Dirigo’s Class C 1985 championship field hockey team poses for a photo. Lewiston Daily Sun

Dirigo didn’t expect to be in the Class C field hockey state final in 1984. 

And the Cougars especially didn’t expect to defeat undefeated Central. 

“We were just happy to be here,” Dirigo coach Sally Clark said after the championship game. “We seem to be able to play up to our opponents. We play just well enough to win.”

Central High School in Corinth entered the game with a 39-game winning streak and had won the previous two Class C titles.

Dixfield’s Dirigo High School team seemed a longshot. The Cougars had yet to win a state championship and entered the postseason as the fourth seed.

In reality, the Cougars were a budding dynasty. They not only stunned Central’s Red Devils, they also went on to claim the next two state titles, becoming the first Class C program to win three consecutive championships.



Central seemed poised to be the first three-time Class C champ early in the 1984 title game, controlling possession for most of of the first half. The Red Devils, though, didn’t get the ball past the Dirigo defense and goalie Beth Payne.

The Cougars made the most of their limited opportunities in the first half, taking a 1-0 lead on a goal by sophomore Jennifer Kelly.

After halftime, Dirigo amped up the pressure on the defending champs, and a goal by senior Karen Robertson at the 5:40 mark gave the Cougars a commanding 2-0 advantage.

That score held up, and, according to the Sunday Sun Journal, when time ran out, “a large group of Dirigo fans erupted onto the field to congratulate the new state champions.”

The title-game shutout was the fourth in as many games by Payne and Dirigo’s defense, led by Kathy McDonald and Mindy Gallant, which didn’t allow a single goal in the entire postseason.


Before honoring the Dirigo players during the postgame ceremony following the state final, Clark took a moment to praise Central for its accomplishments over the previous three seasons.

“We didn’t think we could stay on the same field as you,” Clark said. “You’ve got such a great record to be proud of.”

Dirigo, meanwhile, was just beginning its own run of greatness.


Dirigo’s Jennifer Clark competes for the ball during the Western final against North Yarmouth Academy in November 1985 in this Sun Journal photo.

“It’s always tougher (to win the championship) the second time around,” Clark, who began coaching Dirigo in 1970, said during the 1985 postseason.

The Cougars began that season where it left off the previous fall, going unbeaten in its first seven games.


Their first loss, to Messalonskee, turned out to be merely a bump in the road, as Dirigo went on to match Central by not suffering another setback over the next 39 games.

The Cougars plowed through the remainder of their schedule and entered the Western Maine Class C playoffs as the third seed.

The postseason started with a 3-1 quarterfinal victory over Falmouth. In the semifinals, Tammy Walsh’s goal was enough to advance the Cougars to the Western final with a 1-0 win over Old Orchard Beach.

The next week, on its home field in Dixfield, Dirigo defeated fifth-seeded North Yarmouth Academy 3-0.

The Cougars were heading back to the Class C title game, where they would be facing Eastern champion Piscataquis.

Unlike a year earlier, Dirigo entered the 1985 state final confident in their ability to capture the crown.


“We’ve played good, consistent field hockey all year,” Sally Clark said. “If they play the way they have been playing and we play the way we have been playing, it should be a real good field hockey game. If we can keep our defense up and keep Piscataquis out of our zone, I think we’ll be all set.” 

Dirigo (16-1) did enough, beating Piscataquis 3-2 in double overtime to repeat as Class C champions. 

Walsh scored two goals, including the game-winner on a penalty shot, two years after being hospitalized due to back pain and having to wear a back brace for six months.

She was named to the Class C All-State team by the Maine Field Hockey Association, as was teammate Jennifer Clark.


Dirigo’s Jennifer Clark reaches in during the quarterfinal game with Yarmouth in 1986. Lewiston Daily Sun

Dirigo’s quest for a third straight state title in 1986 was anchored by a stifling defense that was formed following the season opener when Sally Clark moved senior goalie Dawn Dawson to fullback along with Alicia Clark, and sophomore Margaret Chambers took over in goal.


The Cougars ran through the regular season without much trouble, allowing only three goals in 14 games.

The offense was paced, primarily, by Heather Blood and Jennifer Clark, and Tracy Moore tallied some crucial goals in the postseason.

