OAKLAND, Maine — The roster was different than a year ago, and so was the result as the Hampden Academy boys soccer team surged past Messalonskee 6-1 in a season-opening Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A boys soccer match Saturday.
The win offered a modicum of revenge for Messalonskee’s 3-2 victory over Hampden in last year’s Eastern Maine Class A championship match.
“We had this game circled,” said Hampden coach Josh Stevens.”These guys beat us in the Eastern Maine championship game last year. We knew exactly what we wanted to do, and we got a good result today, but we play Lawrence on Tuesday and that’s what we’re looking at now.
“But as long as we keep doing what we’re doing, we should be fine.”
Sophomore forward Tristan Gardner led the Broncos with three goals and senior Ian Miller contributed three assists as Hampden pulled away with a four-goal second half.
“I remember that I got great passes from my teammates,” said Gardner, “and that everyone was in the right places at the right time and that we had good spacing, we kept our heads up when we were dribbling and we executed our passes well.”
Sophomore Noah Parker added a goal and an assist for Hampden, while seniors Erik Hanson and Ignacio Cires DeOrbe each scored a goal and sophomore Dan Good had an assist.
The Broncos amassed a 32-6 shots advantage while goalies Zach Gilpin and Sam Good were required to make just three saves compared with 15 stops by Messalonskee sophomore Jonah Webb.
“We played pretty well,” said Hampden senior midfielder Cooper Antone. “We still have stuff to work on. Messalonskee definitely played a great game but I think we came out to play and it definitely showed.”
Neither Hampden nor Messalonskee resembles the team that advanced to the regional final a year ago, Hampden having graduated 14 seniors and Messalonskee also experiencing heavy graduation losses in addition to the transfer of standout Wyatt Ormsberg to Scarborough.
But the Broncos, with a few key veterans back to go with a large contingent of underclassmen up from a strong junior varsity team a year ago, looked all the part of a contender again this fall with its play against the Eagles.
Hampden took a 1-0 lead just 3:37 into the match when Gardner headed a cross from Miller into the upper right corner of the goal.
“We were thinking coming out here today that we needed to get a goal in the first five minutes, that’s what we were saying,” said Gardner. “Mentally that’s how we started the game off, and then we played the whole game strong physically.”
Another header by Gardner, this time set up from some additional headers near the goal by the Broncos, extended the margin to 2-0 with 11:57 left in the half.
Sam Donnelly lofted the ball into the goal crease from the left wing, and Dan Good then headed the ball just beyond the right goal post to Miller, who headed the ball back toward the center of the goal crease where Gardner was waiting to finish the play.
Hampden had a 12-4 advantage in shots at intermission but was even more effective throughout the final 40 minutes of play, outshooting Messalonskee 20-2.
“In the second half we came together a lot better,” said Miller. “We controlled the ball more and made better passes. I think we felt a lot more comfortable in the second half.”
Gardner completed his hat trick with 23:33 left in the match, taking a lead pass from the right wing by Miller and then dribbling the ball toward the center of the field before grounding an 18-yard shot back inside the right goal post.
Messalonskee scored five minutes later when senior Kevin McCarthy gathered an Alex Runser throw-in in the center of the field about 25 yards out and lofted a shot that barely eluded Sam Good’s reach and nestled under the center of the crossbar to close the gap to 3-1.
It was a momentary infusion of comeback hopes for the Eagles, as Hampden countered with two goals in the next three minutes, first with Parker heading in a low, line-drive corner kick by Miller from along the goal line.
DeOrbe made it 5-1 with 15:05 left, as he scored from close range by redirecting a cross by Parker from the right wing after Eric Babbitt supplied the initial set-up pass to Parker.
Hanson added an unassisted goal with 2:12 remaining.
“We tried to start quick and we scored about three minutes into the game,” said Stevens. “ Then we fell back a bit but we came out in the second half with the sense of urgency that we needed to have the whole game.
“If we can do that every game, I think we’ll find ourselves on the winning side more often than not.”