BANGOR — Tom Sheridan, coach of the Messalonskee High School boys soccer team, thought his team’s schedule was a little undervalued this year. His Eagles from Oakland didn’t get to play some of the top teams that they usually face.
“When the schedule came out, I was disappointed to see that we didn’t play Bangor this year,” he said. “We always play them twice.”
Because of that, Sheridan said, “I thought our coming in as a No. 6 was deceiving.”
Messalonskee finally did get to play defending state champion Bangor this year, in Saturday’s Eastern Maine Class A semifinal at the high school field, and the Eagles made it count.
They scored once early and added an insurance goal late to upset the second-seeded Rams 2-0.
Messalonskee (12-2-2) will visit No. 4 Hampden Academy, which rallied to knock off top-seeded Lewiston 3-2 Saturday.
Bangor coach David Patterson and the Rams (12-2-2) weren’t looking past the Eagles.
“There’s a lot of parity (in Eastern A),” he said.
In the postseason, it’s even more so, according to Patterson.
“In the playoffs, the games are supposed to be hard,” he said.
The Eagles stunned the Rams early when junior midfielder Jarrod Simpson scored just 4:04 into the game.
It came against the run of play as the Rams delivered the bulk of the offensive pressure for the first nine minutes of the game.
A hand ball call against Bangor at midfield at the 4-minute mark gave the Eagles a free kick, which was drilled toward the Bangor net.
When the ball landed hard and bounced up, Bangor freshman goalkeeper Liam Harrigan came out to play it. Simpson got to it first, though, and headed it over Harrigan and into the right side of the Bangor goal.
The Eagles turned up their pressure and started getting better looks.
“I think we were (impressed) with Bangor early on,” said Simpson, who missed most of last year with a broken foot, “but once we realized we could put pressure on them, we stepped up our offense and it paid off.”
Bangor senior midfielder Alex Shi’s direct kick with 13:06 left in the first half went just wide right of the net. Nine minutes later, senior Connor Griffin’s cross from the right side went all the way across the goalmouth, but no Rams were able to get there in time to make a play on it.
With 15:10 remaining, junior midfielder Chapin Frost’s blast of a free ball from 25 yards out went just over the crossbar.
Finally, with 3:42 remaining, Messalonskee senior forward Nate DelGiudice ran onto a ball that had been booted deep down the center of the field. He dribbled closer, angling right to left while fending off Bangor defender Bobby Winchell.
Just inside the 18-yard line, DelGiudice booted a low, hard left-footed shot back into the right corner of the net past a diving Harrigan.
“I knew going across (the field) would get the goalie leaning in one direction,” said DelGiudice. “I tried to finish it in the bottom on the opposite side, and luckily it went in.”
The remaining minutes ran out quickly on the Rams.
“That goal definitely took some of the pressure off us,” said DelGiudice.
Bangor tried to force the offensive pressure their way again, but the quick Eagles, led throughout the game by senior back Chris Hall, stymied the Rams.
“They put a tremendous effort in,” said Patterson of his Rams, “they just came out on the wrong end of it.
“It was not for a lack of effort.”
Sutherland finished with three saves on seven shots, and Harrigan posted three saves on 12 shots.