Captain Morgan Zetts, a senior, celebrates her goal with girls and boys soccer players who cheer from the sidelines. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

BETHEL — Telstar Girls Soccer Coach Scott White said when his girls were freshmen, they always played with fewer players, often eight or nine against 11. The following year they played masked because it was COVID. Last year they played co-ed and now they are playing 8 v. 8.

“Literally every season has been different… no matter the odds against them, they keep playing. They are perpetual underdogs and through no fault of their own. It is the situation … I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this, if they are down eight nothing, they are playing  just as hard as if they are up eight nothing,” said White, who has coached for 40 years, the last four at Telstar.

Last Year

“They had to learn to trust each other,” said White who was the coach of last year’s co-ed, 11 v.11 team.

Last year all the Telstar boys, with the exception of one, were freshmen. There were no concessions given by the other, all-male teams because they were playing a co-ed opponent, so they lost every game, often by many points.

“I am very matter of fact as to where we are. They understand that. I didn’t say, ‘hey we are going to go out and kill these guys,'” said White.


Despite losing every game, Junior Tommy Skinner of Woodstock said he misses last year,  “We didn’t win, but there was more happening. Because it was 11 v. 11, there were more people on the field, we could pass to each other more.

“Don’t get me wrong, if  we were playing co-ed right now against boys it would probably be about 10 to zero. It is good to see the girls playing in their division [this year] … not to be sexist, but there is a real physical advantage that 18 year old guys have over sophomore girls.”

Skinner had a bad concussion about halfway through last season when they were playing Monmouth. Of that game, he said,  “we didn’t score, we were losing by a lot. [But] there were a lot of times when we almost scored.” He said that was why an opponent clocked him between the eyes.

Telstar girls soccer players warm up with a dance before a recent home game. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

He heard the other coach say to the Monmouth players, “Did you really have take him out? We’re up 30 points, you didn’t need to do that.”

Skinner said their team only made three or four goals over the entire season, but still he misses, “having a big team, having all my friends in one spot.”

Captain Karen Marshall, a senior, of Woodstock, who played on last year’s combined team said,  “We are more aggressive this year just because we had to be last year.”


Boys Captain, Cyrus Mills, a sophomore, of Bethel said having a co-ed team was better than not playing. He said they learned how to slow down and pass more.

Fewer players

Transportation to games and practices; competition for players from other teams; kids choosing to work instead of play are all possible reasons why Telstar’s player numbers are low.

“All of the schools we play [against] are from one community,” said White. With SAD-44 players coming from multiple towns (five in all), transportation to and from practices and games may be a reason for fewer recruits.

Two adjacent schools (Gould and Oxford Hills) may pull athletes away.

While kids always root for each other, football ( also 8 v. 8), field hockey, and cross-country are all “competing” for players in the fall, too.


Girls and boys soccer at Telstar have their own teams this year after a year of co-ed play. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

 8 v. 8

Reclassifications for Maine’s high school sports took place this past April. Like Telstar, more than two dozen boys and girls high school soccer teams from around the state made the switch to eight-player. The Maine Principal’s Association (MPA) had chosen the 8 v. 8 option for schools because of decreasing enrollments and schools’ desire to remain competitive.  It will stay in effect until 2025 and is the first state to adopt the alternate size.

Aside from having 30-minute halves (rather than 40-minute halves), eight-player soccer is nearly identical to 11-player including the field size. White said he had advocated for 7 v. 7 and a smaller field size. The MPA  limited the roster size to 17, which didn’t make sense to him either, since you could field an 11 v. 11 team with 17 players, a luxury he and other small teams will likely never have.

White said he often plays students at the varsity level that have never played before. “They want to play and we certainly need the players. They have no experience and they are up against kids that have played their whole life and have played year round. It’s an interesting dynamic.”

At a recent girls game, the boys were on the sidelines, rooting for their former teammates. The score was 3 to 1, with Bethel ahead. As the clock ticked down and a win seemed imminent, the boys began counting in unison: “10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1”

White said with the 8 v. 8 format, the playing field is not perfect but definitely is more even. As of last week the girls had two wins this season.


Said White, “Sure they want to win, but winning is [only] part of it. It’s been a difficult journey… I think they are probably learning a few life lessons along the way about adversity and change and teamwork. These kids don’t quit, These Telstar kids are very resilient.”

The girls soccer team has two more home games: Oct. 6 and Oct. 16. Both are at 3:30 at Telstar

The boys soccer team has one home game remaining at 5 p.m. Oct. 6.

Please check the website, the schedule is subject to change:

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