Sam Smith of Mt. Blue is Morning Sentinel Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Staff photo by David Leaming

FARMINGTON — Sam Smith grew up wanting to be like Devin Ferreira and others like him on the Mt. Blue soccer team. This season, he put his name above all of them.

Smith scored 14 goals this season for the Cougars, giving him 51 for his four-year career at Mt. Blue and etching his name atop the record book as the program’s all-time leading goal scorer. For his efforts in eclipsing a 12-year-old record established in 2006 by Ferreira, Smith has been selected as the Morning Sentinel Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

Mount View’s Elijah Allen and Mt. Abram’s Evan Allen were also considered.

“It means a lot to me,” Smith said of the record. “My dad has coached the team throughout the years, for my entire life actually, and being able to do that after having watched all the players that played for him when I was growing up and wanting to be like them is pretty special.”

Smith scored 21 goals as a junior — eclipsing Ferreira’s previous single-season mark of 17 goals — but saw his production drop off this season. Not because his skills had diminished or because he didn’t have the same desire to succeed.

If anything, his goal totals this season were more impressive than ever, given the attention he was often paid by the opposition.

“Going into the season, I knew teams would be watching out for me and not giving me a whole lot of time on the ball,” Smith said. “One of the things I really focused on was how to get my teammates involved. I was frustrated at times not being able to do exactly what I wanted, but I got comfortable with it as the year went on and we were successful.”

“We had to move him around to open him up,” Mt. Blue head coach Joel Smith, Sam’s father, said. “Game after game, he’d draw two and three defenders and we’d move him around to open those opportunities for other people or try to hide him.”

Those opportunities could be hard to come by. Given the extremely competitive nature of Class A North — including two meetings with eventual state champion Lewiston, among others — the defenders players like Smith faced game in and game out were as talented as any players on the pitch.

What Smith did was show his true soccer talents by adapting and becoming adept at pressing the game diagonally instead of insisting on a north-south route to goal. It’s a nuanced understanding of how strikers play the game at its highest levels.

“Going forward to backwards and not laterally, I could get stuck and almost jammed up by the defense,” Smith said. “It helps to create space for myself.”

It also created it for others, too.

In a regional playoff game against Brunswick, the attention Smith drew from the Dragon back line freed Chris Marshall — whom Smith fed for the eventual game-winning goal. Those are the types of moments Smith remembers most about his historic season.

But there’s a reason teams paid such close attention to the Cougar attacker.

During his junior season, he struck from more than 40 yards away — connecting on a sizzling laser off a half-volley — for a first-half goal against Lewiston. This season, he broke a scoreless tie against Hampden Academy in the final minute with a similar long-distance strike.

He says some of it is luck, but his coach is not so quick to agree.

“You do it once, that’s kind of cool,” said Joel Smith, who has been at the program’s helm for 18 years. “But when you recognize it in that type of situation, with 42 seconds left, a 0-0 game — he just managed to spot keeper out of his spot — that’s really something. I think that’s one of his greatest attributes, he starts coming on stronger as the season gets going.”

“A lot of it has to do with luck, but playing striker allows you some time when your team is defending. I watch what the players defending me are doing, what their body language is, where the goalkeeper is. Having that field awareness is very helpful.”

Helpful enough that he could pick and choose his spots en route to becoming the Cougar with the most goals in program history, something he would not have dared dream as a young boy watching his father’s teams play more than a decade ago.

“Throughout the season, I knew I was close (to the record),” Smith said. “I honestly just focused on game-to-game, and I never really thought about that all. It feels great, though.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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