JAY — Dirigo’s Darryl Curtis and Arianna Gonzalez, along with their soccer teammates, got on a bus Monday morning and made the 20-mile trek from Dixfield to Spruce Mountain High School for the first practices of the fall season.

“I was a little bit nervous just getting off the bus,” Gonzalez, a junior, said. “Once we got here, it kind of set in a little bit more, but it wasn’t too bad.”

Curtis, a freshman, wasn’t as anxious about the first practice in a new place.

“I am not one to get nervous,” Curtis said.

A decline in the number of players within both the boys and girls soccer programs at Dirigo led to the creation of co-ops with Spruce Mountain this fall. There were nine Cougars (six boys and three girls) who showed up for the first day at Spruce Mountain on Monday.

Gonzalez said that she heard last fall about the possibility of Dirigo entering a cooperative agreement with another school.


“There was talk about it last year,” Gonzalez said. “I wasn’t excited because I was kind of sad we weren’t wearing Dirigo colors as much, but it will be fine. It’s still playing soccer. I would rather play than not play.”

The co-op teams will be called Spruce Mountain/Dirigo. Their nickname will be the Phoenix, and the players will wear Spruce Mountain’s uniforms. Most of the home games will be played in Jay, but two boys and two girls home games will be played in Dixfield.

The co-op came together quickly this summer.

“We were looking at the numbers last year and moving into this year, and over the summer we realized we needed Spruce (Mountain) as much as they needed us,” girls co-head coach Chris Araujo said. “From there, (co-head coach Jacob Turner and I) started communicating during the offseason, during (the hands-off period).”

Araujo said more girls soccer players from Dirigo will join the team later this week but they weren’t available Monday because they didn’t find out the details of the co-op in time.

Turner, who started coaching Spruce’s girls team in 2021, said the first practice went well. He and Araujo, who was hired by Dirigo to replace David Buck, are teaming up as the coaches of their respective schools.


“It’s been terrific; we are all on the same page,” Turner said. “I think our main goal is really to make this one team. This isn’t Dirigo-versus-Spruce (Mountain), we are one team. I think it’s going to happen. The girls are very supportive and very welcoming, and it’s a great partnership coaching-wise.”

Gonzalez said meeting her new teammates, which had a different meaning than in the past couple years, was a positive experience Monday.

“It was fine. I don’t know anybody that well anymore, but everybody here is nice and pretty welcoming,” Gonzalez said. “No one is being mean — that’s a plus.”

Curtis had similar sentiments about the first day of the boys soccer co-op.

“Meeting new people, it was a little hard because I wasn’t opening up — I was still in a shell,” Curtis said. “People started reaching out to me and I opened up. It’s much more fun. They are encouraging me a lot, so I got it pretty easy.”

Adding six boys to the roster might allow the Spruce Mountain/Dirigo boys to field a junior varsity team this year.


“First off, it gives us more numbers, and we are always willing to train more players to learn the sport I am passionate about and enjoy teaching and playing myself,” Adam Gettle, who is the sole coach of the co-op’s boys team, said. “I am looking forward to training them, and if we have enough numbers — it looks like we do — we will have a JV team. That will be great to give them more playing time.”

The six Dirigo boys are all freshmen. Gettle said that being new to the high school level might make their transition to the co-op easier.

“Them coming in as freshmen, they will learn the program like any of my seniors four years ago,” said Gettle, who began coaching the Phoenix in 2018. “I have adapted a program that I think works for the school and works for the boys to succeed the best they can. It will be great with them coming in as freshmen because they can learn that from day one and be used to it for four years.”

Nathan Holland, a Spruce Mountain senior soccer player, anticipates the newcomers picking up the Phoenix’s system quickly.

“We have a pretty easy game plan — it’s all possessional ball. It’s not going to be too much of a struggle,” Holland said. “They look like they are good athletes and are into it. I think it will be very good for us.”

Gettle said that he senses an excitement for the new season of games to begin in a few weeks.

“By the looks of it, it looks like the handful of nine freshmen — six from Dirigo and three from Spruce Mountain — most of them, if not all, are eager to be here,” Gettle said.

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