When the coach breaks a leg on the eve of the opener, it might be an indication a soccer team could be in for a long season, but that’s not the case with the boys’ team at Noble High.
Despite being without Coach Matt Foster for the first 10 days of the season, the Knights have gotten off one of the best starts in school history.
Noble started the week behind first-place Deering in the Western Class A Heal point standings.
Going into a game against Biddeford on Tuesday, the Knights were 7-1-1.
Foster, who still needs crutches to get around, credits the seven seniors with providing leadership when it was needed most.
“The boys had to step up and lead, and they did,” he said.
While Foster was sidelined, Noble earned a 1-0 victory against Portland on its home field at North Berwick. Two days later it played Deering to a scoreless tie on the artificial turf at Memorial Field in Portland.
“The guys really stepped up and did what needed to be done,” he said. “I had nothing to do with those two games. I wasn’t even there.”
The early-season success has kept the Knights among the SMAA’s elite.
“I think there’s a lot of parity in the league this season,” Foster said. “The top teams are still good but maybe not as good as they have been in the past, and the bottom teams are not as bad as they have been in the past. It’s a very strong league from top to bottom. There’s more teams that can compete.”
Last fall the Knights qualified for the regional tournament for the first time in a decade in Foster’s second season as coach. They went on the road to beat South Portland in a preliminary-round game before losing to perennial powerhouse Greely in the quarterfinals.
“Last year we were a defensive-minded team,” Foster said, “but this season we’ve tried to go on the attack or counter whenever possible.”
The future looks bright for the Knights. Their two best players, Josh Emard and Brandon Ford, are juniors. Emard leads the team in scoring and Ford is a key operative in the midfield.
“I carry three freshmen on the squad who looked very good at the beginning of the year,” Foster said, “and they’re contributing minutes for us right now.”
With an eye to the future, Foster also is trying to tweak the youth soccer programs in the far-flung School Administration District 60, which includes the York County towns of Berwick, North Berwick and Lebanon.
“Each town does its own youth system,” he said, “and we’re actually in the process right now in working with some of those youth systems to try to get everybody on the same page as far as where we’re going and what we want to accomplish with this program.”
KEY MATCHUPS: As the regular season winds down, the games become more important as teams jockey for postseason position.
Thursday night, Noble visits Gorham for an SMAA game that could nail down home-field advantage for the winner for at least the first two rounds of the Western Class A tournament.
That same night, Falmouth travels to York for a Western Maine Conference game. The Wildcats, who are in Class B, are one of the few remaining point-worthy teams on the schedule for Falmouth, in its first Class A season.
On Friday night, Kennebunk, which remains in the running for a berth in the Western Class A tournament, travels to play Yarmouth, the top team in Western Class B.
On Saturday night, Greely will be home against Cape Elizabeth in a Western Maine Conference game between two of the region’s top Class B teams.
Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: