A year ago, the Houlton varsity boys celebrated a Class C state 2-0 victory over Hall-Dale, bringing home the first-ever gold ball for the boys soccer program at Houlton.
The defending state champions are in the playoff hunt again this season, missing a prolific scorer and a tested defense from a year ago, but anything is possible in postseason.
The Shiretowners finished the year with a double overtime win over Mattanawcook Academy, which is likely their playoff opponent at home on Saturday. The time is yet to be determined.
The Houlton boys’ season record is 7-5-2.
“Mattanawcook Academy has played us tough all year,” said Houlton coach Mike Carlos.
The Shiretowners beat them 1-0 at home on a late goal, and according to Carlos, Monday’s game was identical to the contest played in Houlton, as the Shires just couldn’t find the net.
“At home I believe we out shot them 35 to 1 and down there it was 35 to 7, so we have out shot them 70 to 8 and have one goal to show for it,” Carlos added.
Carlos noted that the Lynx pack as many players as they can in the 18-yard line and hope for a successful counter attack out of the back.
Coaches Carlos and Matt Swallow, who have worked together for the last five years, have seen teams make it to the playoffs five years in a row. This season, the Houlton Shires have lost five games to three teams, which are seeded first, second and third in the Heal Point standings.
“Are we capable of beating those teams, yes,” said Carlos. “This year has had it ups and downs. After the departure of the Houlton boys all-time leading goal scorer, we have had problems with finding the back of the net. Members of this year’s team were role players the past one or two years and have handled themselves wonderfully.”
Carlos said winning championships is not the sole purpose of a soccer program.
“We are not going to win the Eastern Maine or state championship every year,” he explained. “What we are attempting to do is to bring a higher level of consistency to the program.”
For the Houlton boys soccer program to be successful, they need to have a feeder program and players to play.
“This season has been dissappointing to a number of players, but they had just come off a season where they had won it all,” explained Carlos. “The most disappointing part of the season to me has been the number of players on the team.”
This year, 20 student-athletes tried out for the team. The soccer program needs 25 players. The high school football team had 20 participants and the golf team a hearty 15 players.
“That means out of the 170 boys in the high school, 55 are playing sports and the other are doing something else,” said Carlos. “I want those kids who are doing something else.”
Carlos and Swallow encourage parents to talk to those who are not playing a sport and offer soccer as an alternative.
“It is hard? Yes. Will you have to work? Yes. Will we attempt to motivate you? Yes. Will you get a fair chance? Yes. Will you find out what makes us special? Yes,” explained Carlos.
But looking at Saturday’s matchup, Carlos wants his guys to give it their all.
“What do we have to do to win is to play our style and score,” said Carlos. “If we do those things we are fine.”
Earlier last week, the Shires were shut out by Orono, 5-0. Houlton goalie Kole Buzzeo had 10 saves on 16 shots faced.
Another veteran team enjoying a place in the playoffs is Class D Southern Aroostook. The Warriors went deep into the postseason a year ago, struggling against injuries. The Warriors reached the semifinals for the fourth time in five years before falling to Ashland, 4-2.
They will host Machias on Friday, with a time to be determined. The winner moves onto the quarterfinals on Wednesday, Oct. 30.
In last week’s action, the Warriors pummeled the Woodland Dragons, 11-0.
Cameron Landry racked up five goals and added two assists, while Cody Lassonde tallied four goals and two assists to lead the Warriors. Tyler Batchelder and Logan Buckley each scored in the game.
Combining in goal, Austin White and Austin Burpee had six saves on 10 shots, while Woodland’s Chris Thornton blocked 13 of 32 shots faced.
Woodland did get a victory last Thursday at home against East Grand, 7-3.
Philip Farley scored twice and Logan Crone added a single tally for the Vikings.
Thornton had four saves against seven shots, while East Grand’s Thomas Gilman stopped 14 of 25 shots on goal.
Last Tuesday, the Easton Bears overpowered the Vikings, 11-0. Gilman had 16 saves in the game.
To finish their season, the Katahdin Cougars fell to Schenck, 2-1. Schenck’s Brandon Danforth scored the game-winner with 14:07 left in the game. Teammate Bruce Nguyen scored at the 22:20 mark of the second half to tie the game.
Katahdin’s Shey Lane scored a goal in the first half on a Forrest Heath assist. Goalie T.J. Young made 20 saves, while Schenk’s Jonathan Chiasson had nine.