The Fort Kent boys soccer team has stuck to its game plan this season — and the reward is a trip to Saturday’s Class C state championship match.
The Eastern Maine champion Warriors (12-3-2) will play in a state final for the first time since 1981 in a 3 p.m. start from the Weatherbee Complex in Hampden against Western Maine champion St. Dominic of Auburn.
Fort Kent was a Class A school in its last trip to the states but, 28 years later, similar qualities — speed, quickness, talent and tenacity — have advanced the Warriors back to such rarefied air.
“I knew what kind of talent we had and what kind of work ethic the kids had,” said sixth-year Fort Kent head coach Tim Desjardins, who is assisted on the sidelines by his wife, Roxanne. “I knew if we could get the system we were playing down pat we could have a good season.”
That system features a three-forward alignment with one offensive midfielder and two defensive midfielders fronting a four-player, diamond-shaped defense.
That was slightly different than the 3-2-2-3 formation employed by the Warriors a year ago, but the youthful Warriors — with just four starting seniors — adapted quickly.
“In the third game of the season we played Madawaska, and we hadn’t perfected the system yet we were still able to beat them, so I knew it was coming,” said Desjardins.
What has evolved from that new formation is a strong offensive unit led by junior striker Thomas Levesque, who has 23 goals and four assists.
“Thomas is just a skilled player with a lot of finesse and he’s very quick,” said Desjardins, who played striker on 1989 and 1991 Fort Kent teams that reached the Eastern B final. “He also likes to distribute, he’s found that balance.”
Levesque is flanked up front by seniors Sam Chasse (7 goals, 6 assists) and Judson Taggett (5 goals, 2 assists), with junior midfielder Jared Soucy (12 goals, 6 assists) another key offensive factor.
Senior Zach Rioux and sophomore Cody Lozier are more defensive-minded midfielders, with senior stopper Chapin Skaggs, sophomore sweeper Curtis Bouchard and junior flanker backs Spencer Levesque and Cubby Naranja working in front of goalie Alex Charette.
Sophomore Brandon Hartt has been another valuable player, filling in at several positions including goalkeeper, stopper and midfielder.
Charette missed much of the season with a bout of mononucleosis, but since returning the Warriors have won their last seven matches while allowing just two goals.
“People talk about who the best goalies are,” said Desjardins. “I know we’ve got a very good one.”
Fort Kent split its two regular-season matches against rival Madawaska, the only Class C loss of the season for the Warriors. Fort Kent’s other two defeats were against Presque Isle, which reached this year’s Eastern B final before falling to Ellsworth.
The second-ranked Warriors defeated No. 7 Foxcroft Academy in the regional quarterfinals before upending defending state champion Washington Academy of East Machias 1-0 in the semifinals, ending the Raiders’ 32-match win streak.
“Before the game I told the boys we didn’t need to change anything, that the system would work, and that it was just another game to get to our ultimate goal,” said Desjardins.
A big crowd then turned out as Fort Kent hosted No. 4 Orono in the regional final, and the Warriors broke open a tight match with four goals from four different players — Thomas Levesque, Soucy, Chasse and Taggett — during a 15-minute span of the second half to pull away to a 5-1 victory.
Now comes one final challenge, against a 17-0 St. Dominic team seeking its second state title in the last three years after upending North Yarmouth Academy 2-0 in the Western C final.
St. Dominic has posted 12 shutouts this season, and is led offensively by Alex Parker and Jack Erickson, each with 19 goals.
“Saint Dom’s hasn’t lost yet, so we know they’re going to be good,” Desjardins said. “We just need to go out and continue to do what we’ve been doing, and that’s to play like we have been playing and to give it 100 percent.”