2017-11-10 / Sports

What a run it was!

The fall sports season is over, but the thrills will always be remembered


THE RICHMOND HIGH SCHOOL boys soccer team gets fired up prior to facing Buckfield in the Class D South regional final at Bath recently. The Bobcats downed the Bucks, 2--0, to advance to the State Class D championship, falling to Bangor Christian, 1-0. 
BOB CONN / THE TIMES RECORD THE RICHMOND HIGH SCHOOL boys soccer team gets fired up prior to facing Buckfield in the Class D South regional final at Bath recently. The Bobcats downed the Bucks, 2--0, to advance to the State Class D championship, falling to Bangor Christian, 1-0. BOB CONN / THE TIMES RECORD BRUNSWICK

This has been the weirdest week that I can recall for the second week of November. It is easy to point the blame at a certain program for that extra workload throughout the month in recent years past, when most of us start thinking of eating turkey and standing in long shopping lines to buy that perfect holiday gift.

Over the past four years, Dan Cooper’s high school football team at Brunswick has given us a ton of extra work. Cooper’s Dragons advanced to the Class B North regional final four consecutive seasons, and in the last three won that game as well to head off to the State Class B championship the Friday or Saturday prior to Thanksgiving.

Now, those of you who know me well realize that I’m not “complaining” about being busy during regional football final and state final weeks. Those were exciting times, made even better last season when Lisbon pulled off the miracle of miracles in a regional final win over Winthrop/Monmouth to put two area teams in state football finals.

It was awesome, knowing that these young men were living out their dreams. As Cooper has said on many occasions, it is always a great thing to be practicing in November. It means that your team found success, something the Dragons did a ton of over the past four years.

If you’re a BHS football fan, you will always remember fondly last year’s championship, ending a 53-year title drought for the program. It was a crisp, cool Friday night at the University of Maine in Orono, and your Dragons had just beaten Kennebunk, 28-6, ending a two-year hex in state finals, with the Dragons having lost in back-to-back seasons to Marshwood at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.


RICHMOND GIRLS SOCCER senior goaltender Sydney Underhill Tilton is about to boot the ball down the field during a regular season contest in Richmond. The Bobcats went on to win the State Class D title for the second time in three seasons. 
BOB CONN / THE TIMES RECORD RICHMOND GIRLS SOCCER senior goaltender Sydney Underhill Tilton is about to boot the ball down the field during a regular season contest in Richmond. The Bobcats went on to win the State Class D title for the second time in three seasons. BOB CONN / THE TIMES RECORD We witnessed defensive domination that night, Jaznel Burns running down Ram running backs, the Dragon defense putting up an imaginary force field on their 35-yard line, a spot Kennebunk had trouble crossing throughout the game. The parade into town that followed, the party at the high school to cap off that very late night, all put a finish on a great season and wonderful run by Cooper’s squad.

This year, and we all knew it was bound to happen, the run came to an end with last Friday’s 17-12 loss up in Fairfield against Lawrence.

The 2017 season was a tough, frustrating one for the Dragons, who managed to only qualify for the playoffs with a 1-7 record, that lone victory a 38-22 Week 7 win over Mt. Blue.

There were close losses throughout the year, missed opportunities. There was the 23-0 opening night loss to Messalonskee, a game the Dragons were in throughout before the visiting Eagles pulled away. A 35-28 setback to Biddeford followed, along with tough setbacks to Cony (26-14), Skowhegan (48-29) and Lawrence (23-20).

This was a Dragons team that was going to slip away quietly into the night, that is until a thrilling 38-27 upset victory over Cony in the Class B North quarterfinals in Augusta.

Down 21-6 at the half and 27-14 after a kick-off return by the Rams, Brunswick refused to stay down, getting solid efforts from its offensive and defensive lines, tough running from Dalton Dickey and Owen Richardson, and pinpoint passing from Nate Girardin in the comeback win.

“This team has never given up, and has stuck together, and they believe,” said Cooper that night.

