BANGOR, Maine — A midweek bus ride down from Aroostook County seemingly didn’t leave the Caribou boys soccer team any worse for the 180 miles of highway it traveled to reach its destination.
The Vikings struck early in each half against John Bapst on Wednesday afternoon and went on to a 3-0 victory over the Crusaders in a Penobscot Valley Conference Class B matchup at the Dorothea Dix complex.
Nolan McDuffie, Nick Whitehead and Kameron Manter each scored for Caribou, which entered the game ranked ninth in Eastern Maine Class B. The Vikings are 4-3-1, their only losses coming against Madawaska, Presque Isle and Ellsworth — teams that began the day with a combined 20-1-3 record.
Junior goalie Matthew Manter made four saves to preserve the shutout, Caribou’s first of the season.
“We had a few hiccups in there passing the ball and keeping it on the ground,” said Vikings senior Dean Walker, “but we definitely played our formation and were getting the ball out wide.
“Our shots were a little off today, we could have done that better, but I thought we played all right.”
John Bapst, 11th in Eastern B entering the contest, fell to 3-4-1, including two losses to Caribou by a combined 8-1 score.
Caribou, like most other high schools in The County, is on harvest break, but the Vikings usually practice in the evening after student harvest employees complete their work days.
The team also is able to play midweek games on the road against more southern-based foes during the break and most of those trips are lengthy, making a successful sojourn even more gratifying.
“I thought we played very well,” said second-year Caribou head coach Scott Hunter. “Any time you come down here you don’t know what to expect, but you know you’re going to get a tough battle from John Bapst so to come out of here with a ‘W’ is just real good for our kids.”
Caribou controlled play throughout the match, amassing a 16-6 shots advantage thanks to an accurate passing game that sent its strikers in on John Bapst goalie Adam Strang for high-quality chances on numerous occasions, especially early in the match.
“We have a pretty skilled technical team so when we’re keeping the ball on the ground and possessing it and moving the ball and being patient and then taking advantage of the opportunities we get we can be successful,” said Hunter. “We took advantage of our opportunities pretty well today.”
Strang proved hard to beat, however, particularly during the first half when he made six saves — two of the diving variety — to limit Caribou to a 1-0 intermission lead.
“It’s kind of frustrating when you control the ball and keep it by the feet and get shots off but none of them go in,” said Caribou senior Sean Barbosa. “A lot of our shots were on goal, but the goalie was able to get to those.”
The only attempt that beat Strang during the first half was a lofted shot over his head by McDuffie 3:49 into the contest.
Caribou senior Lucien Caverhill gained possession near midfield and sent ahead a lead pass to McDuffie’s foot. McDuffie then lifted a 25-yard shot over the charging Strang and safely under the crossbar to give Caribou the early lead.
“It was just a through ball that I got to before everybody else and I chipped it over the goalkeeper’s head because he was out by the penalty line,” said McDuffie.
Whitehead finally extended the Vikings’ advantage five minutes into the second half when he gained possession fairly deep along the right wing and arched a shot inside the far post and under the crossbar for an unassisted goal.
Kameron Manter made it 3-0 with 23:44 remaining, blasting a 25-yard shot from the middle of the field into the upper right corner of the goal after receiving a pass by Cody Herbert from the left wing.
“It felt like we could have been up a lot more than 1-0 at halftime,” said Hunter, whose team hosts 10th-ranked Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor on Saturday afternoon. “That made me a little nervous, so I was glad to get the two we got in the second half.”