HAMPDEN, Maine — Josh Stevens, who coached the boys junior varsity soccer team at Hampden Academy last fall, will coach the Broncos’ varsity squad for the 2009-2010 season.
Stevens, a master sergeant with the 101st Air Refueling Wing out of Bangor, also has an extensive background as a soccer official, according to HA athletic administrator David Shapiro.
Stevens replaces Kiaran McCormack, who relocated to Florida after coaching the Broncos last season.
The 30-year-old Stevens was a three-year starter at sweeper at Bangor High School during the mid-1990s, and captained the Rams as a junior and a senior.
He learned the game under four different high school soccer coaches while at Bangor: Roger Reed, Scott Warman, Mark Hundhammer and Keith Bosley.
Stevens went on to play for one year at Maine Maritime Academy before joining the Air National Guard.
He joined the Eastern Maine board of soccer officials in 1998.
“I’d always intended to go into coaching,” said Stevens, “but not too many schools back then were hiring 18- to 20-year-olds to coach, especially at the Class A level.”
Stevens has officiated on the high school level for a decade, but soon after working his first state championship match, the 2006 Class C final between Piscataquis of Guilford and Traip Academy of Kittery, he realized his soccer future was at a crossroads.
“It was right about that time I thought I needed to decide whether I wanted to coach or to officiate at the next level and go into collegiate refereeing,” he said.
Stevens found coaching at the junior varsity level last fall a valuable learning experience.
“It helped me develop as a coach,” he said, “and how to build a rapport with players and how to find ways to motivate them.”
Hampden went 8-4-2 on the varsity level during the 2008 regular season to earn the No. 8 seed in Eastern Maine Class A, then defeated Lewiston in a preliminary-round match before falling to eventual regional champion Bangor in the quarterfinals.
Stevens will look to extend a strong recent run by the Hampden boys soccer program, which is 71-24-5 overall during the last seven seasons, including a 62-19-3 mark in six years under Ryan Shaw.
“Hampden, I believe, is a soccer school,” Stevens said. “They start playing at an early age, and there’s an expectation of winning here and that’s what I want to be part of.”
The Broncos are expected to return a fairly veteran team next season, especially on defense and at midfield, though the team did graduate three of its leading scorers.
“We want to try and build from the back and keep the ball out of our net,” said Stevens.
Only four unbeatens remain
The high school baseball season is just rounding the quarter pole for many schools, but balance already is in vogue throughout Eastern Maine.
Just four teams in the region remain undefeated entering Friday’s play — Messalonskee of Oakland, Waterville, Caribou and Katahdin of Stacyville.
Messalonskee is off to a 5-0 start in Eastern A, a run highlighted by a 15-4 victory over defending regional champion Brewer — the Witches’ lone loss. Coach Ray Bernier’s Eagles should be tested again today when they come to Bangor for a 4 p.m. game at Mansfield Stadium against Bangor, 5-1 after an 11-8 loss at Brewer on Monday evening.
Waterville began the week atop the Eastern B Heal point ratings, and the Purple Panthers are now 5-0 after a 12-3 win at Mount View of Thorndike on Tuesday. That effort is highlighted by an early 16-6 win at defending state champion Gardiner.
Waterville is joined in the Eastern B unbeaten ranks by Caribou, which at 3-0 is still just getting its season off the ground.
Coach Jim Thibodeau’s club has averaged more than 15 runs a game in a doubleheader sweep of Hermon and a win against Class C Fort Kent, but should get its biggest challenge of the early season Saturday in a doubleheader at once-beaten Ellsworth.
The Vikings have been led by two-way senior standout Patrick Thibodeau, a pitcher-outfielder who has 13 hits in 17 at-bats for a .765 batting average with a home run, two doubles, two triples, seven stolen bases and 11 RBIs. Other top hitters for Caribou include Matt Kinney (.588) and Tedd Walker (.526, 11 RBI).
One of the most challenging aspects of the Vikings’ quest for a high playoff seeding is their schedule — Saturday’s trek to Ellsworth will mark the second of five doubleheaders that make up the bulk of Caribou’s 16-game slate, and the first of four twinbills to be held on consecutive Saturdays.
Like Caribou, Katahdin is still in the opening stages of its regular-season schedule at 3-0 after its game against Hodgdon on Wednesday was postponed and rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on May 14. That will be one of three doubleheaders for coach Marty McCarthy’s club, including this Saturday when the Cougars come to Bangor for perhaps their first serious challenge of the spring against a Bangor Christian team that began this week rated second in the Eastern D Heal points.
The Cougars, who returned their team nearly intact from last year’s run to the Eastern Maine championship, have averaged 13.3 runs per game in their three victories to date.