Leavitt Area High School goalkeeper Blaine Clark. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Blaine Clark has secured a lot of shutouts for the Leavitt boys soccer team during his career, but a four-goals-against game found its way near the top of his best performances, according to head coach Zac Conlogue.

Clark’s senior season started off with a 4-0 loss to Lewiston last Saturday, but Clark did his part by turning away 20 shots, including the first nine he faced. Not bad for the first time out this fall, and after only two practices that followed a week off due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Turner schools.

“I feel like I could have played better, but being the first game of the season, too, (I’m) just kind of starting to work out kinks and figuring out what to really work on and focus on,” Clark said. “Definitely a good learning experience there.”

“It was definitely tough because I don’t think we’ve ever seen a team really of that caliber the whole time I’ve been playing at Leavitt,” Clark added.

Conlogue said it was probably a top-five performance from Clark, who is now in his third year as the Hornets’ starting goalie.

“He’s had some pretty ridiculous games for us in the past where he’s really saved us,” Conlogue said. “I definitely think his performance on Saturday was one of his better ones, but we’ve kind of just come to expect those type of performances from him because he’s done a lot.”

BUILDING THE BUZZ

Clark’s soccer career has been building toward this senior season. A lifelong soccer player, he didn’t take up goalkeeping until middle school, when there was a team need but also an interest from Clark.

“Something a little different than what I’d been doing for my whole life. And then I tried it a little bit and I liked it, so I stuck with it,” Clark said. “It was fairly natural. It wasn’t too great, though, because I didn’t really understand all the complexities of it.”

Clark took part in a goalie camp the next summer to learn the finer details of playing the position, and he said he became much better and the position became much easier.

As the only goalie on the roster, Clark appeared to be the only choice to backstop the Hornets his freshman year, but Conlogue decided to go another direction.

“We saw him, and we were like, ‘He’s good,’ but we didn’t know if he was quite ready. And I think that actually was a good decision for us to wait on him, that way he could get that confidence up,” Conlogue said.

Clark said that spending that season under the wing of senior Ben Hutchins aided his development. The pace of the game took him some time getting used to, but the support of his older teammates and facing plenty of shots in practice helped him grow.

Then, as a sophomore, he stepped into the starting spot.

“The first couple games were kind of nerve-wracking, but once the season started going I kind of just fell into the routine there and it just started coming more naturally, and I thought about it less, just had more confidence,” Clark said.

Conlogue said Clark proved he could make the saves he was supposed to, but that it wasn’t until his junior year that he started making “ridiculous saves left and right, shutout after shutout.”

LEADING UP TO THIS

Though not a shutout, Saturday’s season-opener was more of the same for Clark. Lewiston coach Dan Gish was impressed by the goalie’s play.

“He’s very active, communicates well, plays his angles well, always moving,” Gish said.

Gish’s second sentiment is the one Conlogue said has been Clark’s biggest improvement in his fourth season with the program, and third as a starter.

“Blaine’s a tremendous leader. He’s not the most vocal player on our team, but he’s always setting a good example. He doesn’t really yell a lot or talk very loudly to any of his teammates, but he’s great about talking quietly and in small groups, inspiring the younger kids,” Conlogue said. “A lot of the younger kids really look up to him. We did a vote this year for captain and he got like 80% of the program’s vote, which is pretty impressive and says a lot, I think, about him.”

Clark isn’t doing the leading alone, or the defending of the goal. He’s one of 12 seniors on Hornets this season, including four of the six defenders at Conlogue’s disposal — Ryan Thibault, Christian Keenan, Zack Morrison and Daniel Cifelli — along with juniors Kaleb Berube and Myles Hanscom.

“I really don’t have to do much coaching back there,” Conlogue said. “They can just figure it out, and it’s fun to watch.”

Clark said he’s been playing with Thibault, Keenan and Morrison since they were all little kids growing up in Greene, and Berube was a year behind them growing up in town.

“That chemistry, having played together since we were little kids, is really nice,” Clark said.

SENIOR SEND-OFF

This was supposed to be a year that the Hornets were hoping to make a deep run in the Class B South playoffs. Instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they must settle for facing regional opponents and no postseason. The goal now changes, but not the objective of playing soccer.

“Right now, what I’m hoping to see out of (the seniors) is I just want to see them play their best soccer that they can, and I want them to share some of the knowledge that they have with the underclassmen to really show them what Leavitt soccer is all about by putting out a great product,” Conlogue said. “And so far — I mean, we’ve only played one game — but in practices and in that game they are really showing what they’re made of, and it’s made me really proud of them.”

“I just want it to be good,” said Clark, whose soccer career after this season is uncertain, with future plans possibly including the military and fire protection. “I want to focus on just having fun this year, and just playing the game we can. Obviously wins would be nice.

“I just want to make the most of it we can, play hard and have fun.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: