Kevin Bennett, for the Kennebec Journal
The Maranacook boys’ soccer team celebrates with the gold ball after it defeated Fort Kent 1-0 in the Class C state championship at Hampden Academy on Saturday. (Kevin Bennett, for the Kennebec Journal)
HAMPDEN — The Maranacook boys soccer team had seen one scoring chance after another go unfulfilled, and the Black Bears were running out of time.
In the fleeting seconds before heading into overtime, they got one final chance. The ball went from defender Duncan Rogers up to Silas Mohlar, who then gave it over to Aric Belanger before receiving a pass right back.
Just like clockwork. Coach Don Beckwith made sure of it.
“We practiced that shot for 40 minutes last night,” Beckwith said.
It couldn’t have looked better than it did Saturday. Mohlar’s shot evaded the diving reach of keeper Reece Pelletier with only 20.7 seconds left, lifting Maranacook over Fort Kent, 1-0, for the Class C championship at Hampden Academy.
“That’s the stuff you dream about when you go to bed at night, that’s for sure,” Mohlar said. “Every night, that’s what I dream about. Preseason, all the work we’ve done, it comes right down to there and it feels great.”
It’s the third state championship in five years for Maranacook, and the third Class C title in as many tries considering two seasons in between spent at Class B. Championships are nothing new. But as Beckwith said, that doesn’t mean they get old.
“Nothing’s ever sweeter than a state championship,” he said. “All that work you do in the preseason, all that work you do in the offseason. These guys put a lot of time in, so to get that reward, these seniors, that’s huge.”
This one didn’t come easily. Overtime seemed inevitable, with the Black Bears unable to break through against a Fort Kent team that played well in the midfield and stayed organized in its own end.
The clock reached its final minute of regulation when Rogers began a Maranacook attack, with the ball going from Mohlar to Belanger, who brought it in from the left side. The junior defender kept the ball moving, sending a pass back over to Mohlar near the top of the 18-yard box.
“We always try to serve the ball, and we’re always trying to be the first to the ball,” Belanger said. “Silas worked off the ball and I gave it back to him. … It was kind of like a natural instinct-type thing.”
Mohlar didn’t stop to control the ball before putting it on net, firing a shot that beat Pelletier — excellent all day with seven saves — and skipped inside the left post to kick off a wild celebration along the right sideline.
“Time slows down, it’s like slow motion,” Mohlar said. “I turned, there was nobody there. It’s surprising that nobody tackled. … I didn’t think I was going to have as much time. I struck it as quick as I could.”
Fort Kent coach Oniqueky Samuels said fatigue may have played a role in why Mohlar was left alone.
“We kind of got tired in the last bit,” he said. “We gave up an easy shot on top of the 18-yard box. Our midfielders were a little bit deep. To react to that, it was kind of hard for them.”
Maranacook’s execution, however, was no accident. The sequence was one Maranacook had scouted and knew it could use to catch the Warriors, and Beckwith made sure his players were sharp.
“That’s the stuff that pays off, the little stuff,” he said. “We went up and saw them, that’s what we thought they’d give up. … We thought we’d get more of that shot, but we didn’t. We got it at the right time.”
It was a change in narrative after a morning, and then afternoon, of close calls and missed opportunities. Maranacook controlled play much of the game but had a few agonizingly close calls, the most notable of which came in the 47th minute when Pelletier leapt to prevent a Jackson McPhedran shot from sneaking under the crossbar, in the 72nd minute when Pelletier turned away a bid from a tight angle up close by Micah Charette, and in the 74th when Charette sent a cross over to Connor Stockwell, only for his volley to be turned aside by the Fort Kent keeper.
Chances were slipping away, but the Black Bears just grew more and more sure that their time was coming.
“I could feel it for sure,” Mohlar said. “I didn’t know if we were going to have to go to overtime to do it, but I could feel that we were going to score at some point.”
“We’ve been like that all year,” Beckwith said. “We’re not a juggernaut scoring team.”
The same sentiment was growing on the Fort Kent sideline, especially after the Warriors came close to snatching the victory with chances of their own. Fort Kent’s best try came in the 56th minute when Dylan Bernier fired a shot off the left post and Austin Plourde booted the follow-up just over the crossbar.
“It was a tough game. It wasn’t one of those games where you’re going to come in and string 10, 15 passes together,” Samuels said. “I knew it was going to be a 1-0 win. … I knew if we got that goal, our organization would have been different and the game would have changed.”