WATERVILLE — Alex Gilbert did not start out as a goalkeeper but he is certainly flourishing as one for the Mt. Blue High boys lacrosse team.

Gilbert, a senior, was a first-team, all-conference selection in goal last season for the Cougars and is looking to take the next step this season as Mt. Blue hopes to vie for a postseason berth in Class B North.

“He’s definitely been instrumental to our team as far as our success,” said Mt. Blue coach Kevin Averill, whose Cougars open the regular season Thursday at 4 p.m. at Lincoln Academy. “He make saves that just really motivate the team and bail us out when we have some mistakes defensively. His leadership, his intelligence and lacrosse IQ is a huge plus for us.

“…He’s got a lot of those intangibles that make him successful and that’s what helps us. I think it will carry us this year.”

A former baseball player, Gilbert joined the lacrosse team as a sophomore and played midfield. Early last season he stepped in for a few games in goal and never left, which turned out to be a better move in two areas for Mt. Blue as it allowed senior Leo Flannery to move to his more natural position in the field.

“It took me a little bit to get used to it,” Gilbert said Tuesday evening following a scrimmage against Bangor. “I’ve always kind of just been quick naturally and it was just easy for me to follow the ball, I guess. It wasn’t anything more than just a natural knack for it.”

Learning how to play goal paled in comparison to what Gilbert went through last fall, though. A senior captain on the Mt. Blue football team, Gilbert suffered a hit in the third quarter of a 35-34 win over Cony in an Oct. 30 Pine Tree Conference Class B quarterfinal that those in attendance that night will not soon forget.

Gilbert, a running back, got the ball and space and looked to cut it up field. He found a seam but ran full speed into Cony linebacker Max Storey, who delivered a crushing hit square in his chest.

“All of a sudden (Gilbert) hit the kid and it was immediate silence,” said Averill, who is also the football team’s offensive coordinator. “It was definitely a scary moment.”

Gilbert does not remember the hit. He watched it once on film a few days later and does not care to see it again.

“It took me a while to get back into it, be who I was. It really was weird because I didn’t feel the normal symptoms of a concussion right off,” Gilbert said. “Then the stuff they don’t tell you about, like the emotional stress that you deal with, that’s what got me.”

Coming to grips with the idea that his football career was over was difficult, Gilbert said, and that fact did not help with coping with the emotional highs and lows he suffered as a result of the concussion, either.

“It was a lot of denial, I think. I didn’t want to think about the fact that I was done,” Gilbert said. “It was tough watching the rest of the guys go out there against Brunswick and get run over. For me it was one of those things where I’m one of the captains and I can’t go out and help my team. It was very, very frustrating. I guess for a while after that I didn’t really face the fact that I was done.”

Gilbert “laid low” after the injury, he said, and focused on his recovery. He spent the winter working out in the weight room and said he is back to where he was physically at the time of the injury. Mentally, he said he is right about there, too.

On Tuesday, he was just happy to be back out on any field, be it lacrosse or football.

“Honestly, I’m looking to have fun and get as many wins as we possibly can and make playoffs,” Gilbert said. “If we can continue to play like we did (Tuesday against Bangor) in the first three quarters than I think we have a chance to at least make a little bit of a ripple in the pond.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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