Dillon Clark knew the Skowhegan boys varsity soccer coaching job would be a challenge when he took it on five years ago.

Fresh out of the University of Maine-Farmington, where he was an all-conference midfielder, Clark was aware the Indians hadn’t won a game in six years. He knew any hope of building a successful program would have to start at the lowest levels of youth soccer in town. He knew he would have to be patient, draw on community support and get everyone to buy into a soccer culture that was already thriving in some surrounding towns.

While doing all that, Clark toiled through four-plus more years of not winning a game. So one can imagine the emotions he felt when the Indians finally ended 11 years of futility seven weeks into this season with a 2-0 triumph over Messalonskee.

“Out of all of my time in athletics there was nothing better than that win,” said Clark, who was an all-state player at Old Town High School.

It wasn’t just the end of a losing streak. It was the start of what could be a prosperous future for the Indians.

For his efforts in building Skowhegan into a competitive soccer team, Clark is the Morning Sentinel Boys Soccer Coach of the Year.

Skowhegan wasn’t done after beating Messalonskee. It turned one win into a three-game winning streak, as victories over Oxford Hills and Lawrence soon followed and then a tie with Edward Little. Suddenly, the Indians were in playoff contention and Skowhegan had reason to get excited for soccer.

“Fans poured out onto the field and gave us a hug after that first win, and that just started to building the community backing we had,” Clark said. “More fans started to show up for games. The community had our back. Other Skowhegan sports teams had our back. It was incredible.”

“I can take no credit,” he added. “Those boys are the ones that did it.”

“Those boys” included senior Josh Carey and junior Spenser Steeves, who anchored the defense of sophomore Gavin Patton, one of the top young goalies in Class A North. Senior Kyle Dugas brought toughness to the midfield and junior foreign exchange student David Rosado served as the offense’s catalyst.

The Indians’ sudden success only boosted their resilience. They bounced back from a 7-0 loss to Brewer with a 1-0 win over Mt. Blue. They followed another setback — a 5-0 loss to Cony — with what Clark believes was their best performance of the year, a 1-0 loss to powerful Bangor in the season-finale.

“It was 0-0 with nine minutes left and a penalty kick led to the game-winning goal,” he said.

The loss snuffed out the Indians’ playoff hopes, but it wasn’t long before the team focused on the big picture.

“We were excited to know that for the first time in a long time the season came down to the final 10 minutes of the final game,” he said.

Clark, who was selected Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference coach of the year, hopes that excitement carries over into an offseason of commitment by the returning players that will ultimately lead Skowhegan to more success.

“We can’t stop now,” he said. “We can’t accept that this is the best we can be.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33