AUBURN — Two losses during the regular season didn’t stop the Edward Little boys’ soccer team from earning the top seed in Class A North this season. Neither did two important losses during the preseason.

First, the Red Eddies lost senior defender Spencer Harrington — a team captain — to a broken collarbone during the preseason.

“That left a hole back there, we thought, as coaches,” first-year EL coach Tim Mains said. “We thought about what we could do to shore it up, and Alex Thompson — he’s played center mid his whole career for us — and he’s done an unbelievable job back there.”

Thompson, a junior, was inserted into the back line in the Red Eddies’ final preseason game against Gorham, which they lost 4-3.

“We put Alex there, we gave Alex a try at center back, and immediately the whole feel of the game just changed,” Mains said.

Mains said his team won the second half of that game against the Rams, who were the top team in Class A South during the regular season, and that jump-started what has been a defensive revival for the Red Eddies.

The proof is in the results. EL gave up just 17 goals in 14 regular-season games, and earned five shutouts. Only six goals were given up at home, where the Red Eddies will play all of their regional postseason games.

But the first shutout of the season came on the road, at Mt. Ararat to start the season. It was against the same Eagles team that is the No. 2 seed in the North playoffs.

“I think it was a definite confidence booster,” Thompson said. “It brought us to know how good we are and how far we could go this season.”

“It was a shock at first,” said junior Patrick Luizzo, who starts next to Thompson at center back. “We haven’t been the best team in the past years.”

Thompson joined a back line that included three of his classmates. The converted center midfielder slotted in at left center back, between left outside back Jacob Kyajohnnian and right center back Luizzo. Spencer Frahn has manned the right outside back spot.

“Alex and Jacob work on the same side, and they complement each other really nicely,” Mains said. “They’re both really skilled players with the ball, they can link up and handle pressure that’s given to them. Patty and Frahn, they’re both great players, too. They’re solid, they know exactly what to do given any situation. I will say that Patrick and Spencer are much more physical players. They’re more the physical side, whereas I’d say Alex and Jacob are the more tactical side. But together, as a unit, they really work well together.”

The foursome has been playing soccer together for eight or nine years, Thompson estimated.

“We’ve grown as a group, and we’ve learned each other’s playing styles,” he said.

Add in senior goalie Owen Mower, who is the most vocal member of the defense, and the Red Eddies have the makings of a unit that is ready to “defend” its home field.

“Our offense has been great, too, but having that defense and having that line back there, and knowing that they can handle some difficult situations, it allows the offense to be better,” Mains said. “It allows everyone else to be better just to know that we have that line back there.”

The offense, for what it’s worth, totaled 47 goals in 14 games, with just one shutout. That came on the road at Lewiston early in the season. The defeat dropped the Red Eddies to 1-2, but they responded with a 1-0 win at Bangor (the North’s No. 2 team).

“We knew that the front part of our schedule was loaded,” Mains said. “So to get out of there 2-2 against some of the better teams, and to have not allowed a lot of goals, we knew at the very least we had a very good defense, moving forward. They did so well right from the jump, and they shut some really, really, really good teams down.”

Part of keeping the ball out of the net has been getting the ball out of the defensive zone, which is where Thompson comes in.

“I think it helps to have somebody in the back who will know what to do with the ball,” Thompson said. “I think it makes the rest of the team nervous when the ball goes to the back line and they don’t know if it’s actually going to get out of there or not.”

The Red Eddies no longer have that problem.

“It definitely made a lot of us more confident, because we can trust Alex. We’re less worried back there that somebody’s going to mess up,” Luizzo said. “Since we’re calm and confident, we play better.”

Mains, a former EL striker, said he can’t take much credit for his coaching of the defense. But he has worked with Thompson on the timing of his runs out of the back end. His skills as a midfielder have helped the new defender kick-start some of EL’s offensive attacks.

It’s allowed Thompson to still get some of the offensive touches that he admitted he misses at times, but he said he “was more than willing to do what was best for the team.”

“He’s been really receptive, and to be a kid of his skill and of that caliber, to take one for the team and to drop back where we need him the most, I couldn’t speak high enough of what Alex has done for us,” Mains said.

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