He did it again. Yarmouth junior Jared Conant, with help from classmate Steven Fulton, scores a goal during the Clippers’ 7-1 victory over North Yarmouth Academy Thursday. Conant scored a goal for the third straight season.

YARMOUTH—While Yarmouth’s boys’ soccer program is well known for winning championships and producing some of the best players in the state, what the program most prides itself on is its sense of acceptance and family.

And there’s no question that the legend of Jared Conant and the way the Clippers have embraced him is the program’s finest accomplishment.

Thursday afternoon, for the third year in a row, Conant, who is confined to a wheelchair with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle degeneration, took the field and stole the show by scoring a goal.

And oh by the way, Conant’s goal propelled Yarmouth to a 7-1 victory over visiting North Yarmouth Academy, which scored a feel-good goal of its own.

After the defending Class B state champion Clippers wrapped up the competitive phase of the contest by scoring four goals in the first half (seniors Gabe Collins and Baden McLaughlin, freshman Will Caruso and senior Will Cox did the honors), Conant made his appearance at the second half sanitation break and with the assistance of junior Steven Fulton, scored a goal which brought tears and cheers from players on the field and small group of fans.

The Panthers, the two-time reigning Class D South champion, got a goal back, when freshman Owen Welch scored his first varsity goal, then Yarmouth put it away late as senior Cam Merrill and freshman Max Gilbert scored as well.

“It means a lot to me,” said Conant. “It makes me feel like I’m part of the community and that people care about me. It really helps my self esteem.”

Sports done right

Conant lost his mother to cancer at the age of 4, then came to Yarmouth in elementary school from New Mexico and has become a fixture on the sidelines.

When Conant and his father, Barry, moved into the same neighborhood as longtime Clippers coach Mike Hagerty, they were welcomed into the Yarmouth soccer family, as Barry Conant served as an assistant coach and statistician, while Jared quickly became a favorite of the players and the fans (suffice it to say if he ran for class president, he’d win in a landslide).

“When I first came (to Yarmouth), I tried to do soccer, but it was really hard for me,” Jared Conant said. “That was before I knew I had a problem. After that, I didn’t feel like I’d be part of it, but in fourth grade, I moved into the same neighborhood as Coach Hagerty and that’s how this all started and since then, I’ve been part of the team.”

“After losing his Mom (Rae), when Jared was four, that was a traumatic thing,” said Barry Conant. “We didn’t have any family in New Mexico, so moving to Maine, where I grew up, was very important to me. I had two sisters and a cousin who lived in Yarmouth.

“Jared has such a big, happy personality. Everyone’s kind of jumped on his bandwagon and it’s made it easy for us to be here. It’s a tough community to be a single parent in because it’s so family-oriented, but Jared’s allowed us to find our niche here.”

Even before he was in high school, Jared Conant was big part of the Yarmouth boys’ soccer team, enjoying the company of the varsity players and finding himself in the middle of numerous celebrations. He received plenty of attention in the form of chants from the student section as well.

“We met when Jared was an elementary school student,” said Hagerty. “He knew I was a soccer coach so we talked soccer. When he was in middle school, we became neighbors and I thought, wouldn’t it be great if he could be involved with the high school program. Jared wanted to help with stats and Barry’s a smart sports guy. (The doctors) thought he’d be in a wheelchair by the time he was in high school, but he ended up in one in seventh grade. It progressed a little sooner than they thought.”

Conant has had a front row seat as Yarmouth has handled every team but one this fall. The Clippers opened with a 7-0 win over Mt. Ararat, then, following a 1-0 setback at Falmouth, downed host Cape Elizabeth and visiting Greely by 4-0 margins, then held on to beat host Freeport, 1-0. Tuesday, Yarmouth fell at home to Falmouth, 3-0.

NYA, under new coach Matt Williams, opened with a 5-1 home loss to two-time defending Class C champion Waynflete, then defeated visiting Morse (5-1), host St. Dom’s (3-0), visiting Gray-New Gloucester (1-0), host Morse (2-0) and visiting St. Dom’s Tuesday (3-2, in overtime on junior Chas Rohde’s goal).

Last year, Yarmouth blanked visiting NYA, 8-0, to improve to 10-0 (with three ties) against its crosstown rival dating back to the 2000 season (see below, for previous results).

Thursday, the Clippers beat the Panthers again, but ultimately, soccer took a backseat to a larger human drama.

Yarmouth took the lead for good four minutes in when Cox sent a through ball to Collins, who beat NYA junior goalkeeper Michael Belleau.

The Panthers’ chances were further compromised when Rohde had to leave the game with an apparent ankle injury and the Clippers took advantage, as senior Will Dickinson set up McLaughlin for a goal in the 12th minute, Caruso rebounded a shot from junior Matthew Robichaud in the 28th minute and with 4:23 left in the first half, junior Sutter Augur’s cross was headed home by Cox for a 4-0 halftime advantage.

Neither team scored in the first 20 minutes of the second half and after the sanitation break, Conant took the field and not one, but two inspirational goals followed.

With 19:44 left in the game, Conant got the ball and Fulton pushed him in front of the goal, where Conant kicked the ball over the line for a 5-0 lead.

“One of my teammates passed it to me and I just hit (the ball) into the goal,” said Conant. “It was really fun to get to be part of the team and be out there with all my friends.”

“This means everything to us,” Barry Conant said. “All the players  over the years have been fabulous. Small moments like this last us a long time. Jared was such a good player when he was younger. He played soccer in New Mexico and he was a Little League all-star here at one time. Now things are different and he has a different role, but he’s committed to his teammates like no other.”

