OAKLAND — Few lacrosse coaches in central Maine have more experience in the sport than Tom Sheridan.

In addition to serving as the head coach of the Thomas College men’s lacrosse team, Sheridan finished up his 21st season in the same position with the Messalonskee boys team this past spring.

“He knows the game extremely well,” Messalonskee senior goaltender Elija Tuell said. “All the plays that he had us running and all of the offenses and defenses that we were running, he knew exactly how they worked and exactly what they would do against the team that we were playing.”

It was more than X’s and O’s that made this a successful season for Sheridan, though, with Tuell as the team’s lone senior starter. Sheridan had to trust a large junior class to step up and lead, while a number of underclassmen were asked to log major minutes.

Ultimately, the coach’s faith was rewarded. The Eagles went 10-5 this season under Sheridan, losing to eventual Class A champ Brunswick — who was responsible for four of Messalonskee’s losses — in the Eastern A finals.

For his efforts, Sheridan has been named the 2015 Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year.

“The juniors really stepped up and led the team. I did as much as I could as the only senior really starting, but he put a lot of faith in the juniors and I think that was well-placed,” Tuell said. “They did a great job. The other captains — Jack Bernatchez, Dylan Burton and Dylan Jones — all did phenomenal jobs this year.

“Everybody else who was starting as a junior did phenomenally, but we had a young team this year and I think (Sheridan) adapted well to that. Starting different players at difference positions at the beginning of the year and moving players around at different places. It worked out really well.”

What the Eagles lacked in experience, they made up for in skill. Sophomore Connor Smith scored 40 goals this season to lead a balanced scoring attack that also featured Jones, Bernatchez, Burton, juniors Will Weeks and Sawyer Michaud and freshman Austin Pelletier. Junior Devin Pickett anchored a Messalonskee defense that consistently made improvements.

“We had kids that got better throughout the year,” Sheridan said. “We knew coming in we had a pretty skilled team, but not a whole lot of senior leadership there. The juniors really stepped up and, hopefully going into the future, we’ll have a really strong team.”

Ultimately, the Dragons were the one team the Eagles could not get past. Messalonskee dropped a game to Lewiston early in the season, but bounced back to roll the Blue Devils the next two times it faced them — including a 14-5 win in the Eastern A semifinals.

The Eagles had come close to knocking off Brunswick a few times during the regular season, but in the Eastern A finals the Dragons left little doubt with a 21-4 victory. It is an experience Sheridan hoped his team learns from, particularly given that Tuell will be the only starter the team needs to replace next spring.

“(Brunswick) showed us what we need to do next year and hopefully they learned from this year for what they need to do to take that next step,” Sheridan said. “I’m really excited about next season.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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