READFIELD — It is often said that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. Lately, Richard Down has been doing nothing but finishing.

The junior striker scored a pair of goals on Tuesday night against Carrabec, helping the top-seeded Maranacook boys soccer team advance to the Class C South semifinals with a convincing 6-0 victory. Down set the tone early against the Cobras, scoring a pair of goals in a span of less than 12 minutes before the contest was 15 minutes old.

“If there’s an early goal, it definitely pumps us up and gets us fired up,” Down said. “If we get goals in the beginning, it gets us going.”

Lately, Down himself has been what’s keeping Maranacook going.

In the regular season finale, Down scored in overtime against Winslow for the golden goal in a 1-0 win. He alone was responsible for three straight goals for Maranacook (14-1-0) over the course of the two games against Winslow and Carrabec.

“He’s a talented kid. He can make you look awful bad,” Maranacook coach Don Beckwith said. “I wish he’d be a little more selfish, to be honest with you. He can handle the ball. ”

The season did not get off to a flying start for the tall, lanky attacker. Nagging injuries early in the year slowed his progression, but Down is hitting his stride just as the Black Bears need him most. Senior Micah Charette, who scored 30 goals a year ago while playing for Fort Kent, has been an inconsistent threat for Maranacook — a program that has always relied on supporting options to be at its best.

Carrabec coach P.J. Vicneire said that Maranacook’s depth is one of the things that separates it from other teams vying for the regional title this fall.

“They just attack with heavy numbers on the back side, which is hard to defend sometimes,” Vicneire said. “They have a whole lot of attacking options.”

With senior center backs Jackson McPhedran and Bryan Riley anchoring a back four that has conceded only five goals this season (three in a single loss to Class A power Lewiston), finding scoring from a number of different sources will be a key to Maranacook advancing through the postseason.

So far, Down is showing that he can be one of the go-to Black Bears.

“Richard’s playing really well, because he’s fit now,” Beckwith said. “Richard’s coming to the front and we’re going to depend on him a lot. He was banged up at the beginning of the year, but he’s peaking at the right time.”

Down credited the team’s backs for helping make the attacking side of things effortless at times.

“They always do a good job,” Down said. “They push it up and then we can move it up the field slowly. (Against Carrabec), we wanted it more direct. They played a lot of good balls to us, which led to some nice goals for us.”

They were often easy goals, too. Each of Down’s goals came after long services were knocked down deep inside the 18-yard box, seemingly right at Down’s feet for easy finishes in traffic.

Down’s game off the ball is also rounding into form, and opposing teams are clearly taking notice. Maranacook’s fifth goal in the 6-0 win over Carrabec, late in the second half, came from a bit of midfield brilliance courtesy of Down. With Charette in behind the Cobras back line, Down held the ball up at midfield just long enough for Charette to take a step back onside — then he played a deft through ball for Charette to send the speedy striker in alone on goal.

Beckwith praised Down’s intelligence in just such a situation.

“He sees that,” Beckwith said. “He almost did the same thing against Winslow, and he almost did it before that against Erskine. He’s a smart player.”

And, one, it seems, that the Black Bears can count on for a strong finish to the year.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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