GARDINER — KC Johnson was named the boys lacrosse head coach at Gardiner Area High School 13 years ago.

At the time, he drew up a plan for the Tigers to turn them into a team that could compete with the more talented ones in southern Maine.

This season “finally completed my five-year plan,” Johnson said.

“My five-year plan turned out to be a 13-year plan,” he said. “Our kids found out what it meant to be a Gardiner lacrosse player.”

Gardiner’s crowning moment came when it beat Yarmouth 7-6 in overtime in the Eastern B semifinals. Yarmouth had won three of the last six Class B state titles and had reached the title game two other times.

“It was amazing to watch the kids talk about the Yarmouth win,” Johnson said. “It took our program to a whole new level.”

For developing a successful program at Gardiner and helping the Tigers become one of the top boys lacrosse teams in the state, Johnson is the Kennebec Journal Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year.

Each year Johnson tried to impress upon the seniors that it was their responsibility to lead the team. He has consistently believed that with the seniors on board, anything is possible.

“One of the things that is hard is to make sure the seniors believe in what we are doing,” he said. “Every one of our seniors did that. They understood.”

Gardiner finished the regular season 10-2 and never allowed an opponent to score in double figures. It ended the regular season with a 3.92 goals against average. The Tigers also won their second straight Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B title, beating Morse 11-3.

“When the season was over, the underclassmen shook the seniors hands, thanking them for our season,” Johnson said. “Our kids have developed a lot of pride in the program and what we have been able to do.”

During Johnson’s tenure at Gardiner, the Tigers have won just over 60 percent of their games while playing the top KVAC teams in Class A and Class B. However, it was not until this season that they were able to break through with a meaningful win over an established powerhouse.

“This was certainly a great year for our kids and the program,” Johnson said. “It gives those players returning next season something to shoot for along with higher goals to reach.”

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