Dirigo’s defense continued to be unflinching in the Western Maine playoffs, which it opened with a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Yarmouth that wasn’t settled until the third overtime when Wendy Packard scored the game-winner.

In the semifinals, the Cougars blanked St. Dom’s 2-0 in regulation, setting up a Western final showdown against Sacopee Valley that required more than one day to decide.

On Saturday, Nov. 1, 1986, the Cougars and Hawks played to a 1-1 tie through regulation and six overtimes. Dirigo thought it earned the win when Tracy Moore finally got the ball past Sacopee goalie Shonna Monroe, who, Sunday Sun Journal staff writer Chip Plante wrote, looked “more like the Canadiens’ Patrick Roy than a high school kid.”

A pile of celebrating Cougars formed on top of Moore. However, their joy was soon halted. The referee ruled that Moore’s shot was too high, and therefore a “dangerous shot,” and the goal was disallowed. The game ended in a 1-1 tie.


That forced the teams to meet again in Dixfield on Monday, Nov. 3. As Bob Aube wrote in the Nov. 4, 1986, edition of the Lewiston Daily Sun, “It took 165 minutes of field hockey over a three-day period before they could do it, but the top-ranked Dirigo Cougars finally warded off another challenge to their Class C state crown …”

Dirigo won 3-1, but for the most part, Monday’s game was an extension of Saturday’s battle.

Dirigo’s Mary Libby scrambles during the 1984 state championship game against Central High School in this Sun Journal photo.

The Cougars scored twice in the opening 10 minutes. Blood set up Jennifer Clark for the first goal 3:55 into the game, and Clark set up Moore for the second goal less than five minutes later.

Sacopee Valley managed only one shot on goal in the opening half but was much more aggressive after halftime and quickly cut the deficit to 2-1.

“When they got that goal,” Jennifer Clark said, “I was just anxious to get the game over with.”

The Hawks didn’t let up, but their best chances to tie the game were stymied by Chambers.


Monroe was stellar again in the Hawks’ goal, but Jennifer Clark managed to get an insurance goal past her later in the second half.

“These girls were under a lot of pressure,” Sally Clark said after the game. “If you think defending the state championship for the second time is hard, it’s even tougher the third time.”

The Cougars’ final obstacle to its third state title was Eastern Maine champ Georges Valley.

A Thursday snowstorm decreased Dirigo’s preparation time, which had already been delayed due to the second Western Maine final game, and the field in Augusta was such a muddy mess for the Saturday final that the officials at one point seemed to be on the verge of calling off the game and moving it to another day.

The Cougars, though, were not to be denied. Sally Clark told the Sun Journal after the game, “Any team would have had trouble staying with us today.”

The Buccaneers scored first to grab an early 1-0 lead, but Dirigo quickly responded with a pair of quick goals. Jennifer Kelly set up Jennifer Clark, and then Clark set up Moore, putting the Cougars ahead 2-1 only eight minutes into the game.


Blood capped the scoring in the second half to finish off a 3-1 victory, and Dirigo (18-0-1) became the first team to win three consecutive Class C field hockey state championships.


The Cougars’ title run came to an end in 1987. They didn’t go down easy, fighting like champions, but winning a fourth consecutive championship proved to be too difficult.

They only lost once in the regular season — a late-season loss to Leavitt that snapped Dirigo’s 39-game unbeaten streak — and headed into the postseason as the top seed with a 12-1-1 record.

The Cougars opened the Western Maine playoffs against familiar foe Sacopee Valley, which went 6-7-1 and was the eighth seed. But, again, the Hawks took the Dirigo to the limit, and then some. The teams battled into the fourth overtime before Blood scored to give the Cougars a 2-1 victory.

In the semifinal two days later, Dirigo and Telstar remained scoreless through six overtimes, forcing them to play again two days later. The Cougars were finally defeated, as Sheri Dooen scored with 15 minutes remaining and the Rebels held on for a 1-0 victory.

Piscataquis went on to win the ’87 state title over Freeport.

Only one other school has joined Dirigo as winners of three consecutive Class C titles in field hockey — Dexter, which won four straight from 2000-03.

The Cougars returned to the state final once since its three-peat, falling to Hall-Dale in the 1997, a few years after Sally Clark, who also led Dirigo to back-to-back basketball titles in 1977-78, retired as the school’s field hockey coach.

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