PARIS — Andrew Merrill still has one more season of high school soccer left, but Friday was his final time playing with his nine senior teammates.

He made sure he sent his friends out with a win, scoring a hat trick in Oxford Hills’ 3-1 boys soccer victory over Lisbon at Gouin Athletic Complex.

“It felt great. I’ve played with these kids since like third, fourth grade, and it’s going to be hard to watch them leave, but we had a lot of fun this year,” Merrill said.

Merrill, a junior, scored twice in the first 18 minutes to stake the Vikings to an early 2-0 lead.

“He’s improved a lot from where he was as a freshman, and he’s getting a lot more patient,” Oxford Hills coach Matt Dieterich said. “The goal that he had (in the first half to make it 2-0), he did a nice job of just finding the corner, rather than trying to blast it. It takes presence and experience to get yourself there.”

The Greyhounds, who coach Shawn Rhoda said were “a little bit taken aback” in the first half by the unfamiliar Vikings’ size advantage, started to push back in the second half. Lisbon drew to within 2-1 when Nick Perkins set up Danny Levesque’s goal, which eluded Oxford Hills goalie Emmitt Hand’s gloves with 8:23 left.

Rhoda said Levesque’s goal was a boost to the Greyhounds’ rally attempt.

“I mean, it’s everything in sports, right? You see the ball hit the back of the net, you know, it kind of gets you re-energized,” Rhoda said.

That energy, though, was drained about a minute later when Merrill restored the Vikings’ two-goal lead while completing his hat trick. He dribbled in and won a battle against hard-charging Lisbon goalie Sean Moore, collected the loose ball and blasted it into the back of the net.

“We were definitely trying to push the ball into the net there. We didn’t want to get in a tight game, so we just wanted to push it away again,” said Merrill, who added that he was thinking “just finish. Get the ball in the back of the net.”

It was a victorious season finale for the Vikings’ seniors, who Dieterich said played with their hearts the whole season, despite there being no playoffs this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This has been one of the most fun senior classes,” Dieterich said. “It’s a deep class, but we got a couple of really, really good players, so it helps.”

Lisbon, meanwhile, didn’t have any seniors on its roster this year, so the entire season, including facing Oxford Hills, a Class A program that the Class C Greyhounds don’t normally play, has been about building for the future.

“We’re kind of using each thing as a stepping stone and as an experience, just to try to get better,” Rhoda said.

“We’ve had a pretty successful season, and we’re going to play some winter soccer and try to get ready for next year, and hopefully it’s a normal season,” he added.

Both teams were excited to get in one final game. County color designations are updated by state officials every Friday, so both Lisbon (Androscoggin County) and Oxford Hills (Oxford County) weren’t sure if a potential yellow designation was going to squash Friday’s finale. But both counties stayed green, allowing the game to happen.

“We were nervous,” Dieterich said. “We actually inquired if we could move the game, but because of schedules with football and other stuff we just couldn’t do it. So it was nice to get it in, especially with an abbreviated schedule.”

“We were thinking about it, definitely,” Merrill said. “But we were all excited when it came out, they announced it on the intercom at school and we all got really excited.”

“We didn’t really talk about it,” Rhoda said. “We practiced all week, thought about it a little bit today, and then we saw the counties stayed green, and I’m glad for these guys we got to finish.”


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