HAMPDEN — Anyone who hadn’t seen Ian Lee before was interested to watch the Madawaska senior, who scored 38 goals this season on his way to 127 for his career, which just happened to be a state record.
But in Saturday afternoon’s Class C boys soccer state final, it wasn’t so much that Maranacook shut down Lee as that the Black Bears shut down the whole Madawaska team. Except for the final 20 minutes of the first half, Maranacook dominated, and came away with a well-deserved 2-0 victory at the Weatherbee Complex, and the school’s first state championship in boys soccer.
Alex Tooth and Kodey Solmitz had the goals for Maranacook, but just as much credit goes to Chris Beckwith, who marked Lee in the first half, and Taylor Wilbur, who shadowed Lee for the final 40 minutes.
“The idea was we go with strength and physical in the first half, and then we go with speed and lay off him,” Maranacook coach Don Beckwith said. “That’s Wilbur. He’s the fastest kid on the team, and we’re pretty good defensively anyway.”
Maranacook nearly took a 1 -0 lead just 90 seconds into the game, but Madawaska goalkeeper Tim Deschenes made a leaping bat-away save of Nick Lacasse’s direct kick from 35 yards out. But four minutes later, the Owls left Tooth uncovered on a throw-in, and he picked up a loose ball and scored with 34:31 left in the half.
“Tyler Lang had the ball — it just dribbled off him,” Tooth said. “I knew we weren’t going to get that many chances — defenders are big for Madawaska — so I just turned on it and let it rip, hoping to get the best out of it.”
After being clearly outplayed for the first 20 minutes, Madawaska made its move. Jake Gendreau had his shot from about 20 yards out fly over the crossbar, and the Owls got an even better chance with about 20 seconds to go in the half. The ball went off Maranacook keeper Brad Worster, and then off the feet of a Maranacook defender who was facing the net. Wilbur was on the goal line, and booted the ball away.
“Usually, I play more offensive, like a center mid,” Wilbur said. “But coach told me to drop back. I know as soon as our keeper goes out, that nobody’s back there, so I just filled in, just kicked it away.”
“(If we score), it gives us momentum going into the half,” Madawaska coach Dean Gendreau said. “I think it took us a while to believe we could play with them. As the game went on, we established ourselves a little bit better, and I thought we were doing a good job of showing we could play with them.”
Coach Beckwith thought the Black Bears should go back to their usual attacking style, and told them so at halftime. Just 5:05 after the break, Solmitz picked up the ball on the left side after a Madawaska misplay, and his shot caromed off the inside of the right post for a 2-0 lead.
“Every team wants this,” Tooth said. “It’s the goal all year. Coach came into the corner and let us hear it. We obviously let it go at the end of the first half, and we just needed to come back and spit the fire.”
Maranacook controlled the rest of the game so completely that the outcome was clear and the lead felt like 5-0. Maranacook’s Alec Daigle missed on two close-range opportunities in less than a minute and had his head in his hands, but at least he got close enough to shoot. Madawaska rarely controlled the ball after the break, and spent most of the half playing defense.
“I would like to have possessed a little better,” Gendreau said. “We had the ball in the air a lot more than I would have liked.”
The domination and the run to the state title complete, Maranacook could enjoy the rewards of what the Black Bears spent all autumn working toward.
“Our objective was to outwork other teams,” Beckwith said. “That’s been the key all season. It doesn’t matter the skills. It doesn’t matter anything else. It’s about outworking other teams, and good things usually happen if you outwork other teams.”