ELLSWORTH — Silas Montigny was not happy with how his team’s 2021 season began.
As is always the case for an Ellsworth boys’ soccer team with a storied history, the Eagles entered the current year with hopes of establishing themselves among the big boys in Class B. Yet over the first five games, Ellsworth found itself in in the win column just once as it struggled in the early going.
“It was like we didn’t want it,” Montigny said. “We were just going into the season from the preseason thinking that we were going to be good, but we weren’t. We needed to get it into our heads that we had to give it everything and leave it all out there.”
Over the past three weeks, that renewed drive has paid off for the Ellsworth boys’ team. Winners of seven consecutive games, the Eagles are right where they want to be as the regular season winds to a close and the start of postseason play nears.
After beginning the season 1-3-1, Ellsworth claimed its second victory of the year Sept. 27 when it earned a 4-1 road win over Hermon. That marked the first of five wins in nine days for the Eagles, who later beat rival Mount Desert Island 2-1, scored nine goals over two games in a season sweep of Caribou and outlasted Hermon 1-0 on the road in a rematch.
The most crucial of those victories, Montigny said, was the team’s 2-1 triumph over MDI. That win, which came a day after Ellsworth’s 4-1 win against Hermon, was only the second for the Eagles in the program’s last 11 matchups against the Trojans.
“I wanted to win that game so much,” Montigny said of the rivalry win over MDI. “Our whole team did. Once we won that, I think everybody was really just ready to go into the rest of this season kicking butt.”
After a four-day break following the ensuing wins over Caribou and Hermon, Ellsworth continued its winning stretch Saturday as it earned a 2-1 road win over Foxcroft in a matchup of two teams that had fought to a 1-1 draw to open the season last month. The Eagles’ then claimed their latest win Tuesday as they won 2-0 over visiting Old Town (2-4).
The win over Old Town was a paragon of Ellsworth’s success over the course of its win streak, Ellsworth’s longest since winning 11 straight to begin the year in its 2014 regional title-winning season. Moving the ball with fluidity in the first and middle thirds, the Eagles (8-3-1) created numerous opportunities for their scorers as the back line snuffed out the visitors’ few attacking threats.
“When the ball gets inside the 6, we’ve become way more diligent at attacking it and clearing it than we were in the beginning of the year,” said Ellsworth head coach Paul Lock. “Sometimes, it scares me that it takes that to get their attention, but they’re on the ball.”
The win over Old Town saw Ellsworth goals by Chase Hardwick, who found the net from a difficult angle after a run down the right flank, and Luke Perry, who headed home a Kal Laslie corner kick. With his second-half tally, Perry joined Montigny and Cruz Coffin (six goals) and Kai Barrett (five goals) as one of four Eagles with five or more this season.
Much of the Eagles’ offensive flow comes through Coffin, the team’s key playmaker in the midfield, and Laslie, whose team-best six assists this year have come primarily via well-placed corner kicks. Ellsworth has also found success on the defensive end, where it’s conceded just five goals over the course of its seven-game winning streak.
“[Our players] are willing to play with each other on the field regardless of who it is,” Lock said. “They don’t get stuck on having the same lineup or the same people because we’ve been losing people due to COVID or injuries. They will freely give the ball up to whoever it is that gets in space.”
Third-ranked Ellsworth will play its final regular season home game tomorrow, Oct. 13, when it hosts No. 6 John Bapst (6-3) at 6 p.m. The Eagles will be highly wary of a Bapst team that can score from long range and will be aiming to get back at the maroon and white following the Eagles’ high-scoring win in last month’s meeting in Bangor.
“They have a lot of good shooters,” Hardwick said of John Bapst. “They play really aggressive soccer, and they’re just fast — really fast.”
Ellsworth will then conclude the regular season with a rematch against MDI at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18, in Bar Harbor. With victories in both games, the Eagles would likely cement the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Class B North playoffs.
“Right now, we just want these two wins,” Montigny said. “We need to get those Heal points. We want to make sure we get a top seed going into the playoffs, for sure.”