With no playoff games to look forward to because of the COVID-19 pandemic, high school games against archrivals take on added importance.
The contests are played with postseason intensity and passion.
Thursday night’s girls soccer game between Class A rivals Bangor and Hampden Academy ended in an entertaining 1-1 overtime tie at the Bangor High field.
It had everything a playoff game could provide, except fans. Coronavirus guidelines limit outdoor gatherings to 100 people and allow schools to decide whether or not to allow spectators.
Bangor senior striker Riley Andrews, who missed her junior year due to knee surgery, provided Bangor with a 1-0 lead just 4:33 into the game, but Broncos senior midfielder Eliza Parker equalized in the opening minutes of the second half.
Bangor is now 4-0-1, while Hampden is 5-2-1 with both losses coming against 2019 Class B North champ Hermon.
Bangor had a goal in the final two minutes of regulation and another in overtime waved off due to offside. Both came off rebounds, but it was ruled that a Bangor player was offside when the initial shots were taken.
“It’s always like a playoff game when we play Bangor. Both teams want it real bad,” Hampden Academy senior midfielder Libby Hughes said.
“It’s always a battle. You have to play your hardest if you’re going to win,” Bangor sophomore winger Emmie Streams said. “It really felt like a playoff game … the intensity of the game … just going back and forth at each felt really good.”
Players from both teams play on club teams together and that intensifies the rivalry.
“It was the most intense competition we’ve had in a while, which was exciting,” Andrews said. “Hampden played really well.”
Hampden Academy sophomore goalie Logan Daigle made two top-notch saves in the waning moments of the second half to preserve the tie, including a diving stop to rob Andrews of her sixth goal of the season.
Daigle finished with 10 saves on 21 shots.
“Their goalie did an excellent job,” Bangor coach Andrew Varisco said. “We had some good chances but we couldn’t finish them off in the second half and the overtime.”
“This was definitely one of the highlights of the season. Bangor has a real good team. They’re hard to beat,” Daigle said.
Andrews and Parker scored with similar shots from the right side, just at the top of the penalty area. Both were perfectly placed into the upper far corner and neither goalkeeper had a chance.
High-percentage scoring chances were at a premium in the first half as both teams defended efficiently, getting numbers behind the ball and swarming to it. Bangor had an edge in possession.
The Broncos surged early in the second half and Parker’s goal came off Hampden Academy’s third shot at goal over the first two minutes of the period.
“I saw the opening and I went for it,” Parker said. “Our first half was kind of rough but we got pumped up at halftime and came out stronger.”
Hampden Academy continued to create problems for Bangor with its skill and quickness, but the Rams began taking charge over the final 15 minutes and looked the more likely to break the deadlock down the stretch.
When Streams and fellow sophomore Anna Connors were on the field together, their tenacity, speed and craftiness down the flanks kept the Broncos on the back foot in a defensive mode.
Devon St. Louis, Andrews, Sophia Mullins and freshman Ani Roberts complemented Streams and Connors.
Hughes, Olivia Airey, Parker and Isabella McLaughlin were among the standouts for the Broncos along with Daigle.
Bangor goalies Emma McNeil and Hannah Osmer combined for four saves on 19 shots.