WINSLOW — The bright lights of the biggest stage failed to faze Jake Warn.

For the second consecutive year, the Winslow senior striker rose to the occasion in the playoffs, scoring six goals and assisting on six others during the Black Raiders’ four-game postseason run that culminated with their second straight Class B North regional title. For his efforts, backed by a regular-season stat line nearly as impressive, Warn is the Morning Sentinel Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

Winslow senior center back Mike Wildes and Mt. Blue junior midfielder Sam Smith were also considered.

“It does count for something what you do in the playoffs,” Winslow coach Aaron Wolfe said. “You’re facing better competition, better defenses, teams scheming against you, teams playing that know what you’re trying to do.”

Warn scored an unmatched 14 playoff goals in his final two seasons at Winslow.

“My favorite part of the season is playoffs,” Warn said. “A lot of players think it adds a lot of stress. I don’t enjoy the stress at all, but I enjoy the energy that comes along with it. The day before when everyone’s focused on what they’re eating, teachers are wishing you good luck, tons of people are at the games with signs cheering you on. It’s exciting.

“I kind of live for those games. That’s where you want to shine. That’s where you want to do well.”

How could Warn possibly have been more impressive? Consider this: He played the entire season with a stress fracture in his left foot.

The blazing speed on the wing, the quick release of a targeted shot, the ability to create plays for his teammates. All of it while managing a pain level that, by the end of the season, was excruciating.

“It was a stress fracture from back in track (in the spring),” Warn said. “We were debating surgery (in the preseason) or whether I should try to play through it. I decided to go for it. Throughout the season, it got worse and worse. It was pretty painful. The end of the season was pretty rough.”

Warn finished with 17 goals and 18 assists this fall, numbers that certainly could have been inflated had he been healthier. His minutes were closely monitored — Wolfe pulled him from games as soon as Winslow had concrete leads in the second half — and he played virtually all of the minutes he did get in a wing position.

In the regional final on the road at Washington, where the home team hadn’t lost a game in three years, Warn was shifted centrally into a true striker role. He responded with a hat trick in a 3-1 Winslow win.

“He’s mostly a wing player for us, because that’s where he’s best,” Wolfe said. “That’s where he’ll play in college with his speed. If he played up top, straight-on against a lot of teams, he would just run up the stat line.”

Warn was the Class B state champion in the triple-jump last spring, and he was also the runner-up in the 100- and 200-meter events. He originally took up track and field because he “thought it would be cool to run as fast as I could,” but he saw the advantages to his soccer career were many.

“I think it helped a ton,” Warn said. “I’ve always been pretty quick, but (the training) gets my quickness and agility up. Going into high school, I saw how much it could help. I think coaches notice that speed is one of the stronger parts of my game.”

Certainly, opposing coaches took notice. For the first time this season, teams had to game plan for the dangerous Warn, albeit with minimal success — he scored a goal and assisted on four others in a regional quarterfinal against Mount Desert Island, for example.

“I was very conscious of that,” Warn said. “My dad and I had many talks about strategy before games, every night. I kind of knew it would be tougher to catch teams by surprise. I fell into a position where I was looking to create more opportunities for my teammates rather than create them for myself. If I’m man-marked, that’s one less (defensive) player for my team to worry about. That was my role for the season, to free up opportunities for different people.”

Yet, when it mattered most, Warn could still be a difference maker. In a regional semifinal win over Erskine, Warn scored the only goal of a tight, defensive contest early in the first half. He was given only a few feet of space along the arc atop the 18-yard box, but it was all he needed.

“You only need a half-step,” Warn said, laughing.

On one foot, in the most pressure-packed part of the season, no less.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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