HAMPDEN, Maine — The differences between high school soccer played on grass and artificial turf are magnified as each season winds down and the weather and field conditions on the natural surfaces deteriorate.
That’s just another reason the Hampden Academy boys soccer team is glad to be the top seed for the Eastern Maine Class A playoffs that continue Wednesday with quarterfinal matches.
Hampden and Class B Presque Isle are the lone Eastern Maine high schools with artificial-turf fields, and the Broncos’ 2-1 overtime victory at Bangor in their regular-season finale meant their entire tournament run will be on their favorite man-made terrain.
“I think we have a great advantage because we have the turf for every single game we win, now (including) states,” said Hampden junior forward Dan Good, whose team hosts No. 8 Mt. Blue of Farmington on Wednesday. “That’s what we were hoping to get.”
All four state finals will be contested on artificial turf come Nov. 9, with Classes A and D on the recently installed carpet at McMann Field in Bath while Classes B and C will play at Hampden.
The Eastern A field includes five teams with three or fewer losses, led by a Hampden club (13-1) that has won 12 straight matches since a 2-1 loss to Bangor on Sept. 12.
The Broncos not only avenged that defeat on Good’s overtime goal in the rematch, but secured the No. 1 seed in their quest for their first EM title since 2004.
“Our goal was to try to finish No. 1 and make all the teams come through us; that’s really what we wanted to do,” said Hampden coach Josh Stevens, whose squad also defeated Lewiston 3-1 last Thursday to win the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship.
While Hampden has defeated every other team in the Eastern A playoff field, five of its victories were by one goal, including a 2-1 win at Mt. Blue on Sept. 27.
“There’s a lot of parity,” said Bangor coach Dave Patterson. “You can go down five or six deep and anybody can beat anybody on a given day.”
Bangor (11-3) hosts No. 6 Brunswick (8-6) on Wednesday with a roster that includes just a handful of senior starters. But contributions from the likes of freshman Carson Atherley and sophomores Andrew Barrowman, Eli Clein and goalie Stanley Clarke have been instrumental in the team’s success.
Other Eastern A boys quarterfinals have No. 7 Messalonskee of Oakland (6-6-2) at No. 2 Lewiston (11-1-2) and No. 5 Edward Little of Auburn (8-3-3) at No. 4 Mount Ararat (9-3-2).
Here are some other Eastern Maine storylines:
Class B: Top-ranked Ellsworth and No. 2 Camden Hills of Rockport, both 13-0-1, have combined to win the last four EM crowns and may be on a collision course to meet again in the regional final. Camden Hills, the two-time defending regional champion, edged Ellsworth 2-1 in overtime in last year’s EM title game. Winslow (11-0-3) is a third undefeated team in the division, while fourth-ranked Presque Isle (11-2-1) is a perennial contender.
Class C: No. 2 Orono (9-2-3) has trekked to Aroostook County for each of the last four regional finals, and a similar trip could be in the offing again for the Red Riots as 13-1 Madawaska is the top seed. The Owls, led by the state’s all-time schoolboy goal-scoring leader in Ian Lee (123 career goals, 34 this year), face a dangerous quarterfinal against defending state champion Houlton, a team the Owls edged 2-1 in overtime on Oct. 14. Joining Madawaska and Orono are three other contenders with three or fewer losses — Fort Kent (10-3-1), Central of Corinth (9-2-3) and George Stevens of Blue Hill (12-2-1).
Class D: Bangor Christian (15-0) is looking to become the first Maine boys soccer team to win five consecutive state championships, and the second-seeded Patriots stretched their overall winning streak to 57 matches with a 5-0 preliminary-round victory over Van Buren. Easton (13-0-1) is the top seed, with the Bears winning 12 straight matches since a 1-1 tie with Ashland on Aug. 20.