ROCKPORT, Maine — The Camden Hills boys soccer team began the 2012 season fresh off winning an Eastern Maine Class B championship but somewhat uncertain about its immediate future with just one starter back to lead the way.
The 2013 season begins with much less uncertainty.
Nearly all of the lineup is back from last year’s squad, which battled its way to a second straight regional crown and nearly ended Western Maine’s dominance of the state title game in its division before falling to Falmouth 2-1 in the final for the second straight season.
“It’s very reassuring,” said senior midfielder Peter Vannorsdall of Camden Hills’ returning experience. “Last year we thought we’d go .500, we weren’t too confident going into the season.
“This year it’s more like two years ago when we had 18 seniors. We’re a lot closer this year than we were last year, and we’re playing much tighter from having some strong leadership.”
Falmouth’s victory over Camden Hills — with the game-winning goal coming on a penalty kick with 8:29 left in the second half — marked the 19th straight year the Western representative has won the Class B state final.
Falmouth has won nine of those crowns since Ellsworth won the 1994 state championship for Eastern Maine, while Yarmouth is a five-time champion since then, Marshwood of South Berwick and York each have won twice and Scarborough was the 1999 champion.
The landscape has changed somewhat in Western B since last year’s final, particularly with Falmouth being reclassified to Class A. But traditional Western Maine powers Cape Elizabeth and Greely of Cumberland Center have dropped from Class A to Class B to join Yarmouth as what should be a formidable trio near the top of that region’s Heal point ratings.
“We see the competition in Western Maine and know that nothing’s going to be easy if we can get back there again,” said Vannorsdall.
Yet it’s a streak the Windjammers would like a third straight shot at ending come early November.
“Every year that’s the goal, for sure,” said fourth-year Camden Hills head coach Ryan Hurley Tuesday afternoon as his team traveled to Gorham for a preseason contest.
The Windjammers, 14-2-2 a year ago, figure to be one of the prime contenders to earn that opportunity, along with the likes of neighboring Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston and Ellsworth, the perennial Penobscot Valley Conference power that dropped an overtime decision to Camden Hills in last year’s Eastern Maine final.
“It’s disappointing losing at states two years in a row,” said Vannorsdall, a team captain along with senior goalkeeper Marshall Spear. “We definitely like to take it game by game, but we’d love to return to states and we expect to return to states.”
Vannorsdall said the veteran nature of the Camden Hills roster is allowing the squad to continue refining its play this preseason.
“Our style of play is different this year, we’re focusing more on the midfield,” he said.
The Windjammers also hope to capitalize on depth that in some areas was rushed to the forefront due to some late-season injuries last fall.
“I feel like I’ve got 22 starters,” said Hurley, whose roster includes 14 seniors.
Camden Hills is in the midst of an arduous preseason schedule, having already scrimmaged Bangor, Brunswick and Yarmouth before making its trip to Gorham, a Western A finalist in 2012.
“We’ve just got to make sure we’re on the same page both on and off the field,” said Hurley.
The Windjammers open their regular season Sept. 10 at home against Medomak Valley of Waldoboro.
Donald Goodrich of Cheverus High School in Portland, the reigning recipient of the Fitzpatrick Trophy as the state’s outstanding football senior player-sportsman, is one of 33 finalists for the National Football Foundation’s High School National Scholar-Athlete Awards.
The awards honor recipients from each of five regions around the country for their accomplishments as athletes, scholars and citizens.
The five winners, who are now playing college football but are being recognized for their accomplishments in high school, will be announced the week of Oct. 9 and then will travel to New York City to be honored during the NFF Chapter Awards Luncheon on Dec. 10.
Goodrich, who now attends the University of New Hampshire, helped Cheverus win the 2011 Class A state title and advance to the Western A final last fall before the Stags fell to eventual state champion Thornton Academy of Saco — a loss that ended the team’s 34-game winning streak.
Goodrich, one of nine nominees for the NFF award from the Northeast region, rushed for 1,722 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2012 while also starring as a defensive end and kick return specialist. He had seven pass interceptions last fall.