Bangor’s Garth Berenyi (center) puts a shot on goal past Hampden Academy’s Wade Brown and toward goalkeeper Sam Lilley during a game in Bangor on Sept. 12. Berenyi, who set a school record last Saturday with his 57th career goal, will lead Bangor when it hosts Lewiston in the Class A North championship in Bangor on Wednesday. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

BANGOR, Maine — Garth Berenyi is really looking forward to the next few days.

The senior forward from Levant already has helped lead the Bangor High School soccer team to one Class A state championship, and a second crown is just more two victories away.

That quest continues at 6 p.m. Wednesday when the top-seeded Rams (15-0-1) host No. 2 Lewiston (12-2-2) in the North regional title match.

“It’s very exciting,” said Berenyi, who set a school record last Saturday with his 57th career goal during Bangor’s 6-2 semifinal victory over Mt. Blue of Farmington. “These are the games you kind of live for, so we’re really looking forward to Wednesday, that’s our whole focus now.

“We try to stay away from even thinking about (the state final) Saturday. Obviously sometimes we start talking about it, but the big thing is what do we need to do Wednesday to win.”

Certainly Berenyi’s athletic resume — which also includes being part of a national championship Seacoast United club team — lends itself to the considerable interest of college soccer coaches at all levels.

But that will have to wait, for Berenyi plans to serve a very different calling come January — just after the homeschooled 18-year-old earns his high school diploma.

Instead of heading to college immediately, he’ll participate in a yearlong residential discipleship at his church, Calvary Chapel Bangor of Orrington.

Through the church’s School of Ministry, Berenyi will study and work with residents of Seven Oaks Training Center/Blessed Hope, a program that provides in-house services for people battling drug and alcohol addiction.

“In the last year or two God’s put more and more in my heart to serve Him,” said Berenyi. “I took some of the classes through the school ministry and really liked them a lot, and one day someone mentioned this idea and it just stuck with me.”

Berenyi was so interested in pursuing the discipleship rather than a soccer future immediately after high school that he admittedly wasn’t as aggressive as most of his club teammates last summer in reaching out to potential college suitors.

He nearly even opted not to play high school soccer this fall, even though his dad’s the coach at Bangor High School.

“Soccer is a great love of mine, it’s one of my favorite things in the world,” he said, “but I have to recognize that it’s from God and serving Him is so much more important.

“I had contemplated not playing this year, but people told me that I could do the school ministry at another time but you only have four years of high school and you have to take advantage of it so after thinking and praying about it, I decided to play.”

Berenyi has been one of Maine’s dominant players since making that decision, scoring three goals during Bangor’s season-opening 3-2 victory over Lewiston and going on to total 32 goals in 16 matches.

“Garth’s really mature for his age,” said his father, second-year Bangor head coach Garth Berenyi. “He’s been in a lot of pressure situations in soccer, his team went to nationals in the summer league, he’s been in state championship games in premier soccer. He’s had great coaching in the past, he’s had great competitors that he’s played with and it’s all just prepared him.”

The younger Berenyi also was voted one of Bangor’s team captains along with his brother Jacob, a senior midfielder, and junior defender Jack Bourassa.

“I wouldn’t say I really saw it coming or that I expected big things,” said Berenyi, a fourth-year starter for the Rams.

“My freshman and sophomore years I didn’t really do much. Then my junior year I really stepped up after I realized that (former teammate) Carson (Athlerley, now playing at Division I Brown University) and I could impose our will on games, which was really cool.”

Whether Berenyi resumes his soccer career after spending 2018 helping victims of addiction remains to be determined, in great part because while he has invested years of time and effort in the sport it’s not his top priority.

“All the college coaches I’ve talked to I’ve told that I’m taking at least next season off because the ministry is going to go all the way through next fall,” he said. “After that, I really don’t know, it’s too far ahead to really tell.

“The biggest thing is that I’m Christian, that’s No. 1 in my life. It’s more important to me than my soccer, it’s more important to me than anything else to do what God’s will is for my life.”

That’s not to say the next few days on the soccer field won’t have a special place in Berenyi’s mind and memory, too.

“For the first time this season it does make you a feel little nervous knowing that everything you’ve done has led up to this point,” he said. “But at the same time I’m very confident and very ready to go.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...