HAMPDEN – The 10 months since their last meeting has done nothing to diminish the intensity of the schoolboy soccer rivalry between Bangor and Hampden Academy.
But in a game filled with aggressive play that occasionally evolved into chippiness, Bangor’s Nick George scored two first-half goals that propelled the Rams to a 3-0 victory on the artificial surface at the Weatherbee School complex Thursday night.
“It’s great to get off to a good start and get a win, especially against a team that knocked us out in the first round of the playoffs last year,” said Bangor coach David Patterson. “There’s a huge rivalry here, and we understand that. We knew coming in that it was going to be a tight game, a competitive game, and it certainly was. I liked the way we competed.”
Bangor had waited through an early bye in its schedule and a postponement to face the Broncos in its season opener, and it took the Rams a while to adapt to both the turf and a Hampden squad (1-2) playing its second match in 24 hours and third game in six days.
“We started slow,” said Bangor senior sweeper Nate Frazier, “but once we got things moving we worked pretty well.
George gave Bangor a 1-0 lead with 7:06 left in the first half, heading home a restart that teammate Ryan Larochelle lofted toward the right goalpost from the left side of the field about 35 yards away.
“Me and Ryan were setting up and I told him to hit it back post,” said George. “That’s exactly what he did and I got there.”
Bangor added its second goal with 45.1 seconds left before intermission. Johnny Warren and Phillip Frost worked a give-and-go on the right wing that sent Warren toward the end line. Warren then dribbled the ball toward the near goalpost until George broke toward the goal crease from the far side.
Warren rifled a pass through the goal crease, and George one-timed the ball into the net from close range past Hampden goalie Brad Melanson.
“I gave it to [Frost] and just told him to hold it and then lay it back to me,” said Warren. “I was going right toward the goal but had such a bad angle there was no way I was going to score. Then I saw [George] coming in so I fed it right to his feet to finish it for me.”
Hampden’s best scoring bid came early in the second half when Abdullah Al Khayatt gained possession near the 18-yard line with only Bangor goalie Bud Angst between him and the net. Al Khayatt lined a hard, low shot, but Angst had come out of the goal crease to cut down the shooting angle and was able to smother the ball for the most difficult of his seven saves.
“We’ve been working a lot in practice on possessing the ball, getting it down and passing, especially on this nice surface where we get no bad bounces,” said Hampden coach Kiaran McCormack. “There were passages of play when we did it exceptionally well.
“But all credit to Bangor, they’re a very well organized side and very experienced with a lot of physical players. We matched them as best we could physically, but they had that extra bit of experience for us. We’re a very young side, with not a lot of guys who have experience playing at this level and in a game as intense as this.”
Bangor scored its final goal with 3:11 left in the match. Warren again was instrumental in the scoring play, taking a pass from Dan Taft near the right corner and centering the ball to George, who slipped it across the goal mouth to sophomore Luke Hetterman for his first varsity goal.
“The atmosphere was electric, the crowd was phenomenal, and to step in and have to adjust to that was hard,” said Patterson. “We got caught up in the atmosphere, and it was a pretty ugly game. It was exciting, but from a soccer purist’s point of view it wasn’t pretty.
“But I guess if you can win 3-0 against one of your biggest rivals, we can be happy with that.”