In the press box high above Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams at Maranacook Community High School, there’s a handcrafted wooden bench that bears Hayden Elwell’s name on it. It’s not a stretch to say that the Black Bear senior has left his mark on the Maranacook soccer program, both on and off the field.

Elwell has been a four-year presence in the Maranacook lineup, leading the Black Bears’ charge to the Class B South regional final this year from the center midfield spot. For his efforts, Elwell has been selected as the Kennebec Journal Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

Messalonskee’s James Kouletsis and Monmouth’s Avery Pomerleau were also considered.

Maranacook has gone 65-2-2 over the course of Elwell’s entire career, winning a pair of Class C state championships.

“No other team in the state can say that. It’s amazing,” Elwell said. “I wouldn’t say we were amazing individually, but that’s what makes us a better soccer team. Maranacook hasn’t really been known for talent they have, we’ve been known for the way we play. Teams overlook us even though we can compete with any team in the state.”

Players like Elwell, Kent Mohlar and Chris Beckwith before him, and even some still coming up through the ranks, though, are changing that perception.

“In this day and age where everything is about ‘me,’ he’s a really special kid in that way,” said Maranacook head coach Don Beckwith, who called Elwell one of the three best players he’s ever coached. “He doesn’t like the light on him, but he deserves the light. He really does.

“I’ll have to use two guys to fill his shoes.”

Elwell began his senior season as the team’s starting center back, but Beckwith moved him into a central midfield role midway through the year in an effort to try and give the Black Bear attack more punch. The move didn’t hurt the back end at all, as Maranacook allowed only two regular-season goals in total.

Elwell’s ability was evident both during the run of play and on set pieces, where he was deadly accurate on free kicks from within 40 yards. In a regional semifinal win over York, Elwell scored along the ground on a quick restart very late in the second half from just outside the 18-yard box while players on both teams were still busy setting up.

He was so valuable, Elwell was only taken out of a game once all season — playoffs included — for a rest.

“You have to be paying attention throughout 80 minutes, or however many minutes you play,” Elwell said. “It only took a couple of minutes there in that game where you could get a goal. One little slip, and it can turn out badly.”

Most opponents found out the hard way that if you let Elwell have the ball in the center of the park, things would turn out badly more often than not.

In the truest sense of the word, Elwell was a playmaker, the catalyst that turned up the Black Bear attack.

“If you’re moving without the ball, he’ll find you. You don’t have to be that good. Just move without ball, he’ll find you,” Beckwith said. “It was the downfall of us sometimes, to be honest, is that he gives up the ball too much. He’s very unselfish.

“His leadership has come around, too. He’s always there for a teammate.”

Elwell had no problems taking on whatever task Beckwith assigned him.

“I kind of like playing all over the field,” Elwell said. “I’ve been fortunate to play a lot of different positions growing up, and I haven’t really stuck to one spot. That’s kind of nice, and I think it’s only helped me.”

Elwell has yet to decide what next fall will hold for him, but he said he has really high interest in the Coast Guard Academy. At only 17 years old, though, he’s also considering the idea of a prep year.

No matter what he decides, his high school career made something very clear. Whatever coach he plays for next will have the type of player who puts an immediate stamp on the game — on and off the field.

“There’s no accolade I could give big enough about him,” Beckwith said. “Everything that’s been said about this kid, it’s all true and then some.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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