WATERVILLE — It took only 10 minutes on Wednesday to see just how different the Temple Academy soccer program is this season. It took the players on the team less than that.

“I think what changed this year, ultimately, is our coach,” Temple senior Sawyer Deroche said following a 7-0 win over Chop Point at Thomas College that improved the Bereans to 13-0-0 in Class D South, one win shy of completing the first undefeated regular season in school history. “Without our coach, I don’t know where we’d be without him. He’s amazing. I’ve never had a coach like him.”

Phil Hubbard came to Temple after winning more than 100 games at the helm of Erskine Academy, leaving that post to accept the assistant principal’s position at Temple. His work with the soccer program began during the summer, prior to preseason training.

Last season, the Bereans finished 9-5-1, qualifying for the regional tournament for the first time in their brief history as a member of the Maine Principals’ Association.

“We got that little teaser, that little taste,” senior Micah Riportella said of postseason play. “We all wanted it. We all knew what we did wrong last year. we built and we got better. We got that taste and now we want more.”

Unfortunately for Temple, what the playoffs hold is still a bit of a mystery. The schedule this season has been loaded with teams like Chop Point (1-9-1), Greater Portland Christian, Islesboro and Vinalhaven. None of those teams have a winning record.

Deroche, who played at Lawrence High School last season and has played premier-level soccer at the youth level, knows that greater challenges await in the tournament in the form of teams like perennial powers Richmond, Greenville and Buckfield.

“It was a little different for me at the beginning. I’ve gotten used to it,” Deroche said. “I think it’s good because we as captains keep our team in check and we don’t let them play down to some of these teams we’re playing. We always want to play up. We always want to play to our best ability.”

During the summer league, Temple lined up against Class A and Class B teams as a way to raise its own game. Hubbard focused on lots of small-sided drills, maximizing touches on the ball for every player.

Hubbard implored the team prior to Wednesday’s game to begin mentally preparing for the playoffs, insisting that they bring a certain mentality. The Bereans responded by scoring four goals in the first 14 minutes of the contest, including a pair of goals from junior Noah Shepherd.

The team moves the ball along the floor, moves without the ball and — after giving up dozens of goals a year ago, Temple has conceded only seven goals in all of 2017.

“Our defenses is a lot tighter. Definitely a better (formation),” Riportella said. “We have two defensive stoppers and one midfielder who is designated to make sure things stay cleaned up. Whether that’s me or Sawyer, we’ve been able to get back. We have a lot of speed.”

One of Hubbard’s greatest gifts has been to try and bring the culture of success to Temple. Against Chop Point, Temple celebrated its first “homecoming,” which included the largest crowd of the season and Hubbard himself reading starting lineups over the public address system and a live performance of the national anthem by a Temple student.

The game was preceded by a pep rally for the whole school and followed by a team dinner and a movie night.

“When you have the chance to go after it, you go after it,” Hubbard said when asked if this year has been about building for the future or about winning now. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I think we could have a chance. There’s five seniors on the team, so you take advantage of what you have and hopefully you get some luck along the way.

“It is building (for the future), but there’s some key pieces that are here now.”

One of those pieces, of course, is Hubbard.

“We spent a lot of time this summer getting used to him and having practices and competing in the summer leagues,” Riportella said. “Taking his IQ and instilling it into us — still a very young team — it took time, but it’s starting to come together.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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