HAMPDEN — A regional championship battle with little offense produced a single goal that nearly wasn’t. Unfortunately for the Mount Desert Island boys’ soccer team, it came in the opposing Caribou Vikings’ favor.
It was only by a matter of inches that Caribou’s Ethan Holdsworth got a foot to the ball in the penalty area; only with the most fortuitous bounce off the Hampden Academy turf that his ensuing shot found a way past MDI’s goalkeeper, Nate Philbrook. Certainly, the events that led to Holdsworth’s goal 10 minutes into Wednesday’s Class B North title game could have unfolded much differently.
Yet in a do-or-die game between two relatively even-matched teams, somebody had to be on the losing end. Although MDI was that team this time, a defeat by the slimmest of margins was just one game of many in a season that saw the Trojans go as far as they have in years.
MDI fell 1-0 to Caribou in Wednesday’s Class B North championship game at Hampden Academy. The result brought to an end a strong MDI season that saw the Trojans come up just short of their first regional title since 2000.
“I’m super proud of these guys and what they’ve done all year in every practice and every game,” MDI head coach Tyler Frank said. “It didn’t go the way we wanted tonight, but this was a great group that really accomplished a lot.”
Although the game would develop into a battle in the midfield, it got off to a fast start as both teams pushed toward the opposing goals. Top-ranked Caribou (15-0-2) saw an early offensive chance go to waste with an errant shot two minutes after kickoff, and MDI followed with a header from point-blank range that sailed high.
Just after the 10-minute mark, Caribou took the lead as Holdsworth made his way into the 6-yard box and bundled a bouncing ball past Philbrook and over the line. The goal proved to be the final major chance of the first half as neither the Vikings nor the third-ranked Trojans (12-3-2) could maintain any sort of offensive rhythm.
The two teams established slightly better presences in their respective attacking thirds to start the second half, but the change in pace went for naught as both defenses neutralized threats on goal. Although a Caribou miss from close range with three minutes left kept MDI in the game, the Vikings kept possession of the ball and ultimately ran out the clock.
The game was a rematch of a Sept. 25 regular season battle in Bar Harbor. That contest saw the two teams play to a 1-1 draw, and although they appeared to be evenly matched once again Wednesday, one bounce of the ball Caribou’s way made all the difference.
“These are two great teams, and on any given day, one team or the other can take it,” Frank said. “Caribou took it tonight, and hopefully, they’ll represent the North well [in the state title game].”
The Northern Maine championship game appearance marked the first time this decade MDI has played in a regional final. The Trojans, who entered the day on a 12-game unbeaten streak, had not made it past the quarterfinals since 2014, Frank’s first year as head coach.
With established starters such as Ieuan Howell, Leao Nelson and Reider Watson returning, MDI will have a chance to start a new decade on solid footing next fall. After going toe to toe in a Northern Maine championship game, Frank is nothing but optimistic about the future.
“We keep building on our foundations every year, and we keep having great players come into this program,” Frank said. “We’ll continue to bring MDI soccer everywhere we go. As of now, I’m already looking forward to next season.”