Then came the semifinal at second-seeded Lawrence. Down 17-0 midway through the fourth quarter, the Dragons chipped away, scoring on a Richardson run. Brunswick fans yelled for an onside kick. Instead, Cooper had his kicker send the ball deep. The defense held. A 21- yard punt return from Girardin and a quick TD run by Dickey with three minutes left had the Dragons within 17-12.

Suddenly, Brunswick fans began to believe, especially after the defense forced another punt with a little more than one minute remaining. Could the Dragons rally? Could the season continue? Could the Dragons keep The Times Record sports staff busy for at least another week?

Unfortunately, the talented Bulldogs had the last say, taking over on downs with 14 ticks remaining, ending the Dragons’ reign of dominance.

But, just to let Cooper and his Dragons know, we all believed, and we thank all those football players, both past and present, for this magical ride.

Richmond soccer

Sports reporter Eric Maxim made the two-hour drive to Hampden Academy last Saturday as both the Richmond boys and girls were in search of a State Class D championship.

The Bobcat boys had that swagger all season long, winning their first 13 games, then outscoring their opponents 8-1 in the postseason to punch their ticket to the final against Bangor Christian.

A 1-0 loss to the talented Patriots was the result that day, despite a dominating second-half effort by Peter Gardner’s charges.

Yes, Peter Gardner, the guy that led the Brunswick boys soccer team from its infancy, that now leads the Bobcats. The guy who always has a smile and a warm handshake for those of us lucky enough to cover Richmond boys soccer is still going strong, with his son and Richmond baseball coach Ryan Gardner right by his side.

Saturday was certainly not the end the Bobcats wanted. This was a squad that expected to leave Hampden with a Gold Ball, a second one for this talented group of seniors who were freshmen when Gardner decided to come out of retirement to lead his hometown program.

Now, onto a team that secretly hoped for a state title, but wasn’t exactly walking around with a cocky demeanor.

Troy Kendrick’s Richmond girls lost a ton to grad- uation last season. Draw a line down the middle the field and that will tell fans what the Bobcats had to replace entering the 2017 campaign.

The first six games had Kendrick’s crew in unfamiliar territory — a 3-3 record with the main culprit an inability to score goals. When is the last time we have said this about a Richmond girls soccer team, with memories of former Richmond offensive stalwarts Kelsea Anair and Miranda Martin?

For those of us on the outside, Kendrick is an easy-going, has it all together type of coach that questions nothing and just lets his players play the game, letting the chips fall where they will.

His players will likely provide a different opinion of their coach. Here is a guy that thinks the game, takes the group of players in front of him and constructs a strategy that works best for his Bobcats.

Kendrick works his players hard. Ask yourself ... Have you ever seen a Richmond girls soccer player out of breath, looking tired, not having that extra step when she needed it? This truly doesn’t happen by accident.

This season was the very definition of a coach needing to play to his team’s strengths. Defense was going to win out for the Bobcats this year.

Senior netminder Sydney Underhill-Tilton needed to keep the sheet clean, along with her talented and young defensive cast. Kendrick’s daughter Caitlin was going to have do some things, maybe play a bit more defense and find the will and stamina to produce goals on offense. Senior Destiny Anair, a workhorse in both soccer and cross country, was asked to make pinpoint passes from the corners in hopes of setting up the offense.

All this happened as the Bobcats didn’t lose again after that .500 start, going 6-0-2 to close the regular season, then defeating Pine Tree Academy, Rangeley and Greenville to advance to an eighth consecutive State Class D final.

And, for the fourth consecutive year, it was Ashland on the other side in the state championship, with Richmond coming out on top, 2-1, using a suffocating defense, big saves from Underhill- Tilton, two assists from Anair, and a goal each from Caitlin Kendrick and Bry Shea.

Yes, the 2017 fall season is over area sports fans. But, it is definitely a season, though not as busy in mid-November, that will be remembered for years to come.

BOB CONN is The Times Record sports editor. He can be reached at bconn@timesrecord.com.

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