A veteran Brewer High School boys soccer team had high expectations for the 2020 season.
Then COVID-19 struck and everything changed.
While there was no championship to pursue this year the Witches still saved their highest play for what would have been postseason time during a normal autumn, capping off a season-ending four-game winning streak with a 1-0 victory over previously unbeaten Bangor on Monday night at historic Doyle Field in Brewer.
“This would be right around state championship weekend,” noted senior striker Gavin Carr, whose second-half goal enabled 7-2-1 Brewer to avenge a 2-1 loss at Bangor on Oct. 9.
“We knew we wanted to go out on top, we wanted to be able to win games and play the best we could against the teams we had. We didn’t play against all the teams we normally played against, but we played hard.”
Brewer’s victory came two days after the Witches defeated John Bapst of Bangor 5-1 to avenge its only other defeat this fall, a 3-2 decision to the Crusaders on Oct. 24.
“Thinking of a playoff run you want to be hitting your peak toward the end and I think we’re definitely hitting that peak,” Brewer coach Ben Poland said. “I think we can play better, but we’re definitely trending in the right way.”
Both teams managed just a few serious scoring chances during the contest as Brewer finished with an 8-7 advantage in shots on goal.
Brewer senior Aaron Garcia earned the shutout in net with seven saves, while junior Trey Bourassa also made seven stops for 6-1-1 Bangor.
“The first half was kind of helter skelter and not the standard we’re used to, especially during the last few games that we played when we really possessed the ball well,” Poland said. “We struggled with that for the majority of the first half and then started to settle in as much as you could with the cold weather.
“Going into the second half we started stringing some passes together and switching the field and that opens things up for us. That’s the way we want to play.”
That play was rewarded with 24:10 left in regulation time after Brewer had worked the ball into the offensive end before Bangor earned a goal kick.
Working into a stiff breeze, Bourassa’s kick was strong but low and Carr was waiting just outside the penalty area to gain control.
He made three touch dribbles as he worked toward the net against pressure from a Bangor defender before giving Brewer the only goal it needed.
“The ball came right at me and I was ready,” Carr said, “but I knew I had to get rid of it fast because [the defense] was coming right on me.”
Carr nearly scored again moments later, only to have Bourassa tip his high shot toward the left post off the top of the crossbar to keep it a one-goal game.
Bangor mounted some late pressure, and with three minutes left Garcia came off his line to grab a loose ball but couldn’t gain control, allowing the Rams’ Andrew Munroe a solid bid that went just wide of the left goalpost.
When the match ended, a Brewer squad led by captains Carr, Kody Doak, Kyle Goodrich, Hunter Russell and Brendan Saunders savored the victory over its chief rival much like it might have enjoyed a postseason win during any year other than 2020.
“On July 6 this group started doing summer workouts, and for what we were limited to do with conditioning and conditioning with the ball and no play, I had the highest numbers I’ve ever had,” Poland said.
“These boys were committed, they just wanted to be active and be together. It’s a really close group, all of them, and we set a goal to just get better every day, have fun and win as many games as we can.”