MT. ARARAT MIDFIELDER James Hutchinson leads the Eaglles against Bangor in a battle of top teams tonight in Topsham at 6:30 p.m.

MT. ARARAT MIDFIELDER James Hutchinson leads the Eaglles against Bangor in a battle of top teams tonight in Topsham at 6:30 p.m.

TOPSHAM

Senior Mt. Ararat High School boys soccer midfielder James Hutchinson is no stranger to scoring goals.

However, he will admit that two of his goals this season have been the most memorable tallies of his young life.

When the game has been on the line, the Eagles’ captain has been there, scoring an overtime goal against “Battle of the Bridge” rival Brunswick in a 1-0 home win on Sept. 13, and picking up the game-winner against the talented and defending State Class A champion Lewiston Blue Devils, at the time not only riding a 24-game winning streak, but the subject of several national stories, from HBO to ESPN.

MT. ARARAT fans greet the Eagles prior to Tuesday’s KVAC clash with Hampden Academy in Topsham. Mt. Ararat, 9-1, hosts Bangor, 9-1, tonight at 6:30 p.m.

MT. ARARAT fans greet the Eagles prior to Tuesday’s KVAC clash with Hampden Academy in Topsham. Mt. Ararat, 9-1, hosts Bangor, 9-1, tonight at 6:30 p.m.

“He is a big-time player, and when we need him he has stepped up,” said Mt. Ararat second-year coach Jack Rioux.

Hutchinson realizes those two wins, all part of a current nine-game winning streak that has the Eagles sitting in the No. 2 spot in the Class A North Heal Point Standings behind Edward Little, were big confidence builders for the Mt. Ararat boys soccer program.

At 9-1 going into tonight’s huge home matchup with No. 3 Bangor (9-1), this squad is playing with a ton of confidence and poise. A year after finishing 5-7-2 before falling to the Red Eddies in the preliminaries (2-1 in overtime), Hutchinson and the Eagles are at the top of their game.

“We came in this season with so many familiar faces,” said Hutchinson, who remembers the loss of a large group of talented players from the 8-4-2 team of 2014, former coach Rick Renaud’s 30th season leading the Eagles. “Last year there was a lot of inexperience, where this year we have great leadership and confidence. Someone like Travis (Nadeau), who went from eight goals last year to 15 already this season, is someone special. Gavin (Patterson), our goalie, has been one of the best keepers in the state. He has all the confidence in the world, and our back four has been solid. Nick Merrill (six goals) is a great center-back and is scoring goals from there. Everything has just come together.”

Hutchinson remembers the win over Brunswick, a victory that gave the Eagles a lot of confidence and provided a feeling that Mt. Ararat was for real this season.

“The last 10 minutes of the Brunswick game I began cramping up in both of my calf muscles, and I had to get a sub and get some water and stretch,” remembered Hutchinson of the time leading up to his winning goal.

“Coach asked me if I would be good for overtime, and I knew that I had to be out there. I got everyone into our huddle and said, ‘I’m not sure how much I have left in my legs, so let’s end this early.’ Travis and Cole Kelly both stopped a (Brunswick) clear and Travis got a nice cross to me and I put my head down and hit it.

“As soon as I struck the ball, I knew that it was going in. The only thing I doubted was that Jimmy (Pelletier) was right in front of me, and he ducked to get out of the way. (Brunswick keeper) Josh Dorr got his fingers on it. I hit it the way that I needed to hit it there.”

“James is a great player and having him on the field gives us a lot of confidence in pushing the ball up the field,” said Pelletier. “He helps us a lot on both offense and defense. His goal against Brunswick was a huge goal for us and for him. He has been so clutch and playing great, getting the goals when we need them. That has really boosted us all season.”

Against Lewiston

“Only our team — no one in the school or even our parents — came into that game knowing confidently that we were going to win that game,” said Hutchinson of the Sept. 23 meeting with the Blue Devils in Topsham. “They are one of the best teams that I have ever seen on the high school level. I had confidence in us and we weren’t scared. This year, we have put our heads down and just played. We are very confident.”

And of the goal …

“I was playing a little bit defensive when Travis got the ball and was taken out. They put the ball about 19- yards out (for a free kick), and as soon as I saw that we checked their wall, where their keeper was positioned. When we saw their setup, Jimmy tapped it and I hit it low into the corner. Lewiston’s keeper got his hands on it, but it went in.”

After falling to Edward Little to open the season (2- 0), Mt. Ararat has put it all together. There have been close wins, like 2-0 victories over both Cony and Brewer, easy triumphs (7-0 wins over Skowhegan and Oxford Hills) along with a dominating 4-1 victory over a solid Messalonskee team on Sept. 30 at Oakland. Mt. Ararat has outscored its 10 opponents, 35-5.

Because of a quad injury, Hutchinson had to sit out the win over Messalonskee along with Tuesday’s 4-0 handling of Hampden Academy. Watching was difficult for the senior.

“The game that I was looking at as a challenge for our team was Messalonskee, ahead of us before the game, but I wasn’t nervous and knew that we would be successful even though I wasn’t out there,” said Hutchinson, who returned to practice on Wednesday with doctor’s note in hand, clearing him to be on the field against Bangor tonight. “Bangor will be a tough challenge, a team that is up there with Camden, up there with Lewiston,” said Hutchinson of the Rams. “I am focused on winning the midfield against Bangor. (Rams midfielder) Carson Atherley is one of the best center-mids in the state, so I will have my hands full. I am confident that we will win.”

The schedule is certainly difficult for Mt. Ararat the rest of the way. After hosting the Rams tonight, the Eagles visit Brunswick for a rematch on Tuesday (3:30 p.m.) before hosting 6-3 Camden Hills (Oct. 14) and Mt. Blue (Oct. 17).

“We have a tough end of the schedule, but we are confident. We have played a lot of good teams and we want to win these last four to set us up for the playoffs,” said Hutchinson.

Mt. Ararat is looking for its first State Class A title since 2003, when the Eagles downed Scarborough, 1-0. Mt. Ararat advanced to the title match back in 2012, a 4-0 loss to Scarborough. This year, Rioux feels his team has what it takes to make a run.

“It all starts for us defensively,” said Rioux, praising the play of defenders Cole Guerin, Dalton Streeter, Jacob Sturgess and Merrill, along with midfielders Max Spelke, Will San Pedro and Kyle Brown. “We always want to be first to the ball, and once we win it not give it away. We can’t give the ball away against Bangor, Brunswick and Camden. Those teams are too talented to not take advantage.”

And if the upcoming games are tight at crunch time, don’t be surprised if “clutch” James Hutchinson comes through again.


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