Dave Morin coaches the Edward Little boys soccer team. Morin was the program’s first coach. Submitted photo

 

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories about this year’s inductees into the Auburn-Lewiston Hall of Fame.

Dave Morin introduced the sport of soccer to Edward Little High School in 1978, but before his players even knew how to head the ball properly, they had to win a turf war with dozens of seagulls who were clogging up their practice field.

Dave Morin throws out the first pitch at a Portland Sea Dogs game. Along with coaching soccer and hockey at Edward Little, Morin also coached Leavitt’s and Winthrop’s baseball teams. Submitted photo

Edward Little didn’t have a soccer pitch at the time, so they made the softball field at what was then Central Maine Vocational Technical Institute in Auburn their home field.

“We had to go up there and disperse the seagulls from the field because the dump was right nearby,” Morin said. “There were 100 or 200 seagulls on the field every time we went up there. You know what that was like up there, what was left on the (field)? So that’s why we didn’t lose up there very often.”

Edward Little didn’t win any state championships during Morin’s 33 years at the helm, but the program he established became known for its defense, toughness and consistent competitiveness.

During a 49-year coaching career — also covered ice hockey at Edward Little (1972-84), baseball at Leavitt (1996 state championship team) and, most recently, soccer and baseball at Winthrop — Morin became know for his ability to get the most out of his teams’ talent, for his organizational skills and for being one of the best-liked and most respected men to coach in the Twin Cities.

On Sunday, Morin will be inducted into the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame, mainly for his contributions in establishing soccer at Edward Little.

To say Edward Little soccer had humble beginnings under Morin is an understatement.

“There were only two kids who had ever played soccer before, two kids from Mechanic Falls,” Morin said. “Obviously, we emphasized defense.”

It wasn’t Morin’s first experience with a fledgling soccer program. In the late-1960s, he played fullback on the University of Maine-Presque Isle’s new men’s soccer team. Like the Red Eddies a decade later, the Owls started with little soccer experience on the roster. But with Morin and fellow fullback, and future coach at rival Bonny Eagle, Bob Bourget leading the defense, they quickly became a strong and tight-knit team that won the Northeast Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 1967 and was conference runner-up a year later.

Knowing that he would have to contend with the school’s football team, which was coming off of back-to-back state championships, for athletes and contend with well-heeled programs such as Cape Elizabeth and Greely on the pitch, Morin decided he could mold the Red Eddies into a similar program as the one at UMPI, with a defense-first philosophy.

“We had a lot of speed,” he said. “The poor kids; when we first tried out, we didn’t have any field, didn’t have any goals. So I’m finding out who my fastest guys were. And all of my fastest guys thought they were going to be, like, strikers. I put all of my fast guys out back. And that’s how we started out.”

They started out winning like the Owls, too. Playing mostly a junior varsity schedule in its inaugural season (two varsity games), EL gave up nine goals in 12 games and finished 10-0-2.

“Our approach was simple,” Morin said, “if they don’t score, we can’t lose. Teams were built on trusting your teammates, staying organized on defense, never being out-numbered in the defensive end, and taking advantage of scoring chances.”

“At the beginning,” he added, “it was pretty easy to coach, because there wasn’t any soccer in town, so there isn’t anybody that knew anything about soccer, so the kids believed in what you were preaching and the parents didn’t question it.”

They had no reason to question it after the Red Eddies made the tournament in their second year.

Playing without their top player, who was injured in their final practice, the Red Eddies took Greely to quadruple overtime, and thought they had pulled off an epic upset when Bobby Parker (who led the St. Dom’s boys hockey team to a state championship last month) scored in the fourth overtime. While the Eddies celebrated, however, officials disallowed the goal, saying the ball had touched Parker’s hand before he scored.

“Thirteen seconds later, they scored the winning goal,” said Morin, who was also a certified soccer and hockey official. “Obviously, I haven’t forgotten that one.”

They didn’t get the win, but Edward Little’s reputation as a pesky defensive team was solidified.

With the help of Lewiston coach Paul Nadeau, Morin was able to set up a middle school program that prepared his players for the style he wanted to play.

“Dave knew he had some kids with a knack for knowing where the goal was, but he didn’t have a lot of them. So he took a lot of newer kids, athletes who decided to try the game or continue the game, and he taught them the fundamentals of defense. He taught them how to play together,” said long-time Lewiston coach Mike McGraw, who was Nadeau’s assistant coach before replacing him as head coach in 1982. “His best teams were the teams that played really well together. They were the toughest teams to beat. It didn’t matter what the record was.”

Dave Morin started the Edward Little boys soccer program. Submitted photo

Looking back, Morin is grateful that his earliest teams were eager to buy into his style and helped soccer gain respect at Edward Little and around the state.

“It took about two or three years (to get the program on solid footing), but I wouldn’t trade those first teams,” Morin said. “Their determination, their toughness and their willingness to play a system was just incredible.”

All of those characteristics were easily apparent whenever the Red Eddies played their rival, Lewiston. The games were usually low-scoring contests, including one two-and-a-half year stretch where the teams played five consecutive 0-0 ties.

“Our matchups with Lewiston were unbelievable,” Morin said. “I remember one of the years when we first started Lewiston went 13-1, and guess who the one loss was to? That’s the way it would always go. We would break their hearts or they would break our hearts.”

Players were usually lucky to leave an EL-Lewiston game with only their hearts broken, especially when they played at Lewiston Athletic Park, where the field was 10 yards narrower than regulation.

“The rivalry was a lot of fun,” said McGraw, who officiated college soccer games with Morin and frequently went on trips to clinics or to scout with him. “It became a little more fun right after the very first night game we played at the LAP. It ended up being such a competitive game because the coaches were intense, the players were intense, and it became not a game, it was more like a combination of football and hockey.”

Under Morin, the Red Eddies were a perennial playoff team. In 1984, they lost to eventual state champion Brunswick in the semifinals, 2-1, after four overtimes and corner kicks caused by looming darkness.

In 1996, they reached their first and only regional final against Cape Elizabeth, losing to the eventual state champions in overtime. In 2000, Windham needed four overtimes and penalty kicks to finally shake off the pesky Eddies. The 2009 team that overachieved by finishing 8-4-3 and was Morin’s last team to reach the regional quarterfinals still ranks among his favorites.

Current Edward Little head coach Tim Mains, a midfielder/striker on that team (and 2011 EL graduate) said one of the reasons so many of Morin’s teams played beyond their potential was the players looked forward to coming to practice.

“The one thing I can say about my experience playing for him was I always had such a fun time,” Mains said. “Our program at the time wasn’t top-notch in the state, by any means. We were competitive and had some pretty good runs, pretty good teams, but to me soccer was just always so much fun. Coach Morin always did a good job of setting that up and making sure everyone enjoyed themselves.”

“He kept things light and fun at practice. It was never too serious a thing where we were going to beat ourselves up over winning or losing,” Mains added. “Of course, we wanted to win. But he didn’t want to lose sight of the fact that we were kids and he wanted everyone to enjoy the experience.”

Morin retired from teaching in 2009 but continued to coach for two more years because he had a group of players he wanted to stick with through graduation. He finished in 2011 with 258 career wins.

Although the game has changed since his first team 41 years ago, Morin said the importance of defense remains.

“The biggest change over time is the amount of extra time players are involved with soccer,” said Morin, who now works for RSU 38 food services and lives in Wayne. “It used to be you used your two weeks of preseason to improve your skills and conditioning. Now many players are involved year-round (and) more goals are being scored. But when it comes down to the two best teams, at the end it is usually 1-0.”

 


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