Scarborough stunned by Bangor in Class A Final
(Ed. Note: This story originally appeared in the Nov. 10, 2006 edition of The Forecaster)
WINDHAM—It wasn't supposed to end this way.
The Scarborough boys' soccer team was the defending state champion, had the momentum, hunger and drive to repeat and was simply having its way with the upstart Bangor Rams in the Class A Final Saturday afternoon at Windham High School.
But in the end, the Red Storm wasn't able to overcome some baffling and exasperating officiating calls, couldn't capitalize on a plethora of promising scoring chances and wound up stunned, 1-0, by the Rams on Ryan Larochelle's goal with 5:07 remaining in the second overtime period.
"Everything we wanted to do we did," Scarborough coach Mark Diaz said. "Bangor did everything we thought they'd do. These things happen. My kids played well."
Another glorious season
Since moving up to Class A at the beginning of the decade, the Scarborough program has been at the top of the Southwestern Maine Activities Association. The Red Storm lost to Mt. Ararat (on penalty kicks) in the 2003 Class A Final, fell to Greely in the Western A Final the following autumn, then won it all last year, beating Mt. Ararat (in a shootout).
This year's team wasn't expected to be quite as strong, but Scarborough was dominant. The Red Storm finished 13-0-1, with a controversial home tie versus Gorham serving as the only blemish. Scarborough only gave up two goals in 14 games and earned the No. 2 seed for the Western A playoffs.
After opening with a 3-1 quarterfinal round win over No. 10 Bonny Eagle, the Red Storm rallied for a palpitating 3-1 home victory over No. 11 Cape Elizabeth in the semifinals. When No. 5 Westbrook upset top-ranked Gorham in the other semifinal, Scarborough earned the opportunity to host the Blue Blazes in the regional final. Freshman Buddy Reid's second half goal led the Red Storm to a 1-0 win and a return engagement in the Class A Final.
This time, a completely unfamiliar foe awaited.
Bangor went 12-1-1 this year, then shocked top-ranked Brunswick in the Eastern A Final to culminate its regional run.
Saturday's state game would be played amid swirling winds, but it was clear early on that the defending champions were going to carry the majority of the play whether or not they had the breeze at their backs.
Early in the first half, Scarborough earned a pair of corner kicks, but couldn't convert. After Bangor senior Matt Goodell had a good look in close denied by Red Storm sophomore goalkeeper Adam Blanchard in the 12th minute, Scarborough senior Jeff Soules had a couple of good looks, but his shots were not on target.
With 21:20 to go in the first half, the Rams almost took the lead. On a corner kick, freshman Nick George appeared to have a good look, but Red Storm senior Cody Powers slid and broke up the try. A rebound shot then went wide.
In the 23rd minute, a nice cross by Scarborough junior Nate Gove to senior Brent Mayo was just long. A little over a minute later, Bangor senior Tony Martinez fired a shot off a corner kick, but Blanchard corralled it after momentarily losing the handle.
The Red Storm would then press hard for the icebreaker. With 11:42 remaining in the half, junior Sean Sinclair's header was saved by Rams senior goalkeeper Aaron Taft. A minute later, Scarborough senior Jason Philbrick was denied after a nice rush. In the 35th minute, Philbrick got free for another shot, but Taft made a leaping save.
"We had great chances," Diaz lamented. "Good opportunities. We hit the post on our second corner."
Bangor had a couple more chances before halftime as well, but Martinez's header was saved by Blanchard, then junior Christian Larochelle's shot went just high and landed on the backside of the net.
What might have been
Play picked up in the second half and so did the physical nature of the game as several apparent transgressions, starting with tripping and holding, weren't called. Scarborough's coaching staff and players were apoplectic on several occasions, but even with the distractions, the Red Storm still had several great chances to win the game.
"It was bizarre to say the least," Diaz said, of the many non-calls. "I told the players and coaches not to focus on that. I warned the players it could be different with an Eastern Maine official, but even I was stunned by what went on. A couple of my guys got thrown for a loop.
"That aside, we definitely had chances."
In the third minute of the second half, a cross by Mayo was snared by Taft. Two minutes later, a low shot by senior Eddie Jones was saved.
With 32:39 left to go, Bangor senior Jo Jo Hwalek got free (Scarborough argued for off-sides, to no avail) and fired a shot that Blanchard had to lunge to kick away. In the 59th minute, Hwalek was just wide on a low shot.
With 15:40 to play, Mayo found Ian Philbrick racing for the goal, but Philbrick's bid was just wide.
With 12:27 to go in regulation, Scarborough senior Phil Lambert and Bangor's Martinez were given yellow cards. Fifty-eight seconds later, Jones got one of his own (for allegedly taking a dive).
Mayo almost made it a moot point when he took a nice cross from Gove with 10:07 left, but his shot was wide.
With 3:33 to go, Powers fired a rocket which Taft saved. With 1:30 showing on the clock, Mayo was just wide on a shot. Finally, with 10 seconds to play, Jones launched a shot which Taft had to dive to knock away. The Red Storm attempted to get a corner kick off as time expired, but couldn't do so and the game headed to overtime.
"I wish we made (Taft) make more saves," Diaz said. "We went for the corners of the goal."
Scarborough boys' soccer and extra time in the state final are no strangers. The Red Storm played 40 minutes of overtime and a round of penalty kicks in the 2003 Class A state game and played 30 extra minutes before winning on PKs last year. This year's contest wouldn't come down to a shootout, but there would be ample drama in the two 15-minute, "sudden victory" extra sessions.
In the first OT, Bangor earned a direct kick from the side five minutes in, but Hwalek's shot was cleared away. With 8:40 to go, Powers fired a shot which was deflected wide. The ensuing corner kick was headed over the goal. The final good chance in the first overtime came with 20 seconds left when Powers fired another direct kick from the side. Taft made a sliding save and sent the game to a second extra session.
In the second minute of the second OT, Jason Philbrick's bid to play the hero was sent just wide. Four minutes later, Scarborough had its last chance when Powers fired a long shot and Taft made a sprawling save.
Bangor then transitioned into Red Storm territory. With 6:25 left, Hwalek sent a rocket high. A minute later, the Rams earned a corner kick and brought the curtain down on the game and the season.
George took the kick and he launched the ball across the goal mouth. Waiting was Larochelle, who made the most of his opportunity, banging the ball into the net for the 1-0 victory.
Just like that, shell-shocked Scarborough's season was over at 16-1-1.
"(Larochelle) snuck in from the back," Diaz said. "We had a couple players injured and had a couple sophomores in there. They were quaking in their boots. We had to make adjustments. Someone lost their mark and the ball got deflected. At least it was clean."
Red Storm return?
In what has become an annual rite of passage, Scarborough is prepared to graduate several of its top players, but that doesn't mean the team will drop in the standings next fall.
Micah Abrams, Mike Hathaway, Jones, Drew Kirstein, Lambert, Mayo, Jason Philbrick, Powers, Soules, Tyler Tait and Brian York all graduate, but many other standouts return. The Red Storm feeder program always seems to produce some incredible talents as well.
"We knew these seniors were special when they were freshmen," Diaz said. "They all contributed in big games. It was a very talented, unselfish group. Their record speaks for itself. They wanted to go back-to-back. I thought they deserved it. They put so much time in. We had our share of wins that were heartbreaking for the other team. We have to take our medicine.
"We hope to be OK next year. Our junior class is not big, but we hope our sophomores will be like this year's seniors. It's a good group. We'll definitely be young next year. We'll keep plugging away. We'll try to keep it up."