ELLSWORTH, Maine — For the last three years Josh Bean has been playing soccer with the older guys at Ellsworth High School.
Now Bean, considered one of the top players in Eastern Maine regardless of class, is that older guy.
The senior midfielder is one of just five seniors on a 21-player squad Eagles’ coach Brian Higgins describes as one of the youngest he has overseen during his nearly four decades and more than 500 victories at Ellsworth.
“We are definitely a young team,” said Bean after a recent win over John Bapst of Bangor. “It’s going to be hard but they’re learning quick and doing a great job of filling in for what we lost last year. They’re doing a great job.”
Bean’s leadership of the youthful Ellsworth team — which is off to a 6-0 start after a 4-1 win over George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill on Wednesday — comes through being both a friend and an on-field example to the underclassmen on a roster that includes nine sophomores.
That on-field play has led to Bean being named the Penobscot Valley Conference co-player of the year last fall while earning first-team All-PVC status in both 2010 and 2011.
“Josh has got an incredibly high motor,” said John Bapst coach Sean Smith. “He sees the entire field. He plays with his eyes up at all times and is always thinking two or three passes ahead. Not to take anything away from any of my guys and the other teams we play, but he’s the best player in Eastern Maine as far as I’m concerned, in Class B at least. I haven’t seen what’s going on in the other classes, but for my money at least, he’s a great, great player.”
Bean also was named to the Maine Soccer Coaches Association Eastern Maine state team in 2011 and to the MSCA’s Eastern B all-star team each of the last two years.
And while he’s a guard on the Eagles basketball team during the winter, he plays for the Portland-based Seacoast United Maine Crew soccer team during the spring and summer. Earlier this year that team won the SoccerMaine State Cup 17-and-under title and advanced to the The US Youth Soccer Region I championships in Lancaster, Pa.
“We’ve had three good central midfielders here going back to Andrew Austin and then Zach Emeigh when Josh was a freshman, and now Josh has been there for the last two years,” said Higgins. “He just seems to know where every ball is going to go when he’s on defense, he’s always in the line of where the kick’s going to go. I watch him, and if the ball’s over on the right side of the field he just runs over there because he knows the ball’s going down that wing.
“Josh just seems to have a knack for that, and then once he controls the ball he can get away — his dribbling moves are good enough for him to do that. Against Old Town he must have dribbled through six guys to score, and that was a big goal for us [in a 2-0 Ellsworth win].”
While Bean is working to improve his individual skills with an eye toward playing in college next year, his immediate goal is to help his younger teammates develop with an eye toward making another deep postseason run this fall.
After all, there typically are high expectations at Ellsworth given that Bean’s tenure with the Eagles already includes Eastern Maine Class B championships in 2009 and 2010 and a trip to the regional semifinals last fall.
Bean already is seeing growth within his team, which has outscored its first six opponents by a combined 21-2.
“We went over to Europe this past summer and the coach over there was just telling us to pass it around to get that feeling of teamwork,” said Bean.
“That’s what we’ve been working on, and you can start to see it coming together. We’re improving more and more each time out.”