CARIBOU, Maine — In addition to rivalry bragging rights, plenty is at stake when Presque Isle and Caribou square off in a boys varsity soccer match Friday at 7 p.m. at Caribou High School.
Since playing to a 1-1 draw in their first meeting at Presque Isle on Sept. 12, each team has won seven matches in a row. Both are among the top three teams in Class B North heading into the final week of the regular season.
Presque Isle ranks first with its 9-0-2 record, while Caribou is third at 9-1-1. Mount View of Thorndike (12-0-0) holds the No. 2 position.
“It’s an intriguing matchup of two different styles and two very good teams,” Vikings coach Scott Hunter said.
“We are in for a tough game,” said Joe Greaves, coach of the Wildcats. “We know everyone is going to be fired up and ready to go in this one, and it’s going to be a classic County rivalry game.”
Both coaches agree that Friday’s winner will all but be assured of an overall top-two finish, which is important because that means a bye and a berth straight into the quarterfinals. The No. 1 team will have home games right through the regional finals, if it advances that far.
The Vikings have outscored their opponents by a whopping margin of 32-3 during their seven-game winning streak and have not allowed more than one goal in a game over the last eight.
“It’s hard to find a weakness in their lineup,” Greaves said of the Vikings. “They have a good ’keeper, a solid defense, they possess the ball well and score a lot of goals.”
Leading the charge is senior center midfielder Alex Ezzy, who has accumulated 22 goals and is within five of catching Kyle Corrigan, Hunter’s assistant coach, for Caribou’s single-season mark. He also has seven assists, but the team’s leader in that category is junior midfielder Cullin Caverhill with 18. Senior Noah Hixon is a third-year starter in goal and has three shutouts, which have all come in the past four games.
The Wildcats are also a defensive-minded group, as evidenced by the fact they have shut out opponents seven times and have surrendered only seven goals all season.
“I have a lot of respect for Presque Isle and the job Joe does with them,” Hunter said. “They are a very good, tough team.”
The Wildcats aren’t as explosive offensively as the Vikings but instead feature scoring balance. Senior midfielder Zechariah Morse and sophomore Colby Carlisle are the leading goal scorers with eight each, and junior Connor DeMerchant has six. Senior Mason Young has performed well as a first-year starting goalkeeper.
Hunter said his team’s ability to dictate the style of play will be a huge factor Friday.
“We want to keep the ball moving and make PI’s defense work,” Hunter said. “We want to keep pressure on them and find Alex’s feet. He will undoubtedly draw a lot of attention, and we have many other weapons who should find opportunities.”
Greaves knows his defense needs to be up to the challenge and said the game most likely will come down to which team capitalizes more on its chances.
“There are no secrets in this matchup, and we know we just can’t make any mistakes on our defensive end or they are going to make us pay,” Greaves said, “and on offense, maybe we can get them to make a mistake or two and hopefully capitalize.”
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