Monday, December 9, 2013
By DALE DUFF Special to the Telegram
EASTON - For Easton boys' soccer coach Ryan Shaw, Monday's 1-0 victory over Central Aroostook represented both good and bad news.
The good news -- a five-game winning streak. The bad news -- the chance to make it six consecutive wins is four weeks away. Oct. 10 to be exact.
Welcome to potato harvest time in The County.
"Both of my grandfathers were farmers so I knew what I was getting into," said Shaw, a UMaine grad and former soccer coach at Hampden Acaemy. "I grew up here, then left the area in the '90s. When I came back as a coach four years ago, it was a big adjustment for me."
That adjustment means coming up with a coaching plan to deal with the following: An early start to preseason (July 23), 11 games in about four weeks, a three-week harvest break, then the conclusion of the regular season followed by postseason games, maybe.
"It's difficult on the soccer teams, no question," said longtime Easton Athletic Director Steve Shaw, "but we're a farming community. Farmers depend on the kids working. We can't say no."
In recent years, some schools in Aroostook County have stopped taking the harvest break while others have shortened it to just one week.
Easton continues to take the traditional three-week break. No one sees that changing any time soon. Not with farmland making up most of the 39 square miles that is Easton.
"At least half of my players work," said Coach Shaw. "We will be lucky to have one, maybe two full-squad practices over the next three weeks. I plan to be there every day for practice, but you never know how many kids can show up. Even if it's just one, the benefit is being able to teach some fundamentals."
While his team waits for that next game on Oct. 10, Shaw knows his team's No. 3 ranking in the Eastern Class D Heal points will drop, likely down to somewhere around ninth place. The top 13 teams make the playoffs, so the final three games after the harvest are crucial.
Meanwhile, Coach Shaw works his day job in the financial service business. He admits over the next 29 days he also has a keen interest in the weather forecasting business.
"I don't wish anything bad for the farmers, but a rainy day means more kids can come to practice. Just a rainy day or two would be nice."
SO FAR, SO GOOD: Foxcroft Academy place-kicker Caleb Richard has made all 24 of his PAT attempts. He was 10 of 10 on Friday night, when the Ponies moved to 3-0 in Eastern Class C with a 72-0 win over Maine Central Institute. Foxcroft has outscored opponents, 198-6.
SHOWDOWN: The top two teams in the Eastern Class A girls' soccer Heal point standings, Brunswick (6-0) and Bangor (6-0), meet at 6 p.m. Friday in Bangor. The Dragons and Rams own the last three Eastern Maine titles.