The emergence of boys high school lacrosse in the Bangor area continues this spring.
Both Bangor and John Bapst have experienced significant roster increases for their second season of varsity competition while Brewer joins the varsity ranks for the first time after a year of subvarsity preparation.
“The selling point I talk about with lacrosse is that it’s the fastest game on two feet because the game is very quick and I think kids like fast-paced sports,” said Bangor coach Michael Keim. “Lacrosse is a wonderful game and our region is catching on to that.”
That was true last spring at Bangor, where the Rams finished the regular season with a 9-3 record that was good for a Class A North playoff berth.
“We had a very good inaugural season,” said Keim, whose team’s roster has increased from 28 players in 2018 to 34 this year. “The team worked very hard last season, now we need to put it together even more to see if we can advance further in the playoffs.”
Bangor played a 2018 schedule that included a mix of teams in Classes A, B and C to provide the most competitive environment possible for the fledgling program.
Brewer, which becomes the 50th boys varsity lacrosse team in Maine, hopes to play its way to similar first-year success with a lineup dominated by sophomores.
“The great thing about the program and the way the Maine Principals’ Association has it set up is we can all compete for the playoffs, so the goal for any program like ours would be to make the playoffs this year,” said Brewer coach Bill Gould, whose team will compete in the statewide Class B division.
“And in a couple of years I’d like to see us be able to go pretty deep in the playoffs and be competitive for a state title. That’s what we’re trying to develop here.”
While John Bapst did not win a match during its first season of varsity play in the statewide Class C ranks, coach Drew McLaren’s team has 27 players, up 10 from last year. He likes what he sees of the emerging environment both within his program and in the region.
“Coming in from the southern part of the state and seeing the growth of lacrosse in the Bangor area over the last two years has been very exciting,” said McLaren, a former lacrosse player at Oxford Hills High School in South Paris and the University of Maine at Farmington. “There’s a lot of interest in the surrounding area, and as we continue to grow I really think we can lean on each other to help grow the sport in the area.”
Among the attractions of lacrosse are its subtle similarities with sports played at other times of year.
“Lacrosse is such a fast-paced game that kids need to start to develop a field vision and learn how to create space for themselves when they’re tightly covered,” McLaren said. “I think that really translates to hockey or basketball or soccer.”
Bangor is scheduled to open its season Thursday on the artificial turf at Lewiston High School before visiting Brewer next Tuesday in the first varsity lacrosse match between the neighboring rivals.
The Rams feature large senior, sophomore and freshman classes.
That senior class includes attackers Jacob Henry (83 points last season) and Nathan Vassiliev (72 points), midfielder/defender Nick Boudreau and midfielder/attacker Reid Higgs (53 points).
“No team will work any harder than us on our home field,” Keim said. “Our goal for this season is we don’t want to just make the playoffs, we want to compete for the Class A state championship.”
Brewer has a 20-player roster for its first varsity season and while the squad is young, most of the underclassmen bring considerable experience from the club level and last spring’s JV experience.
“Most of the players have been part of the Brewer rec league club so they come with that kind of experience, but as one of my kids said, ‘This is a whole different level,’” said Gould, a former player at Hofstra who coached in Maryland.
The Witches are led by senior captains Colby Hafford and Dylan Wilson.
“The guys are really psyched, We have no problem with enthusiasm,” Gould said. “The nice thing with 20 guys is that everybody gets a chance to play. We also want this to be a learning experience, too.”
John Bapst is counting on the experience gained by its younger players a year ago to pay off this spring, with seven junior starters among the returnees.
“You can really see that the confidence level has increased among that group,” McLaren said.
Those juniors include attackers Colby Brown and John Fitzpatrick, midfielder Josh Fitzpatrick and defender Connor Robbins.
“It will be exciting to see how this program continues to develop,” McLaren said. “If we continue to add the numbers we did this year that’s just going to put us in a much better position to grow.”