The numbers running around Ellsworth boys’ soccer coach Brian Higgins’ mind this week go beyond his 9-0 record, or even the 500th win he notched last Wednesday.

What Higgins was thinking when he came off Del Luce Stadium in Ellsworth after hitting the 500 mark with his team’s 7-0 win over Hermon was the 100 or so alumni who came back to see the historic game, the more than 500 soccer players he’s coached, and even the 11,000 kids he’s taught as a physical education teacher in 38 years at Ellsworth High.

But make no mistake, Higgins’ achievement puts him in an elite class of coaches nationally.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations in Indianapolis, Higgins is eighth among active coaches. He sits 15th on the all-time list with a 73 percent winning percentage.

“There are 11,503 high school boys’ soccer programs in the United States. There are just eight active coaches over 500. Once you’ve gotten to 500 wins, you’re in a very elite group,” said John Gillis at the National Federation of State High School Associations, which tracks and keeps national high school sports records.

Gillis said the association’s list may not be completely comprehensive, but it’s close. The association keeps records in 6,500 categories, said Gillis, the association’s associate director of publications and communication

High school sports records have been kept by the association for 32 years.

The all-time winningest soccer coach in the nation according to the association is Terry Michler with 825 wins at St. Louis Christian Brothers College in Missouri, where Michler is still coaching.

But to the 38-year Ellsworth coach, his 501-95-42 record is always about the kids, not the national record books.

“I never played soccer. I can’t do drills. The reason (we’ve won so much at Ellsworth) is we get the best athletes in the school,” Higgins said. “They play soccer because there is no football program. And certainly we’ve had great cross country runners. But there is some reason they play hard for me.”

It was for the kids that he started the European soccer trip the school has run every other summer since 1989.

Ellsworth teams have played in Belgium, England, Holland, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Italy, France and Wales.

“We even played in San Marino, (one of the) smallest countries in the world,” Higgins said.

Higgins said after he notched his 400th win in 2004, he wasn’t ready to retire. Now 67, he’s thinking about it. But as always, ending his great run seems far in the future.

“I thought I would get done this year. I always said I would retire when I got to 500 wins or 100 losses, whatever came first,” Higgins said. “But this freshman class is so great. They’re good people and great players. I told them I’d see them through. But I’ll never get to 600 wins.”

Maybe. But 38 years and 501 wins later, Higgins still has the same passion for coaching that he said has kept him young.

“The first game I coached I got red-carded. The bus driver had to coach the game,” he said.

BIG GAMES this week in Class B include Falmouth’s match with Freeport on Monday and Falmouth’s game against top-ranked York next Wednesday.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: Flemingpph