November 14, 2013

HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER: Maranacook basks in glow of state championship

Bears start offseason with indoor soccer #

By Gary Hawkins ghawkins@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Just a few hours after beating Madawaska 2-0 for the Class C state soccer championship Saturday, many of Maranacook’s players were back on the field competing for their premiere team. Later Sunday night, they traveled to Waterville to play some indoor soccer.

click image to enlarge

CELEBRATE: Maranacook High School captains Nick LaCasse, 10, Taylor Wilbur, 11, and Alex Tooth, 9, celebrate after receiving the state champion trophy in the Class C State Championship game at Hampden Academy on Saturday. Maranacook defatted Madawaska 2-0.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

“All together about 16 kids played Sunday,” Maranacook coach Don Beckwith said. “And none of them were seniors.”

A lot of preparation went into the school’s first soccer championship and a lot more is likely to come out of it.

“We’ve been playing together since we were like 6 on travel teams,” senior Nick Lacasse said. “And we’ve all been on the same team since fifth grade.

Many of the players were overwhelmed by the community support throughout the season and after the championship. Saturday’s parade of police and fire vehicles culminated with an emotional ceremony at the school cafeteria.

“There were a few tears shed,” senior Taylor Wilbur said.

Many of those tears came from Beckwith or for Beckwith, whose coaching career spans 30 years.

“He was probably the best coach in the state without a state title,” Wilbur said.

Those sentiments were echoed by others who saw the championship as a validation for a coach who wears his heart on his sleeve during games and stays after his players from start to finish.

“I couldn’t be more proud to win a state title for him,” senior Alex Tooth said. “He really brings it out in you. He pushes you to your full potential.”

Maranacook achieved success long before Beckwith arrived 11 years ago, at one time winning 46 conference games in a row. But there was always a southern Maine team waiting for the Black Bears in the playoffs and keeping them from at championship. Last season, Falmouth knocked them off in penalty kicks before wining the state title.

This season the Black Bears dropped to Class C due to declining enrollment although the maintained their Class B schedule. Past success and the drop to Class C made Maranacook the preseason favorite for the state title in the eyes of many coaches.

“We were the Falmouth of Class C,” Beckwith said. “I’d rather come from the underdog side personally.”

The Black Bears went unbeaten playing in the Class B division of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, although they did lose to Camden Hills in the conference championship game. Beckwith said the tough schedule helped but believed his team would have fared just as well had it played a Class C schedule.

Maranacook’s opponents in the playoffs — Wiscasset, North Yarmouth Academy, Hall-Dale and Madawaska — each had at least two common denominators. They were all scouted by Beckwith and his assistants and each featured a big scorer. The Bears effectively took away each of those scorers, including Madawaska’s Ian Lane, who holds the state record for career goals, en route to the championship.

“It’s easier to take away one guy,” he said. “We’ve got five guys that score 15 goals. Our attack came from all over.”

Lacasse, who was named KVAC Class B player of the year, said there were no stars on the team and believed everyone could had shuffled positions and achieved the same success.

“Everyone is just so versatile,” he said.

Beckwith said he’s coached more games with the freshmen on this year’s team than he has with the seniors.

“I’ve been traveling with them for five years,” he said. “This didn’t happen overnight. We play a lot.”

There’s no talk yet of a dynasty. There will always be tough teams to contend with in Class C, especially some of the private schools, But the program is on solid footing and should contend for many years to come. Besides, this a week for looking back on what the team has just accomplished.

“It was good,” Beckwith said of the team’s journey to the title. “After the fact it’s even better. It’s pretty tough to wipe the smile off my face.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638ghawkins@centralmaine.comTwitter: @GaryHawkinsKJ
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