READFIELD — It is often a painful lesson for the opposition, one the Black Bears have learned well over the last several seasons. You have to play all the way to the final whistle.

Senior striker Mitchell Root stepped into a bad clearance in the final minute Tuesday night at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams, lifting the Maranacook boys soccer team to a 2-1 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference win over Medomak Valley in a matchup of previously unbeaten sides. After slogging their way through a sloppy, sometimes disorganized, stretch in the second half, Root bailed the Black Bears out with his low skipping drive inside the far left post in the 80th minute.

The Black Bears improved to 5-0-0 despite finding themselves drawn even for most of the second half after conceding a goal to the opposition for the first time all season. Having won three of the last five Class C state titles, however, has taught Maranacook that time is only a measurement — the game is not over until all 80 minutes are through.

Maranacook’s Rojay Richards, left, collides with Medomak Valley’s Kevin White during a soccer game Tuesday in Readfield. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

“It’s huge with this team, because we didn’t panic,” Maranacook coach Don Beckwith said of prior experience in tight games late. “I didn’t think we panicked. I thought we were composed, which is really cool — maybe a little bit too composed at times.”

Senior Richard Down gave Maranacook a 1-0 lead just before halftime, a just reward for a first 40 minutes which the Black Bears clearly controlled.

Things got interesting, though, early in the second half when senior Joey Horovitz pulled Medomak (3-1-1) level on 42 minutes, flicking home Zach Cheesman’s cross after Cheesman beat two Black Bear backs out of the right corner along the end line.

From there, it was a nervy second half for Maranacook. The host side struggled to find the wide areas where it typically makes its bones, in part because the center of the park was being too easily controlled by the Panthers.

“It’s maybe taking the other guys for granted a little bit, thinking you can turn it on and off,” Beckwith said. “A little youth, a little inexperience maybe. We’ll work on that.

“There isn’t enough sense of urgency there. That’s what we’ve been complaining about all year, that sense of urgency is not there. That’s one of our biggest weaknesses — like I said, too composed.”

Maranacook’s Richard Down, left, moves the ball around Medomak Valley’s Alden McLain during a soccer game Tuesday in Readfield. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Maranacook turned up the wick a bit over the final 15 minutes, and the Bears attempted 13 second-half shots while producing eight corner kick opportunities. But even all those shots and corners left something to be desired with just four bids on target.

That’s when Root stepped into a goal kick that didn’t get out of the Panther end, took a touch to settle the ball atop the right edge of the 18-yard box and beat Medomak keeper Aiden Starr (11 saves) along the ground from 20 yards out.

“I was trying to shoot. I was just trying to get some pressure. The grass was wet, obviously, so having the ball skip was (possible). Coach says it’s better to be lucky than good, so I’ll take that.”

Root never believed the win wasn’t there to be had, even as Medomak stymied one developing play after another.

“It comes down to how hard we work in practice,” Root said. “Coach (Beckwith) is always pushing us. Preseason is probably one of the hardest things we endure, and I think we get that second wind late in games which helps us come up with the victory in these close battles.”

For Medomak, which had tried to match Maranacook at every turn in the match, it was an opportunity to learn a lesson the Black Bears have learned well over the last several years: a match is not 70, 75 or even 79 minutes long. It’s the full 80 minutes, which is where Maranacook had the advantage Tuesday.

Maranacook’s Timothy Worster, right, and Carter McPhedran can’t get the ball past Medomak Valley’s Aiden Starr during a soccer game Tuesday in Readfield. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

“For sure,” Medomak coach Brian Campbell said. “We came here to try and match their intensity, and we did for most of that game. But they’re such a good team and so well organized, we have a lot to take off that. A lot of positives.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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