WATERVILLE — As it often is with any program’s genesis, the beginning was not pretty for the Maranacook/Winthrop co-op boys lacrosse team when it started playing varsity four years ago.
“Freshman year we were a pretty rag tag group,” said Toby Smith, now a senior co-captain for the Hawks. “We had no jayvee team, some games we wouldn’t know who would be starting. It was just really on the fly.”
Tuesday afternoon at Thomas College’s Smith Field the co-op showed just how far it has come. Smith poured in seven goals and three assists to lead the Hawks to a 14-9 win over Messalonskee to complete a perfect 12-0 season in Eastern Class B.
“One of our coaches recently made a stat book from where we were then to where we are now and it’s night and day,” Smith said. “It’s crazy”
A big part of the Hawks’ success has been the offensive trio of Smith, Zach Glazier and Denver Cram. Glazier had five goals and two assists in the win Tuesday, while Cram notched the remaining two scores and four assists.
“They’ve got to be 70 percent of our scoring,” Hawks coach Zach Stewart said. “Denver wasn’t starting at the beginning. Denver worked to get that starting spot. The way they can come together in a season, worked together and to be as productive as they are is what we needed to be the caliber team that we are now.”
While the game ultimately fell decidedly in Maranacook/Winthrop’s corner, the win did not come without some resistance from the Eagles.
The Hawks led 8-4 midway through the second quarter, but a pair of goals from Ben Weeks — one of 17 Messalonskee seniors honored in a pre-game ceremony — in the final four minutes cut the deficit to 8-6 at the break. Weeks’ final goal came with just 0.7 seconds showing on the clock.
The Hawks were still up two at 9-7 with seven minutes to play in the third quarter, but sloppy passing and uncharacteristic turnovers prevented them from extending their lead.
“We just couldn’t quite get things together,” Stewart said. “We struggle every once in a while for three minutes during a game. That’s something we’re probably going to have to work out before we get to the tournament, but I think that they’re really working hard and they’re going to get there.”
Messalonskee took advantage with goals from Weeks and classmate Ryan Erskine to tie the contest heading into the final quarter.
Glazier scored two minutes into the fourth, but the Eagles remained within striking distance. A two-minute body contact penalty on Messalonskee looked as if it would clip the Eagles’ wings, but the home team managed to kill off the foul.
Unfortunately for Messalonskee, Smith scored off a feed from Cram just three seconds after the penalty expired to push the lead to 11-9.
“Some things happened transitionally out there,” Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan said of the fourth quarter. “We didn’t make some good adjustments and some unfortunate penalties that we took (hurt us).
“…(In the) fourth quarter it looked like we were coming back and we were ready to play and the wheels kind of came off there.”
Smith’s goal would mark the beginning of the end for the Eagles, as Maranacook/Winthrop netted two more goals within the next 30 seconds — the final one coming with Glazier spinning his way around Messalonskee defenders en route to the net.
“Every single game he comes up with something I’ve never seen before,” Smith said. “He’s one of my favorite players to watch.”
Weeks led the Eagles with five goals, Jose Languet finished with two and Connor Leonard had one. Jacob Smith had 10 saves in net and was under near-constant pressure, as the Hawks held a 42-24 advantage in shot attempts for the game.
The result may not have been what Messalonskee (9-3 Eastern Class A) was looking for on senior day, but the Eagles are nonetheless in good shape heading into the postseason. They will get a third shot at Brunswick — the only team to beat Messalonskee prior to Tuesday — in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championship Saturday at 3:45 p.m. at Thomas College.
“We’ve got to work on some things,” Sheridan said. “Overall though, I feel pretty good about where we’re at defensively and we can see what we need to work on. We know what we need to improve upon.”
Evan Crawley — 621-5640 | [email protected] | Twitter: @Evan_Crawley