Maranacook barely had time to celebrate the first state championship in school history in 2013 before people started talking about a repeat.

The Black Bears embraced the role of favorite and kept the foot on the accelerator in 2014. Now, they are one win away from becoming the first repeat champions in Class C soccer since North Yarmouth Academy won three straight 1998-2000.

“We knew people were going to be out to get us this year, but that doesn’t really change our mindset, which is to play hard every game,” junior midfielder Kent Mohlar said.

Maranacook (17-0) and Orono will battle for Class C supremacy Saturday at 3 p.m. at Deering High School

Even though Orono is making its first appearance in the state game since playing for the Class B title in 1992, Mohlar isn’t expecting the Black Bears to enjoy any advantages from championship match experience.

“Every year, it’s a new game. It’s one game and it’s a different experience,” he said.

Orono presents a different kind of opponent for the Black Bears, according to Maranacook coach Don Beckwith, who scouted the Red Riots’ 2-0 win over Central High School of Corinth in Thursday’s Eastern Maine final.

“They’re big and fast,” Beckwith said. “They’re going to be a handful. They’re the biggest team I’ve seen.”

Senior Kam Stockley and Frederik Linden, an exchange student from Sweden, are the duo to stop for the Red Riots.

Maranacook has plenty of size and speed at its disposal. Senior strikers Kodey Solmitz and Matt DuBois, who was moved from sweeper late in the season, are dangerous in the open field and scrums in front of the goal. Mohlar, the player of the year in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Northern Division, sets the tone in the midfield. The defense, led by Chris Beckwith, Bailey Clark, Hayden Elwell, Mark Buzzell, Jason Brooks and goalkeeper Justin Freeman, has allowed one goal in the tournament.

The Black Bears practiced on the artificial turf at nearby Kents Hill on Thursday and are familiar with the turf field at Deering, having scrimmaged the Rams there in preseason.

“I don’t know if it’s an advantage,” Mohlar said. “It makes the ball more predictable. It makes the game a little faster. But it works for both teams.”

• • •

Before becoming Richmond High School’s boys’ soccer coach this year, Peter Gardner led Brunswick High School to 10 Class A state championship games and six state titles in his distinguished coaching career. But he laughs off the notion that he has any special insight to offer the Bobcats on playing in the big one.

“Richmond kids, some of them have been to 11 or 12 (state games) if you count all of their different sports,” he said.

Indeed, both the Richmond boys’ and girls’ teams have become fixtures in the Class D soccer state championship, and both will be back playing for a gold ball on Saturday at Hampden Academy. The boys, making their eighth title match appearance in the last decade, start at 10 a.m. with a rematch of last year’s championship against five-time defending state champion Bangor Christian School. The girls, participants in the last four title games and six of the last eight, follow at 12:30 p.m. in a battle of unbeatens with Ashland Community High School.

The boys’ championship match will have a hard time matching last year’s for intensity and drama. After battling through regulation and 30 minutes of overtime to a 1-1 tie, Bangor Christian won on penalty kicks, 4-2, and emerged with its Class D record fifth consecutive state championship.

All year long, Gardner has kept the Bobcats (17-0) focused on the present and downplayed what might await them at the end of the season. But recently, it’s been hard to ignore that a shot at avenging last year’s loss has been a motivating factor.

“The kids have worked so hard and taken it one game at a time, but in the back of their minds, I know exactly what they were looking forward to,” Gardner said.

Bangor Christian (16-1) has beaten Richmond in four previous state championship meetings (2005, 2009, 2010, 2013). The Patriots are very young. They have two seniors, two juniors, five sophomores and nine freshmen on their roster. Midfielder Tyler Welch, who scored the game-winner in the Patriots’ 1-0 win over Ashland in the regional final, is one of five freshman starters and leads the offense along with sophomore midfielder Josh Palmeter and senior sweeper Seth Pearson.

Junior Dennis Farnham didn’t allow a goal during the Eastern Maine tournament.

Gardner said game-planning for the Patriots is important, but the Bobcats’ performance will ultimately come down to how they execute their own sets.

“It’s a matter of knowing a little bit about them, but the bottom line is these kids have to play like they have all year,” Gardner said.

Both Gardner and Richmond girls’ coach Troy Kendrick expect Hampden Academy’s turf field to play even faster than the newer McMann Field turf that hosted their Western Maine finals. That may make it difficult for Kendrick’s team to control the pace like he hopes to against unbeaten Ashland (17-0).

“They’re a pretty prolific scoring team and pretty stingy on defense. They’ve racked up a bunch of shutouts,” Kendrick said of The Hornets. “We hope we can rein them in offensively a little bit. You never want to get into a shootout. You want to control the tempo, take advantage of your scoring opportunities and limit theirs.”

Defenders Cassidy Harriman, Destiny Anair, Jade Gammon and Kalah Patterson could be key to the Bobcats hopes of disrupting Ashland’s scoring chances.

“They play kind of the same style as us,” said Kendrick, whose team had a streak of three consecutive state titles snapped by Washburn last year. “They want to possess the ball and play a short passing game, and we want it, too. So there’s going to be a little bit of a battle there.”

Led by forwards Marissa Chasse and Savannah Flint, the Hornets have scored 111 goals in 17 games.

Richmond (16-0) has scored 91 goals, no small feat itself, including eight in the regional final against Searsport. Ashland hasn’t allowed a goal in 10 games, dating back to an 8-2 win over Washburn on Sep. 18.

If Richmond wins both gold balls on Saturday, it will be the first time since 2007 the boys and girls pulled off the double play. That year, both teams beat Ashland.

Randy Whitehouse – 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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