As Mountain Valley’s football team celebrated in the middle of rival Dirigo’s home field after winning a back-and-forth classic in October, Charlie Houghton made sure his teammates saw.

“Look at that! Look at that!” Houghton, the Cougars’ quarterback yelled.

Houghton, a standout on the Cougars boys basketball team, said last week that he felt the football team needed a chip on its shoulder.

“I think, at that point, we needed something to motivate us,” Houghton said. “And I think it so motivates us now. It’s just, we needed an edge because we’ve had success.”

The Cougars tapped into motivation from many sources this winter on their way to a second consecutive Class C state basketball title, which they claimed by defeating Calais 65-58 at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Tuesday.

After Dirigo won the 2022 state title, many of the basketball players played on the baseball team, which Houghton said wasn’t as good as it should have been. He blamed it on the “hangover effect” from the hoops title.


The Cougars didn’t want that to happen again. They wanted to win the 8-man Small School football state championship in the fall. They came close but lost in the regional final, which provided yet another reason to work harder during the basketball season as they attempted to defend their state title.

Dirigo made an underdog run to the 2022 championship. All but one player returned this season, so nobody viewed the Cougars as anything but the favorite, but they couldn’t shake their underdog past.

They were excellent throughout the season, only losing once. That loss, to Monmouth in late January, was another source of motivation.

“I think that loss and getting knocked down a level just made us elevate our game even more,” Houghton said. “And knowing we can lose, and we’re definitely capable of losing, like every team is, but it’s just like, it’s an underdog mentality.”

The Cougars realized that winning last year’s state title wasn’t going to help this season’s team repeat. So they looked for motivation. Even after their 17-1 regular season, they found some in a basketball tournament preview podcast.

“We were listening to a podcast and they were keeping naming us as an underdog,” Trenton Hutchinson said. “We kept proving everybody wrong, even though we were the defending state champs. We took everything we heard to heart and went for it.”


Houghton said that even getting Airick Richard, who transferred to Dirigo from Mountain Valley, his first state championship was a source of motivation. The Cougars’ difficult path through the C South tournament also helped them stay sharp.

Their final piece of motivation was delivered by their coach, Cody St. Germain, in the locker room before Tuesday’s game against Calais.

“Before the game we said to make sure that when they go watch this game in 10 years that they are proud of their effort and teamwork,” St. Germain wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

Houghton led the way as the Cougars got off to a strong start. Houghton scored 12 points of his game-high 24 points in the first quarter.

“It was very relieving because you know he’s going to have a good game after that first quarter and run of points he has,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson, who finished with 17 points, and Houghton helped Dirigo finish strong by combining for 12 fourth-quarter points as the Cougars pulled away from the Blue Devils in the final minutes.


For the second year in a row, Dirigo raised the gold ball, only the second team in the program’s history to repeat as state champion, joining the 1982 and 1983 squads.

“This feeling right now, just having that feeling again,” Houghton said. “This was what we were looking for the whole year.”

He added: “Last year was the first time, and this time is more satisfying, going out as state champs.”

Tuesday’s win is essentially the end for a group of eight seniors who have been playing together for several years, some as far back as second grade, on school, travel and AAU teams.

And Houghton, Hutchinson, Trent Holman, Dakota Thompkins, Austin Adams, Mason Ducharme and Bode Gray go out as two-time champions.

“It’s just as good as the first time, this has been all of our hopes and dreams,” Holman said. “We always have dreamed to have a goal ball. We have been playing together since a young age. Like I said, this has always been the dream, and to go back-to-back, I am just having goosebumps thinking about it.”

Sun Journal staff writer Nathan Fournier contributed to this story.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. 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.