinding it out, and we went out and put five on the board in the second half against a team that hadn’t been giving up many goals, which I thought was pretty impressive,” said Hurley. “The way we did it was good, too, there was a lot of one-touch and two-touch plays.”
That Camden Hills is 11-0 and atop the Eastern Maine Class B Heal point ratings heading into Wednesday’s game at Leavitt of Turner Center is not much of a surprise, given that 15 seniors are back from the team that twice held a one-goal lead against Ellsworth in the 2010 regional final before the Eagles rallied for a 3-2 victory.
The Windjammers feature a quartet of four-year varsity players in Steele, Predham, Flanagan and goalie Ian Cushing, a group that not coincidentally leads the team in nearly every statistical category.
Steele has 14 goals and seven assists, while Predham (13-7) and Flanagan (9-4) also are key offensive contributors, while Cushing has nine shutouts.
While Camden Hills figured to be strong offensively this fall and has outscored its first 11 opponents by a combined 43-2, a defense heavily hit by graduation last spring has re-emerged as a significant complementary force.
“We’ve done a good job of keeping the ball, and we have a whole-team defensive philosophy, the whole team plays defense,” said Hurley.
Vannorsdall, Wyatt Lafreniere, Tom Cassidy, Evan Drinkwater and Marshall Crockett work in tandem on the defensive end, backed by Cushing’s veteran presence.
“Ian is pretty vocal back there and keeps things organized, and I’m sure that’s helped,” said Hurley.
Hurley, who is 26-1-1 overall in his two seasons as the Camden Hlls coach, also has benefited from having more familiarity with his players this season after being hired for the job just before preseason practices began in 2010.
“I think the first thing that’s different is getting the chance to coach them for another year, so I have a better handle on who they are and what they’re good at,” said Hurley. “Last year I was hired the week before the season and we had 50 players in the program so it was a lot of getting to know names and players.
“This year there’s been a lot more time to do some teaching, and that’s helped quite a lot.”
The Camden Hills program, which last won an Eastern B championship in 1995 and a state crown in 1991, has been a consistent title contender in recent years, falling to the eventual EM champ during postseason play in three of the last four seasons.
“It’s been about 10 years since (the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference) represented Eastern Maine in the states,” said Hurley. “I think if we can get back to that game we can be competitive.
“The guys are pretty focused. They’re all pretty determined kids and they definitely would like to get back there.”