You didn’t need the last name of Conant to be moved by the moment.

“It’s awesome to see Jared do that,” said McLaughlin. “We really all admire him because of what he’s been through. It’s amazing to see that he’s still so inspirational and motivated. It’s great every year to have something like this. It really shows the class that both teams have to give him this opportunity. ”

“It was great,” Hagerty said. “Kudos to Coach Williams and NYA for making it special. They were all about being inclusive and doing things right. Jared’s been a role model since the time he was younger. Conor O’Donnell (Class of 2016) wrote his college essay about Jared and Barry and their impact on the team. Anytime he was tired, he’d look over and see Jared and say, ‘I have nothing to complain about and I’m going to play harder.’

“We’re excited (Jared) could play today. (His disease) been progressing and he’s frustrated, but you’d never know it because he’s upbeat and befriends people. I’ve known him since he was in third grade and I’ve never heard him complain. He’s a great example. He doesn’t complain he can’t play or that he’s in a wheelchair. He’s easy to chat with. He’s wonderful to be with. He’s brought a really good perspective to all of us and he’s a great teammate. We’re blessed to have him.

“The guys get it. I’d like to think that everybody knows what the right thing to do is, it’s just do you have the guts to make the right choice? To embrace Jared and embrace events like tonight is the right thing to do. I’m excited that we could do it again this year.”

“When Mike called me yesterday, I was honored and happy he chose this game to be the one,” said Williams. “It means a little more with the crosstown rivalry. I was happy to play our part. It shows how fortunate we are. I was very happy Jared could score that goal. It’s very important to do the right thing.”

Next, it was NYA’s turn to score, as freshman Owen Welch did the honors, cutting the deficit to 5-1 with 19:14 to play. Welch punctuated the goal by fist-bumping Conant.

“Owen works really hard in training,” said Williams. “He’s been one of our JV guys. (Assistant coach) Dmitri (Roumeliotis) and I thought it was important for someone who has worked hard to put that goal in.”

“It was fun to see both of those goals today,” Barry Conant said. “That’s what athletics is all about. The kids will remember those moments more than most in their lifetime.”

Late in regulation, junior Zhi Cowles, who’s usually in goal for the Clippers, set up Merrill for a goal to make it 6-1, then off a corner kick serve from Augur, Gilbert scored for the first time to bring the curtain down on Yarmouth’s 7-1 victory.

“It’s good to get a win like this after (Falmouth),” said McLaughlin. “It was pretty cool to get a couple freshmen in the score column.”

“NYA’s got some injuries, so they’re struggling, but they fought all the way to the end so good for them,” Hagerty said.

Yarmouth finished with a 19-2 advantage in shots on frame, got one save from junior Colburn Snyder and took eight corner kicks to none for the Panthers.

NYA got 13 saves from Belleau.

“When we gave up the first goal, it was a wakeup call and after we lost Chas in the center-midfield, it was really tough,” said Williams. “You have to play perfect against great teams and we didn’t play perfect tonight, but I was really encouraged with the second half effort. We’re very young. We only lose a couple guys, so this is a great lesson for us.”

Rivlary games to finish

Each team has some challenging games remaining in their abbreviated season.

NYA goes to Waynflete Saturday, then closes at Richmond next Thursday.

“We want to establish an identity and get the guys comfortable with the coaching staff because they’ve had three different coaches in three years,” said Williams. “We want to get our brand of soccer going. I think we would have contended for a Class D championship this year. It’s unfortunate to not have that opportunity and while it’s not the season we would have hoped, just being out here and having something is important.”

Yarmouth welcomes Freeport Saturday and plays host to Mt. Ararat next Wednesday before finishing at Greely Oct. 31.

“Hopefully we can take this into the Freeport game Saturday,” said McLaughlin. “We want to give maximum effort our last few games and show what Yarmouth soccer’s all about.”

“We’re just grateful to be playing,” Hagerty said. “Falmouth’s a really good team and we had to bounce back the right way. Today was good to get guys playing time and we’re looking forward to Saturday.”

And of course, there’s always next year.

And don’t be surprised if Jared Conant saves his finest moment for his final high school appearance.

“I’m sure there’s been no kid in the country with a disability who’s ever scored a goal all four years,” Barry Conant said. “He’s part of a class that will be an exceptional senior group next year.”

“We hope to have Jared do it again next year,” Hagerty said. ‘When we did it freshman year, we thought that might be the only one. I’d love to do it Senior Night. We have a really special class that he’s part of and it’s special because he’s part of it, but it’s also special because they’re a great group of guys.”

“I want to do it again senior year,” Jared Conant said. That would be really fun to do it one more time.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Recent Yarmouth-NYA results

2019
@ Yarmouth 8 NYA 0

2017
@ Yarmouth 7 NYA 0

2012
@ NYA 2 Yarmouth 2 (tie)

2011
@ Yarmouth 2 NYA 0

2010
@ Yarmouth 1 NYA 0

2008
@ Yarmouth 4 NYA 0

2007
Yarmouth 2 @ NYA 1 (OT)

2006
@ Yarmouth 1 NYA 1 (tie)

2005
Yarmouth 3 @ NYA 2

2004
@ Yarmouth 5 NYA 0

2003
Yarmouth 1 @ NYA 0

2002
@ Yarmouth 4 NYA 1

2000
Yarmouth 6 @ NYA 6 (tie)

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