The undefeated Winslow High School boys soccer team had scored a resounding 100 goals in its first 16 victories this season.
But it was an equally dominant Black Raiders’ defense that had yielded just one goal — to Belfast back on Sept. 10 — during those same 16 victories that preserved the team’s 17th straight win on Wednesday evening, a 2-0 decision over John Bapst of Bangor in the Class B North championship match at Hampden Academy.
Joey Richards and Landen Gillis supplied the goals, both on assists from Andrew Poulin, but it was Winslow’s defense that withstood John Bapst’s strong midfield play and rarely allowed the Crusaders an uncontested look at the net while the Black Raiders secured their third straight postseason shutout.
“They’re definitely the best offensive team that we’ve played this year,” said Kris Loubier, part of a Winslow defensive corps that also included fellow center back Zack St. Pierre and outside backs Ben Tilton and Lucas Boucher in front of goalkeeper Jason Reynolds. “They did a really good job, but our defense is really solid.”
No. 2 Winslow (17-0) will face Yarmouth (16-0-2) for the state championship at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Massabesic High School in Waterboro. The top-ranked and defending stature champion Clippers, winners of five gold balls in the last seven years, edged No. 7 Cape Elizabeth 2-1 on Wednesday for the Class B South crown.
No. 4 John Bapst, which had won eight straight games since a 3-2 loss to Foxcroft Academy on Oct. 4, ends its season with a 12-4 record.
“I thought we possessed in the midfield pretty well, but what Winslow did well that surprised me was how well they defended our strikers,” John Bapst coach Jason Pangburn said. “Any attack we had in there, they had a solid foot to clear the ball and we weren’t able to get much going in the attacking third.”
John Bapst also hoped to generate offense from its corner kick opportunities, but Reynolds played a key role in preventing the Crusaders from getting to the ball in the air.
“He was so fast off his line and sure handed that he took that away from us,” Pangburn said. “I felt like we got some solid corners, but he certainly played the corners like we haven’t seen any goalkeeper play it this year.”
Winslow took a 1-0 lead 4:51 into the opening half as Poulin dribbled along the left wing to the end line, then worked toward the net before centering a pass to the middle of the goal crease where Richards one-timed the ball past John Bapst goalkeeper Matt Fitzpatrick.
John Bapst went on to maintain a territorial edge for much of the match thanks in great part to the midfield work of junior Hunter Clukey and sophomores Kyle Sidaway and Jon Pangburn but was unable to generate clear opportunities against a stout Winslow defense.
“That’s what we try to do, to make sure we always have someone in the way, someone to make it a difficult shot, someone to make sure whatever chance they get is always going to be contested,” Winslow coach Aaron Wolfe said. “That’s how it worked out, and they didn’t get any clean looks.”
Winslow struck for the pivotal second goal with 21:16 left in the match, as Poulin grounded a short lead pass that sent Gillis in alone to score from close range and give the Black Raiders a 2-0 cushion.
“They made us not play the way we wanted to at times, but it came down to a couple of plays here and there for us,” Wolfe said. “That was the difference.”