Reigning Class A boys soccer champs confident, focused on improvement

Ashley L. Conti | BDN

Ashley L. Conti | BDN

Bangor’s Garth Berenyi (center) takes a shot past Hampden Academy’s Wade Brown toward Sam Lilley during their soccer game at Bangor.

BANGOR, Maine — Confidence is blooming within the Bangor High School boys soccer program as the trees surrounding their home field begin to reveal their annual late summer mix of colors.

Sure, an All-American midfielder is gone from the lineup, with Carson Atherley now starting as a freshman at Division I Brown University.

Also among the graduates from the 2016 Class A state championship team is goalie George Payne, who came up big when the Rams needed him most as Bangor outlasted Gorham in penalty kicks to capture the program’s third gold ball in the last 11 years.

Now Bangor is back and may be as good as ever, with a bevy of veterans on a still youthful roster. Only three seniors start regularly and only two started during the team’s 2-1 victory over Hampden Academy on Tuesday.

Yet little complacency is to be found. Far from it, as three one-goal victories during the Rams’ 4-0 start suggest much room for improvement before those same trees around their field are barren and the cold-weather games of late October and early November provide even more championship motivation.

“[Tuesday’s] lesson was we’re going to fix our fouling issue starting with practice [Wednesday] night,” said Bangor coach Garth Berenyi, whose team survived two Hampden penalty kicks during the final four minutes of play to remain unbeaten. “It would have been a different game without the direct kicks and penalty kicks. It kills the flow of the game and in so many ways isn’t good for us.”

Yielding penalty-kick chances hasn’t been just a one-time occurrence for these Rams, who allowed a penalty-kick goal in the final seconds of their season opener against Lewiston but held on for a 3-2 victory that ended a long…

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