YARMOUTH — Jack Jones awoke in darkness Monday morning. Half an hour later, when he arrived at Yarmouth High’s synthetic turf field for the first soccer practice of his senior year, the sun still had not risen above a leaden gray horizon, but the day was coming into view.

“We’re out working,” he said, “when most people are sleeping.”

Jones, you may recall, scored the winning goal in Yarmouth’s 2-1 victory over Winslow in the Class B state championship game last November. It marked the fourth straight title for the Clippers and 12th overall, more than any boys’ soccer program in state history.

“I have some mixed emotions,” Jones said about Yarmouth’s 6 a.m. practice session, the first of two on Monday. “I’m obviously very excited to come out and play with my friends, but it’s also a little sad knowing this is my last time waking up and coming to preseason (workouts). This will be the last year I play for Yarmouth.”

Monday marked the first allowable day of fall practice for six high school sports across most of the state. Cross country, golf, field hockey, football and volleyball teams also held their first official workouts. Season schedules are set to begin by the end of August.

Everywhere, seniors are asserting leadership, freshmen are wide-eyed and anxious, and sophomores and juniors are trying to see where they fit in. Coaches are evaluating talent and noticing who worked hard over the summer and who may have slacked off a bit.

“It’s fun to have everyone back together,” said Liv Feeley, a Yarmouth senior whose girls’ soccer practice followed the boys. “I’ve been doing this since my freshman year and it kind of brings back all the same feelings. Not so much the nervousness that I felt going into it, but just the sense of team.”

Yarmouth’s soccer programs didn’t lose a varsity game last fall. Both teams went 18-0. The girls have won two straight Class B state titles and 23 consecutive games. The boys have won 24 straight.

“It’s a hard record to follow,” Feeley said, “but we’re optimistic and I think if everyone puts in their best effort, we can hopefully repeat it.”

This fall marks the 22nd year for Mike Hagerty as head coach of the Yarmouth boys’ soccer program. With four assistant and two volunteer coaches, Hagerty must figure out how to divide 63 boys into three squads: varsity, junior varsity and freshmen.

The first test, only 15 minutes after sunrise, was to run a mile in less than six minutes. Following a three-minute rest, coaches timed the boys in four quarter-mile runs, spaced 90 seconds apart, with the goal of completing each in a minute and a half.

Hagerty estimated that close to three-quarters of the boys passed both fitness tests. The players knew Hagerty’s expectations and the smart ones trained accordingly.

“We won’t run a mile again all year,” he said. “All of our training is sprint and recover. We’ll do quarter-mile times and sprints, but we won’t do any more long-distance running.”

Senior Jack Romano turned in the fastest mile – 5 minutes and 24 seconds. Classmate Eric LaBrie, who led the team with 26 goals last season and earned All-New England honors, clocked in at 6:12, but he has asthma, “so it’s sometimes a struggle for me,” he said. “The first day’s the hardest and then it gets a little bit easier from that.”

Jones, Romano and LaBrie are among eight Yarmouth seniors, the smallest senior class in Hagerty’s tenure. Even so, the Clippers are ranked 21st nationally in the USA Today/United Soccer Coaches Super 25 preseason poll.

“It’s always been a thin class,” Hagerty said. “They’re great but our strength is our juniors, and we have four sophomores fighting for a starting spot.”

To Chris Coleman, second-year head coach of the Yarmouth girls, eight seniors sounds extravagant. Only three of the 38 girls who showed up for practice Monday morning are about to enter their final year of high school.

“When you graduate a lot of players, it’s starting again,” Coleman said. “We can look back on the success of last year but we want to continue to build on the success this year with the players we’ve got coming in.”

In Yarmouth, hungry and talented players keep flowing into the program. Combining Saturday clinics for 3- to 5-year-olds, recreation soccer for first- and second-graders and the Colts youth clubs for grades 3 to 8 that are bursting at the seams, Hagerty estimates between 600 and 700 children are playing soccer in a town with a population of 8,500.

“There’s a reason why we’ve won four years in a row,” he said. “It’s because we started 20 years ago. Our youth club is the biggest travel club in the state.”

Jones remembers well those early years and how he used to idolize the high school players. Now he’s on the other end of the spectrum.

“When I was in first and second grade, I went to all their games,” he said. “I looked up to those guys so much. It’s been one of my goals to play on the (varsity) team since I was so little. We’ve created this community where kids just love soccer and they love to play.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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