Willie Brown always thought he might be a head coach someday.
He just wasn’t sure it was going to be in soccer or expecting it to be this year.
The former multi-sport athlete at Livermore Falls started the year as the junior varsity coach with the Spruce Mountain boys’ team but suddenly found himself the head coach on an interim basis. On Thursday, Spruce Mountain made it official. Brown was confirmed as the head coach of the Phoenix by the school board. It hasn’t exactly been the typical scenario for a first-year coach.
“This is kind of an interesting situation that came about,” Brown said. “It’s a good experience and a good opportunity.”
The Phoenix faced a challenging year ahead. Spruce Mountain was debuting in the KVAC, which wasn’t going to be an easy transition for a former Mountain Valley Conference team. Then after an opening-night loss at Leavitt, head coach Larry Thornton abruptly resigned following a post-game incident.
That left the Phoenix in the lurch and Brown in charge of picking up the pieces. He was named the interim head coach on the Monday following the Friday season opener and coached his first varsity game on the next Tuesday. Spruce Mountain has gone 0-11 and scored only five goals all season, having been shutout seven times.
“We’ve just been trying to groom the team for next year and trying to develop a lot of the younger guys,” Brown said.
The head coaching job was posted immediately following Thornton’s resignation. Brown decided to apply because he wasn’t sure what kind of candidates might be willing to step into that situation.
“It kind of came down to not seeing other people applying for it,” Brown said. “I wasn’t going to leave the guys hanging. If they were to forfeit a game, they would lose the next three years. It wouldn’t have been fair for the freshmen, sophomores and juniors. So that’s kind of where I was at.”
With Thursday’s confirmation, Brown and the Phoenix can continue moving forward. Brown graduated from Livermore Falls in 2010 and from St. Joe’s in 2014. The JV job he began the fall with was his first coaching gig.
“I’m getting benefits out of it,” said Brown, who works at Mt. Blue Middle School. “It’s been a good experience. It’s nice as a young coach to be able to experience everything I have this year. It kind of prepared me for the future in coaching.”
The same can be said for his players. They’ve battled through some challenging times. It can only get better from here, and he has seen the team continue to work hard and progress this season.
“I think our team has faced a lot of adversity this year,” Brown said. “Coming into a new conference, the KVAC is a really strong conference, and we’ve played some good teams. We’ve had some struggles, but I think our team as a whole has gotten better. We’re getting some good leadership from some of the seniors and also some of the underclassmen, which has helped a lot.”
Spruce Mountain finishes up the season with games on the road at Winslow and Maranacook and a home game with MCI.
“It’s been an interesting year to say the least,” Brown said. “I’ve just been plucking away and trying to get through. The team’s just been getting better.”
There’s a lot at stake in the Western C standings Monday with four teams in the top seven playing each other.
The highlight of the day could be the battle of unbeaten in Monmouth at 3:30. The 11-0-1 Mustangs host the 11-0-1 Bulldogs from Madison. The winner could likely secure the top seed.
Madison has scored 59 goals and allowed just nine in 12 games. The Bulldogs had their 11-game winning streak snapped last Thursday when Lisbon tied Madison 1-1.
Monmouth has won five straight, since a 2-2 tie with Lisbon. The Mustangs have scored 67 goals and allowed 12.
In another key matchup Monday, Lisbon hosts Mountain Valley at 3:30. The Greyhounds (7-2-3) are ranked fifth in Western C while Mountain Valley (9-3) are ranked seventh.
Lisbon won just six games last fall and lost in the Western C preliminaries. Mountain Valley had only three wins last year and missed the playoffs. A win Monday could help secure a higher seed for the victor.
“We’re looking for playoffs and getting us into that higher bracket so we can have home field advantage,” Mountain Valley coach Lynn Gould said.
The Falcons have won five straight and outscored opponents 26-3 with three shutouts since losing to Madison 1-0. Mountain Valley plays the Bulldogs on Thursday.
“We’ve got some work ahead of us,” Gould said.
Lisbon is coming off the 1-1 tie with Madison and a close loss to Hall-Dale.
The Mountain Valley Conference championship games are nearly set. The top two teams in the league will square off Thursday, Oct. 23 at Thomas College. The girls’ game is scheduled for 5:30 with the boys to follow.
The pairing for the girls’ matchup is already set. Madison and Monmouth, two teams that play Monday, are the top two squads in Western C and are currently unbeaten.
In the boys’ game, unbeaten Mountain Valley has already secured a slot, but its opponent is yet to be determined.
In the KVAC, the Class A games are tentatively slated for the weekend of Friday, the 24 or Saturday the 25. A date and venue has yet to be confirmed.
Both the Lewiston boys’ and the Edward Little girls’ are in contention. The Blue Devils are the top seed in Eastern and unbeaten. The Red Eddies are second on the girls’ side behind Bangor, a team EL just lost to over a week ago.