RICHMOND — Richmond boys soccer coach Peter Gardner didn’t call it a rivalry. Neither did Temple coach Phil Hubbard.

But with both programs assuming status among Class D’s top programs — Richmond having held that distinction for decades, Temple being a relatively new arrival — the coaches, and their players, acknowledged that their matchups have started to feel a little different than the rest of the games on the schedule.

It was the case again Monday when the teams met in a 5-1 Richmond victory, one that saw the Bobcats pull away after a close first half.

“There is a little bit of a buzz. There is a little bit of intensity between both,” Hubbard said. “We had some great games with them last year. Even though we lost all three, they were very competitive games.”

Gardner said the teams don’t have the close proximity or long history that normally fuels a rivalry. Asked if it’s a measuring stick game, however, and Gardner didn’t hesitate.

“No question about that,” he said. “And there’s a lot of reason for that. … Very quickly, they went from not having much at all to what was, two years ago, exceptional.”

The results back it up. Since 2016, the teams have made a combined six D South semifinals in eight opportunities. Either the Bobcats or Bereans — Richmond in 2017 and ’19, Temple in 2018 — have made each of the last three regional finals. And last year, they met in the postseason for the first time, with Richmond beating Temple in the regional semifinals 5-0.

They’ve taken different paths to this point. Richmond has made 14 state finals and won five since 1989, and is annually one of the teams to beat in D South, if not the clear favorite.

“Soccer’s a Richmond heritage,” junior Cole Alexander said. “Everyone and their parents grew up playing soccer here.”

Temple, meanwhile, is still the new team on the scene. The Bereans joined the MPA in 2015, and made their first tournament in 2016. Since then, however, they’ve been able to catch up to the rest of their competition.

“I think trying to make them believe that we are a soccer school,” said Hubbard, who took over in 2017. “Get the mindset to think ‘soccer, soccer, soccer,’ and the kids really have bought into that. They look forward to playing. They look forward to competing.”

Richmond’s Max Viselli, right, celebrates a goal during a game against Temple Academy on Monday in Richmond. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Normally, a game like Monday’s would be full of playoff implications and tournament seeding possibilities. And even though the coronavirus has wiped out the postseason, the competitive edge was still there when the teams took the field.

“Every single game for the last two years, me and my teammates have all been pumped to play them, every single time,” Temple senior forward Zack Wiles said. “Either if it’s semifinals like last time, today, even if it’s a regular season game, even if we don’t have playoffs this year. We’re still pumped to play them.”

Temple had some close looks early but couldn’t convert, and Richmond made the Bereans pay. In the 12th minute, Alexander followed up on a save on a shot by Chance Taylor to make it 1-0, and in the 30th, it was Alexander setting up Taylor for a goal to put the Bobcats up 2-0.

Temple fought back only 30 seconds later when Wiles found the net from the left side, but Richmond took over in the second half. Andrew Vachon scored in the 53rd minute, Max Viselli added another just over a minute later, and Jacob Stillwell put in Richmond’s fifth goal in the 60th minute.

“Today, we just didn’t come ready to play,” Hubbard said. “When you don’t score when you have three opportunities early, things are going to fall apart. And they fell apart. Give them credit.”

Taylor said he was happy to see his team strike early, and — more importantly — strike late.

“We did a really good job of starting fast and taking control,” he said. “Coach told us to step it up a little bit, and we did that, and we finished it.”

Maybe the game wasn’t for Heal points. And maybe it’s not going to pay off in terms of home field for a playoff game.

But there’s still a reason Hubbard was looking forward to the rematch next week.

“We wanted to beat them today,” he said. “Tournament or not, if we beat Richmond? We’ve never beat them. … We’ve had a lot of close one (goal) losses. We want to beat them.”

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