It’s no surprise that reigning regional boys soccer champions like Bangor in Class A North, Winslow in Class B North or Monmouth in Class C South are all headed to their respective tournaments this season with immediate berths into the quarterfinals. Those three teams are among the most prolific scoring teams in the entire state.

But look closer at the teams at the top of the tables, and there’s another trend that emerges quite clearly.

In the Class A and B North regions this fall, only one team that allowed more than 25 goals this season — or 1.79 goals against per game on average — qualified for one of the top eight playoff spots. Only one team, Ellsworth in Class B North, had a negative goal differential for the season. Still, while the Eagles scored only 20 goals in their 14 games, they allowed just 22.

Winslow was the most prolific offense of the bunch, and the Black Raiders enter the tournament as the No. 4 seed in B North with an 11-3-0 record with 68 goals scored this season. More importantly, Winslow has allowed just nine goals all year, posting shutouts in seven of their 14 games.

“That’s a good team,” said Maranacook coach Don Beckwith, whose Black Bears needed an overtime goal to beat Winslow 1-0 on Tuesday night in Readfield. “They’re good defensively. They don’t give you many chances.”

Beckwith should recognize good defense. Maranacook enters the Class C South tournament as the top seed on the strength of 11 shutouts and only five goals against in total all season.

Three of the five goals surrendered by the Black Bears (13-1-0) came in a single loss to Class A Lewiston.

“It’s defense. Defense is what we do,” Beckwith said. “That’s where it all starts for us. It’s where it has to start for us. We’re going to pressure the ball all over the field and try to wear teams out.”

No. 2 Monmouth led Class C South with 62 goals this season en route to a differential of plus-48. Behind them, in third, Hall-Dale joined Maranacook as the only other team to concede fewer than 10 times this season with nine goals against. The Bulldogs (plus-52) join Winslow as the only boys teams in central Maine to score at least 50 more goals than they allowed.

Mt. Abram, in at No. 5, used modest goal-scoring numbers (38) to a 10-game unbeaten streak thanks to a goals against average of 1.14 this season.

On the final night of their regular season, the Cony boys —who made the playoffs on the strength of their defense — defended well enough to perplex playoff-bound Mt. Blue on a 1-1 draw. It was the Rams’ fourth tie of the season.

Cougars coach Joel Smith noted that the eighth-seeded Rams, as stingy as they are defensively, could be a tough out, even for Bangor in the Class A North tournament.

“They sit back, they put six or eight men in the box, and that’s what they do,” Smith said of Cony. “They want to play (for ties). Kudos to them. If they get in the playoffs and that’s their strategy and they go for that, it could work for them. Because then you get into penalty kicks and everything like that.”

Defensive success isn’t limited to the boys brackets.

The Monmouth girls sit at the top of Class C South after scoring an eye-popping 104 goals. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that the Mustangs have conceded only eight times against.

Madison enters as the No. 2 seed, with a plus-70 differential thanks to just 11 goals against through 14 matches.

Maranacook, which played a schedule of strictly Class A and Class B schools, scored just 13 times this season. But the Black Bears were extremely good defensively, allowing only 16 goals.

That stinginess allowed them to grab the No. 8 spot in the region.

Presque Isle jumped to the top of the B North standings in the boys bracket on the strength of its defense. Seven times the Wildcats blanked the opposition, including four shutouts in their final five regular-season games.

Reigning Class A state champion Bangor, back as the top seed in the region, scored 56 goals, but tied for the fewest goals allowed in A North with just 10 goals against.

The trend continues all the way down to Class D, where Richmond, the top seed in the South, allowed six goals through its first 13 contests. The Richmond girls, also the top seed in the region, have allowed only 11 goals all year. They head into the tournament having posted five straight shutouts.

When it gets to the tournament, goals are a luxury. The ability to not concede them, however, is a must. The teams that will be there have proven as much this season.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC