With an undefeated regular season, a conference championship and a spot in the regional semifinals, it may appear as though Jesse Rowe simply had Hall-Dale in cruise control all season.

But for the first-year head coach replacing a bench boss with six of the school’s first Mountain Valley Conference titles on his resume, it was anything but easy. For his efforts in guiding the Bulldogs to the program’s eighth MVC championship, Rowe has been named the Central Maine Boys Soccer Coach of the Year.

Mount View’s Jeremy Von Oesen and Skowhegan’s Jordan Hale were also considered.

“It all goes back to the kids, and they know it’s their program,” said Rowe, who played on Hall-Dale’s first MVC championship team in 1999. “This whole experience, especially this year, I kept riding the wave. The first part of the season was a little bit slow for us in certain aspects, then all of a sudden clicked and once we got through that and understood our identity, we were really good.”

Rowe, a physical education teacher at Hall-Dale, spent just one season as an assistant coach to Andy Haskell. Haskell coached the Bulldogs for seven seasons, winning conference titles in six of them.

But Rowe said that even in just one year, he learned a lot from Haskell before becoming just the fourth head coach in the 40-year history of the program.

“I was very naive to how much success Andy had generated over his time there,” Rowe said. “After having a year under him, I really understood the standard definitely gets set by the tone you put out to the kids. His tone definitely worked for the prior teams, and I got to see the players I was inheriting. I think I just provided a little bit different point of view than they had in previous seasons.”

Rowe was rewarded with a 13-0-1 season and the last MVC squad left standing in Class C South’s final four.

Senior Akira Warren, who was converted into a striker under the new head coach, set a single-season goal-scoring record at Hall-Dale with 41 goals. Captain Josh Nadeau blossomed into a driving center midfielder. Several other players also embraced new roles, eschewing personal comforts to better serve the team.

It paid off.

“It was a dream season,” Rowe said. “I wish I could have had two more games with those guys, but it doesn’t take away from anything they accomplished. I’m very thankful (athletic director) Colin Roy told me I was the right fit for the program. I’m thankful that I had Peate Johnson as a coach when I was a player and that I had Andy as a head coach. I’m happy I had a community around me to mold me as a player and a community member.

“I’ve got big expectations… I still want to win a Gold Ball. I don’t think I’m going to be done until I’ve got one or two of those.”

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