It didn’t look like much at the time. It was the first playoff win in Waynflete’s run to a Class C state title. It was a loss that ended Carrabec’s season with a 5-14 record.
But a year later, it looked less like trivia and more like the start of something. Carrabec went all the way to the state championship game for the first time in school history, finishing up at 18-5.
“We used that Waynflete game,” Carrabec coach Skip Rugh said. “That was a way for me to say, â€˜You’ve seen what it takes to be a championship team.’”
Hardly anyone outside of the team expected Carrabec to make such a big leap in 12 months, but after the Cobras finished their summer schedule, Rugh and his players set a goal of finishing in the top three in Class C — which they did.
For his part in the best season in school history, Rugh is the choice as the Morning Sentinel Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. Also considered were Mike LeBlanc, of Forest Hills, Messalonskee’s Keith Derosby and Waterville’s Rob Rodrigue.
“He is such a great coach,” Carrabec sophomore Mickayla Willette said. “He spends pretty much the whole year doing everything for us. He does whatever he can to better us as a team. Without him, what we did this year wouldn’t have been possible. I just can’t say enough good things about him as a coach.”
“He made us realize that if we were to go as far as we wanted to go, we had to work together,” Carrabec senior Macy Welch said.
Rugh was coaching at the middle school when he applied for and got the Carrabec varsity job. His daughter, Jerzee, is a junior on this year’s team, and was a freshman in Skip’s first season.
“I’ve coached these same girls, some of them, since they were in like third grade,” Coach Rugh said. “I’ve been lucky enough to follow my daughter right up through. Before I moved to the high school, I had them playing nine months out of the year. School ball was just a warm-up, really. We’d play right through to the summer.”
Carrabec started this season 3-1, but things got interesting right after that. In a span of five games, the Cobras beat Oak Hill on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, defeated Boothbay by 27 points in a statement game, and picked up a three-point win over Dirigo, which served as a breakthrough for the team.
“I think that was the game where we really came together,” Rugh said. “They played for each other during that game, and they never really looked back.”
In Carrabec’s next-to-last home game of the season, the Cobras played Madison before a full house in North Anson. A fan threw a drink on the court, a woman passed out in the stands, there was a nearly 20-minute delay, and Carrabec posted a 44-39 win. The Carrabec players celebrated loudly and with lots of hugging after the game.
“I remember thinking, â€˜Geez, it can’t get any better than this. This is awesome,’” Rugh said.
It did get even better for the Cobras, but first there was a hiccup. To get to the quarterfinals in Augusta, Carrabec first had to hold off Wiscasset, the No. 14 seed and a team the Cobras defeated by 13 on opening night. Rugh had just been named Mountain Valley Conference Coach of the Year, and he knew it would look especially bad if in his next game, the Cobras lost to the No. 14 seed. But this was the first high school basketball season with a winning record for any of the Carrabec players. The Cobras won by 12, but it wasn’t anywhere near that easy.
“It was absolutely the most stressful game I’ve ever been a part of in my life,” Rugh said. “I think they went ahead, if I remember right, with two minutes left. We played very tight. It was very stressful.”
“I remember going into the game, we were all a little nervous,” Welch said. “We beat them once and we thought we were ready for them, and we didn’t come out as strong as we did down there.”
For the rest of the Western C tournament, Carrabec was back on track. The Cobras won three straight close games — against Waynflete, Maranacook and Madison — to capture the regional title. The time Rugh spent developing his bench paid off, as substitutes like Baylee Atwood, Liberty Chestnut, Jerzee Rugh and Kate Stevens all made key contributions during the tournament.
“Our goal was to get to Augusta,” Rugh said. “After we beat Wiscasset, we had a dream, and that was to win our last game. And we almost did it.”
To show you how new all of this was for the Cobras, Rugh tells a story about the team’s ride home from Augusta after beating Madison for the Western C title.
“Coming down the hill,” Rugh said, “one of the girls goes, â€˜Look! There’s a fire. The fire trucks are pulling out’ — when it was really they were there for us, to give us an escort to the high school.”
Carrabec lost another close game to Calais in the state championship game, and that’s probably the last time anyone will take the Cobras lightly for a while. But you can be sure that Rugh will prepare himself for the challenge. When he learned he was named Morning Sentinel Coach of the Year, he spent “six or seven hours” composing his thoughts, including thanking 12 people individually — everyone from Jack Kaplan and Judy Dunphy for devising a weight program for the team to Dulcie Welch for keeping the scorebook — along with his family and the players’ parents for their support.
“It’s not going to be â€˜just Carrabec coming to town anymore,’” Rugh said. “They’ll be ready for us.”