The bleachers were empty and the scene largely quiet save for coaches’ urgings and the occasional electronic whistle.
But it was Bangor against Hampden Academy in boys soccer Thursday evening, so while the stakes might not have been as high as usual — with no postseason play to anticipate in this year of the coronavirus — that didn’t matter as the neighboring rivals played to the final seconds.
This time Bangor came out on top, scoring twice early in the second half and then withstanding a furious Hampden rally over the final 10 minutes for a 2-1 victory in their first meeting of the season.
“We knew tonight was going to be one of the tougher games because Bangor against Hampden is always like that,” Bangor senior captain Dylan Gerrish said. “Bangor and Hampden has always been a rivalry because we’ve grown up together.”
Bangor improved to 5-0 midway through its abbreviated 10-game regular-season schedule while Hampden fell to 3-4-1. The teams are scheduled to meet again on Nov. 5 in the Queen City.
“This was one of the best games we’ve played so far,” Bangor senior captain Andrew Munroe said. “Communication was on point, we were making good passes. We were just ready for tonight.”
Still, victory didn’t come easily for the Rams.
The teams battled to a scoreless halftime stalemate. Nearly all the action came in back-and-forth fashion between the 15-yard lines on Hampden’s artificial turf, which also serves as the Broncos’ football field.
But Bangor came out for the second half energized, dominating the first 10 minutes while building a 2-0 lead.
Senior forward Garrett Courtney gave Bangor a 1-0 advantage three minutes into the period, redirecting a blast by Munroe from the right wing with a skimming header inside the far goalpost.
The play began with a corner kick from the same side by Munroe that was cleared back to him about 10 yards from the endline, providing him a similar opportunity as a second chance.
“I was trying to go for the same play but I saw an opening with one of my teammates right on the [end] line so I just hit it as hard as I could and it skimmed in off his head,” he said.
Sophomore Sam Ahola doubled Bangor’s lead 3 1/2 minutes later. He interrupted Hampden’s bid to clear the ball from its defensive end and then blasting a 25-yard shot from the right wing past goalie Cooper Moran.
“That’s exactly what we talked about at halftime, to come out and show them we’ve come to play in the first five to 10 minutes and put them on their heels so they’d know they didn’t have the game in the bag,” Gerrish said. “We were still very much here to play, and then we put a couple in the net.”
Hampden gradually began to gain offensive momentum and turned in that into some major late-game pressure. But Bangor junior goalie Trey Bourassa and a defense featuring center backs Gerrish and Parker Richmond denied the Broncos until there was 3:30 remaining.
Junior Richard Avery gained control of a long pass from teammate Marc Fachiol on the left wing and converted.
“At the end, I think inexperience showed and we sort of broke down trying to get it out of [the defensive end] instead of just playing,” Bangor coach Don Erb said. “ We gave them some chances and they finally got one, but I think overall we played really well.”
Bangor finished with a 10-9 edge in shots, with Bourassa making four saves for the Rams and Moran with five stops for Hampden.