BANGOR, Maine — The most veteran players on this year’s Bangor High boys soccer team have experienced the highest of highs — the Class A state championship they won in 2006.
But last season ended on a disappointing note, with a loss to Hampden Academy in the Eastern Maine quarterfinals after a 13-0-1 regular season.
It’s a loss the Rams aren’t dwelling on, but one they don’t want to repeat as 17 returning players — including seven starters — are back for the 2008 campaign.
“I don’t think we’re thinking about last season too much,” said junior forward Nick George. “It was kind of a bummer to lose, but we’re really just moving on.”
The biggest change in the program this season comes at the top, where David Patterson has stepped in as head coach to replace Adam Leach, who stepped down after nine years.
So far the transition has been smooth.
“The players back from last year had been talking about having a new coach and whether we’d be able to adapt to him,” said senior midfielder Johnny Warren, “but coach Patterson has just been phenomenal. He just knows the game so well it’s easy for us to understand it.”
Patterson brings considerable experience to the Rams’ sideline. He coached the University of Maine women’s soccer team for five years and also coached at Division II Lenior-Rhyne University in North Carolina after coming to the United States in 1990 from his native Ireland, where he played at the college and professional levels.
“I’ve stepped into a great situation, because a lot of these kids are playing soccer year-round and the ones that aren’t are incredible athletes,” said Patterson. “There’s a level of expectation here, these are kids who want to do well and they understand what it takes to do well. It’s quite competitive and all I’m trying to do is get them all pointed in the right direction.”
One area Patterson is emphasizing is the diversification of the Rams’ offense in order to adjust to particular situations.
“We want to be a better offensive attacking team this year,” said senior back Ryan Larochelle. “The last two teams here have been good defensively, and while we really want to stay strong defensively and we’re returning a lot of defenders, we’re playing a different style of offense this year and we really want to try to put teams away in the first half with good offense.
“We’re trying to get to the point where if we’re up by one goal late in the game we can drop back and play four deep, but if we’re down two at half-time we can spring five mids up on them and feel comfortable doing it.”
Larochelle joins Nate Frazier and Zane Gray to form an experienced corps of defenders in front of goalies Alan Reese and Buddy Angst.
George, Dan Taft, Johnny Warren and Mack Susi are among the team’s scoring threats, but as the team’s offensive playbook grows where they play on the field may vary.
“We have to be well-organized, but we also have to be prepared to play in different situations,” said Patterson. “Having that flexibility and the ability to adapt and change, that’s really important and we’re focusing quite a bit on that in preseason.”
Ten players from Bangor’s state championship team are on this year’s 24-player roster, and that group has gone a combined 29-2-2 during the last two years.
Such success leaves the Rams motivated for more.
“Two years ago they won the state championship, and they always expect to get back to that level,” said Patterson. “Once you get to that level there’s absolutely no guarantees, but that’s what we’re shooting for. We’re trying everything we can to take care of business during the regular season and get prepared for the postseason, and when we get there we want to be as ready as possible to go as deep into the playoffs as we can.”