The Gray-New Gloucester Patriots won their third state championship in five years in 1983 in a 3-1 victory over Piscataquis.

When the Gray-New Gloucester boys soccer team lost its coach near the start of the 1979 season, athletic director Skip Ehnstrom stepped in and guided the Patriots to their first state title.

That was the first of three state championships in five years for Gray-New Gloucester. All three came under the stewardship of Ehnstrom, whose bold decisions and offense-oriented philosophy propelled three talented but distinct squads to Class B titles, the first soccer dynasty for a team in the Sun Journal’s coverage area.

The first championship team featured one of the state’s best players, senior Bruce Macomber, who was chosen as an All-State goalie for the third time in 1979, even though he didn’t play the position for much of the senior season.

The Patriots opened the season going 4-1 in five road games, then stumbled and a few weeks later were 5-5-1.

That’s about the time Ehnstrom moved Macomber from goalie to forward. The Patriots lost the first game with Jeff Mongeau in goal, but then won their final four regular season games and earned the third seed in the Western Maine Class B playoffs.

Macomber was as effective at producing goals as he was at stopping them, and the forward pairing of Macomber and Carl Holmquist was too potent for opposing defenses, who might be able to prevent one from being the Patriots’ offensive catalyst but struggled to slow them both at the same time.

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Holmquist, a junior, scored both Gray-New Gloucester goals in a 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Mount View High School of Thorndike, including the game-winner with 54 seconds remaining in sudden death overtime.

In the Patriots’ 3-2 semifinal win over No. 2 St. Dom’s, Macomber scored the first goal and helped set up the other two.

Macomber paced the offense again in the Western B final, a 3-2 win over top-seeded Yarmouth. He assisted on a pair of first-half goals then scored the game-winner late in regulation.

The Patriots were Western Maine champions and, for the first time, headed to the Class B championship game.

Holmquist led the way in the Class B final, as Gray-New Gloucester, after three down-to-the-wire, one-goal victories in the Western playoffs, claimed its first state championship with a much easier 5-1 win over Van Buren.

Holmquist scored the Patriots’ first, third and fifth goals in the title game. Richard Myers and Rick Ordway also scored.

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Gray-New Gloucester, with one of the state’s best goalies playing offense, won their final eight games and finished the season 13-6-1.

A DOWN YEAR

In the years leading up to 1979, Patriots coach Jim Mingo arranged trips for the soccer team to England and Jamaica, where the players participated in clinics and played exhibition games.

However, in early September 1979, he resigned as the coach at his alma mater. It was later reported that he was injured in a motorcycle accident right before the start of the season.

Ehnstrom, as interim coach, filled in and guided the Patriots to the state championship.

Mingo was back at the helm in 1980.

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Macomber graduated and was playing goalie at Lafayette-Connecticut, but Holmquist and other scorers were back for the Patriots, and Mongeau was back in goal.

Gray-New Gloucester, though, wasn’t back in Class B. Due to an increase in enrollment, it was elevated to Class A.

Holmquist scored a lot of goals and was named to the All-Class A West team, but the young Patriots struggled to a 4-7-2 record and missed the postseason.

The Gray-New Gloucester Patriots’ Carl Holmquist scored a lot of goals in 1980, but the team struggled that year, ending with a 4-7-2 record. Sun Journal photo

B COMFORTABLE

In 1981, Gray-New Gloucester returned to Class B, and Skip Ehnstrom replaced Mingo as the team’s head coach.

“We are definitely more comfortable in ‘B,’” Ehnstrom told the Sun-Journal prior to the start of the season.

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Six players from the 1979 championship team were still around, and others gained valuable experience in 1980.

The Patriots started slow, going 1-3-1 in their first five games, then reeled of several wins in a row, one of which was the only regular season setback for Sacopee Valley.

Ehnstrom was a high-scoring college player who helped Springfield win the 1957 national championship. He maintained a similar approach when he became a coach. He preferred stacking players on the offensive end to attack the other team’s goal, rather than putting five defenders in front of the Patriots’ goal.

“There’s more action to it,” he told the Sunday Sun Journal in 1983. “The way I see it, as long as I’ve got the ball, you can’t score. Not that we’re going to hold on to the ball or anything — were going to score goals.”

That approach required goal scorers. As he did in 1979, Ehnstrom found one guarding the Patriots’ net.

He moved Mongeau from goalie to offense, and, like Macomber two years earlier, Mongeau became one of Gray-New Gloucester’s top scoring threats and helped lead the team back to the postseason.

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In the Western semifinal, Mongeau scored and set up Rick McCann’s go-ahead goal as the Patriots ousted top-seeded Sacopee Valley, 3-1.

It was a physical contest, though, and Gray-New Gloucester lost Mongeau for the rest of the postseason due to a broken leg.

The Patriots played on, and Chris Vaughn’s goal early in the second half held up and Patriots regained the regional crown with a 1-0 win over second-seeded Mount View in the Western B final.

In the state title game, Gray-NG’s defense held Eastern champ Penquis, which had scored 18 goals in three postseason games.

Richard Myers scored three of the Patriots’ four second-half goals, and the team claimed the Class B title for the second time in three years with a 4-0 win.

“They just couldn’t keep up with us,” Ehnstrom told the Daily Sun.

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Key players were back for Gray-New Gloucester’s repeat attempt in 1982, such as Rick McCann, Bill Chapman and Jeff Kirby. The Patriots had a few exchange students who played big roles, particularly Jin Thuring, who became the Patriots’ top scoring threat.

Gray-New Gloucester ended the regular season with a 3-1 win over eventual Class A champion Greely and earned the No. 1 spot in the Western B playoffs.

The Patriots again advanced to the West final, but their dreams of a repeat were shattered by a 1-0 loss to Lincoln.

The Patriots’ Class B state title win in 1983 against Piscataquis would end a run of victories for the Gray-New Gloucester team.

GNG FOR THREE

Though ’82 ended in disappointment, the Patriots had several reasons for optimism in 1983.

Eight starters returned, highlighted again by McCann, who was one of the team’s top scorers the previous two seasons, as well as Dave Wilbur, Tom Genthner and Dave LaRose, who moved to goalie.

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Gray-New Gloucester again earned the top seed in Western B.

In the quarterfinals, McCann scored the game’s lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Lisbon.

Then, freshman Tim O’Wrill scored twice in the semis, while McCann contributed one goal and set up another, as Gray-NG dispatched Kennebunk 4-1 to earn a return to the West final, where it faced an unlikely finalist, Falmouth.

The sixth-seeded Yachtsmen, after going 5-4-5 in the regular season, upset No. 3 Mount View and second-seeded Sacopee Valley in the postseason.

Falmouth played the Patriots just as tough, holding them scoreless until Venezuelan exchange student Javier Usubilloga scored on a header late in the fourth quarter, and Gray-New Gloucester won, 1-0

The Patriots were back in the state final, and for the third time in five years, they won.

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First-period goals by Usubilloga and Joe Kettle put Gray-NG up 2-0 over Eastern champion Piscataquis.

The Pirates began gaining momentum and in the third period scored to cut the deficit in half.

A few minutes later, McCann gained possession of the ball at midfield then made a run against three defenders that amazed both coaches and ended with an insurance goal. Gray-New Gloucester held on to the 3-1 lead and won the state champion for the third time.

Graduating 16 seniors decimated the 1984 Patriots, and they missed the playoffs.

Gray-New Gloucester had one more run under Ehnstrom, entering as the ninth seed in 1985 and knocking off top seed Mount Abram and Lincoln before falling to sixth-seeded York in the Western final.


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