It may have been too cool and breezy for those watching Bangor face Brewer on Tuesday in the first boys’ varsity lacrosse match between the neighboring schools to appreciate the historic nature of the event.
But that fact, and the local growth in the sport it represented, wasn’t lost on the participants.
“Bangor and Brewer have been rivals all my life,” said Brewer sophomore midfielder Dylan Cross. “It’s good to finally have a varsity lacrosse rivalry between the schools.”
Bangor, a second-year varsity program, used its relative experience to score a 6-1 victory over the first-year Witches in a season-opening match at Boucher Field on the campus of Husson University.
“It really is a big deal,” said Bangor coach Michael Keim. “The rivalry between these two schools has been going on for quite some time, and now that we’re playing lacrosse against each other it just adds fuel to the fire.”
“The kids from both sides played hard. They were giving it their all so it was definitely good to get the win.”
Sophomores Zach Wellman and Jonny Lyon each scored twice for the Rams while seniors Nason Vassiliev and Reid Higgs each added a goal for a Bangor team coming off a 9-3 regular season and Class A North playoff appearance in its varsity debut last spring.
“It’s our second year now so we’re kind of getting used to the whole varsity thing,” said Vassiliev. “We’ve gotten a lot closer and we really didn’t lose a lot of talent from last year. If anything a lot of our younger players have gotten a lot better and it really showed today.”
Brewer, which played a subvarsity schedule last spring before joining the Class B ranks this year, got its first varsity goal from freshman Cole Dumond off a Dylan Wilson assist late in the third 12-minute quarter to cut Bangor’s lead to 4-1.
But the Witches also began to understand the challenges inherent in the varsity-level competition they faced for the first time.
“It’s a lot faster with all the ball movement, and the contact is harder on varsity,” said Cross. “(Bangor’s) a really good team and we’re just beginning. We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores and we know it’s always going to be competitive in any sport we play against Bangor. It got a little more physical at the end.”
Cross and Vassiliev are representative of the growth of schoolboy lacrosse in Greater Bangor, which also includes the presence of John Bapst of Bangor as a second-year boys’ varsity program in Class C.
Cross has been playing lacrosse for seven years.
“I played baseball when I was really little, but it was just boring for me,” he said. “Lacrosse isn’t like baseball where you’re sitting in a dugout a lot of the time. You’re always on the field and there are always subs.”
For Vassiliev, lacrosse marked his introduction to organized sports.
“I never really played sports when I was younger, but my mom came to me and said, ‘We’re starting a new program, Eastern Maine Youth Lacrosse, it’s a new sport and everyone’s going to be new to it,’” he recalled. “I tried it all through middle school and liked it, but I wasn’t obsessed with it until freshman year when I started playing in scrimmage games (in southern Maine) and just really fell in love with the sport.”
Bangor fielded club teams in both boys and girls lacrosse when Vassiliev arrived at the school, but he didn’t anticipate being part of a varsity team by his junior year.
“It’s really exciting to see it come up this far,” he said. “I never thought it was going to grow like this, but it’s just such an interesting game, so much different than every other sport. It’s super exciting.”