THORNDIKE — Looking for something to do on an autumn afternoon in this tiny rural town of fewer than 1,000 people?

Well, there’s the museum of antique oddities the Bryant family owns and, unsurprisingly, there’s a farm you can visit.

If you’re looking for something more, the worldwide web suggests heading west to nearby Unity or Benton for an afternoon of entertainment. Though you might not have to do that much longer. The Mount View soccer programs have blossomed, giving hundreds of locals something to get excited about.

“Once you start having that winning program, the culture builds itself,” Mount View boys soccer coach Dale Hustus said after his unbeaten third-seeded Mustangs dropped Medomak Valley in the Class B North prelims over the weekend. “You look over here and you see 200-300 people supporting 25-30 boys on a blustery Saturday. I was here five years ago when you wouldn’t see 30 people here to support 30 boys. Certainly, the kids picking up their game, the winning program, it certainly helps build the fanbase.”

It’s not just the Mount View boys, either. The girls program makes its second appearance in the regional quarterfinals in four years this week following a 15-year absence from postseason play.

“The culture has changed over the last two years,” Mustangs girls coach Dave Page said. “Kids are starting to play soccer. Before, soccer was kind of the joke thing. We’ve worked really hard to change that.”

The No. 7 seed in the tournament, the girls are off to face perennial powerhouse Hermon on Wednesday in a quarterfinal match. The boys, however, as the No. 3 seed in their bracket with a perfect 15-0-0 record, are slated to play host to No. 6 Brewer on Tuesday.

Mount View girls soccer captains, from left, Taylor Hodgdon, Shala Davis and Emily Lancaster pose during practice Monday. Staff photo by David Leaming

There is symmetry for both sides to this tournament. The girls are meeting Hermon for the third straight time in the playoffs, having lost to the Hawks in the quarterfinals in 2015 and the preliminary round last fall. The Mustang boys entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed last year, too, but after narrowly avoiding an upset to No. 14 MCI in the prelims, they were bounced in the quarters.

It was a painful lesson learned by a young Mount View squad that hadn’t made a postseason appearance since 2011. A year older and wiser, the Mustangs believe they are ready this time around.

“The competition is a lot harder in the playoffs. Everybody is ramping up for it,” Mount View junior striker Elijah Allen said. “For us, it’s probably just knowing that the tempo of the game is going to 100 percent increase in the playoffs. It’s a totally different game. Everybody has the chance to knock off the others.

“We know that. It’s probably the biggest thing we learned from last year.”

Hustus agrees with Allen. After the team lost the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship game last week, he liked how the team rebounded against Medomak two days later.

“I wasn’t 100 percent sure how the boys were going to react to that,” Hustus admitted. “It’s always a biggie to get through that first playoff game. Luckily, we’ve seen (Brewer) before during the regular season. We’re going to go in and try and play our best game.”

Mount View soccer player Cassidy Pound, center, fires a shot past Elijah Allen, at left, as Chase Gilley pressures during practice in Thorndike on Monday. Staff photo by David Leaming

That elusive and difficult to define “best game” comes from a year-long commitment to soccer at Mount View.

For both the boys and the girls, the sport is no longer something they only tackle from August to October, and the results are paying dividends. The boys are a combined 27-1-0 over their last two regular seasons, while the girls have won 20 regular-season games since the start of the 2017 campaign.

“These kids play 365 days a year now,” Page said. “They play indoor three sessions, they go to camps, and they’ve really committed to doing that. I’ve told them where to go, but they are the ones who have to go and do it.”

“It really comes from this group of kids,” Hustus added. “This was the first group of kids that, as a team, took advantage of the ability to play out to (All Pro Sports Center in Waterville) during the winter and the ability to get some games scheduled during the summer. That made them better.”

The Mustang boys are big and skilled, while the girls lean on a scrapper’s mentality. Though they are built differently, they share a common trait.

There is little quit in this rural band of merry soccer players.

Mount View boys soccer keeper Richard Nelson makes a save during practice Monday. Staff photo by David Leaming

“They’re very difficult to keep up with,” Medomak Valley boys coach Brian Campbell said.

But, as long as this postseason run lasts, they won’t be difficult to find. They’ll be right here in Thorndike — in the heart of central Maine farm country — as the beating heart of one of the state’s unlikeliest soccer cultures.

They’re also not afraid of the competition getting more difficult with each passing round.

“The better the competition, the better we play,” Allen said.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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