The Monmouth boys soccer team celebrates after a 4-0 victory over Richmond in the Class D South title game Tuesday in Gardiner. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

GARDINER — The Monmouth Academy boys soccer team is playing for its first state championship since 2000, long before any of the current Mustangs were born.

But this in no Impossible Dream tale, no Cardiac Kids scrapping their way for an unexpected title shot. 

“To be honest with you, we expected to be here,” coach Joe Fletcher said after second-seeded Monmouth dominated No. 1 Richmond 4-0 on Tuesday night at Gardiner High’s Hoch Field to claim the Class D South title. “We knew going in we were going to be solid; we have good leaders, we have a strong program.”

The Mustangs (15-1-1) will face Easton, the Class D North champion, for the title 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at Messalonskee High School in Oakland.

With a talented core of 10 seniors and a schedule chock-full of respected Class C foes such as Mt. Abram, Hall-Dale and Winthrop, it’s easy to see why Monmouth might have held high hopes entering the season.

But how did the Mustangs deliver on those aspirations? A quick-strike offense? A shutdown defense? Dazzling goalkeeping?


The correct answer, of course, is all of the above.

Monmouth’s Kyle Palleschi celebrates his goal during the Class D South title game Tuesday in Gardiner. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Brandon Smith is the key cog for an offense that has outscored opponents 63-10 this fall. The senior forward factored in all four goals Tuesday with two scores, an assist and a corner kick that resulted in a Richmond own goal. Smith also scored all three goals in a 3-1 semifinal win over St. Dominic on Nov. 2.

His 35 goals this season are one shy of the school’s single-season record.

“One thing we had trouble with as our season (started) was finding a true goal-scorer, and we found that in Brandon Smith,” senior back Luke Harmon said.

And even when Smith doesn’t score, you have to watch out for his speed, which can disrupt the most dedicated game plans. During the first half of Tuesday’s game, he outraced two Richmond defenders downfield for the ball and unleashed a shot from just outside the 18-yard box that was stopped by Richmond keeper David Edwards.

“I’ve been fast my whole life,” Smith said. “Thankfully, God blessed me with that and I just use my speed to my advantage and just get to the ball.”


Pat Strout, who is nursing an injury but still saw playing time Tuesday, is another offensive threat; the senior netted a hat trick in a 5-0 win over Winthrop on Sept. 15.

Smith isn’t the only Mustang who seems to be playing on wheels. During the preseason, Fletcher had his players run sprints in the summer heat. Sure, the work was hard, but it paid off later, Harmon said.

“I’m not gonna lie; I threw up a little bit this year,” Harmon said with a smile. “We have some real quick guys. We knew going into the season we wanted to complete with Mt. Abram (the only team to defeat Monmouth this year), so a lot of us got quicker, and we work on getting quick off the jump and off the line and changing direction.”

Monmouth captains celebrate the Mustangs win over Richmond in the Class D South boys soccer title game Tuesday in Gardiner. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Harmon is part of a back four with Sam Calder, Sam Schultz and Will Hamel that allowed few chances Tuesday against a Richmond offense that scored 79 goals during the season. Richmond lost only two games all season — both shutouts at the hands of Monmouth.

“Luke Harmon has done a fantastic job at leading us on the field,” said Fletcher, who emphasized his respect for Richmond and coach Peter Gardner after Tuesday’s game. “He’s been a really good leader this year.”

And what few opportunities foes can squeeze past Monmouth’s defense are ably halted by goalkeeper Ezekiel Delorme. Late in the first half Tuesday and his team up only 1-0, the senior made a leaping dive to his right to stop a Richmond shot, the ball bouncing off his fingertips and into safety.


“Our flat-back four has never failed us,” Harmon said. “Richmond played some great through-balls to us, that’s where we get defeated sometimes, but our goalkeeper, Delorme, did a great job stopping those balls.”

Before every game, the Monmouth players gather and shout “next practice!” to remind themselves their mission is not over yet. There will be no more practices after Saturday, but the Mustangs are hoping for a title celebration not experienced in 23 years.

Just as they envisioned from the beginning. 

“Really, what we just worked on from day one was a winner’s mindset,” Harmon said. “I just came off a state championship in baseball, and our whole season was modified on going to the next practice. Get in the playoffs, make it to the next practice. Focus on the game, but make it to the next practice; that’s always the goal.”

• • •

Class D North champion Easton (14-1-2), which is about 20 miles south of Caribou and less than 6 miles from the Canadian border, edged Fort Fairfield 3-2 on Tuesday to claim the first regional title in program history. Owen Sweeney scored twice for the Bears, who have outscored their opponents 14-2 in the postseason.

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