YARMOUTH—The wildly successful Yarmouth boys’ soccer program has produced hundreds of fabulous players over the decades.

But there’s never been anyone quite like Jared Conant.

Conant, a senior captain, who is confined to a wheelchair with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and a very short life expectancy, long ago made an indelible impact on his teammates, coaches, classmates and everyone fortunate enough to cross his path, and he took the field one final time Saturday afternoon.

On Senior Day.

And if Jared Conant is on the field, a goal is sure to ensue.

And so is a Clippers’ victory.

For the fourth year in a row, Conant was inserted into a game and with the approval and support of the opposition, this time the visiting Gray-New Gloucester Patriots, Conant kicked the ball into the goal.

That started the game and after Yarmouth reciprocated with an “own goal” to tie the score, the Clippers’ offense roared to life and produced another victory during an undefeated-to-date regular season.

In the game’s fourth minute, senior Sutter Augur put Yarmouth ahead to stay and Augur added a second goal with 25 minutes to go in the first half. By halftime, junior Truman Peters, sophomore Adam McLaughlin and senior Sawyer Flowerdew had tacked on goals to make the score 6-1.

Late in the second half, senior Asher Lockwood scored one final goal for the Clippers who went on to a 7-1 victory.

But the final score won’t be what this game will be remembered for, or the fact that the result makes Yarmouth 8-0-1 on the season and Gray-New Gloucester 4-4-1.

What will linger is Conant’s impact on his teammates and his inherent goodness.

“I couldn’t have dreamed any of this,” said Conant. “It’s been hard since I’ve been diagnosed, but being a part of this program has made such an impact on me. It’s made me think less of myself and more about others.”

“We always talk about working hard and not complaining and I haven’t heard (Jared) complain in eight years,” said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. “He’s gotten progressively worse and would do anything to play and yet he doesn’t complain. He helps his team in whatever way that he can. More than just being a good role model, but helping with stats and contributing with very good observations and keeping kids focused. He was elected captain by his peers. That’s a huge show of respect. He’s such a great role model for all of us.”

True Blue Clipper

Yarmouth, the reigning Class B champion from 2019, is up to its usual dominance so far this season. The Clippers started with a 2-0 win at Cape Elizabeth. After a 4-0 home victory over Freeport, Yarmouth downed host York (4-0), visiting Greely (2-1), host North Yarmouth Academy (5-1) and visiting Poland (6-0). Tuesday, the Clippers settled for a scoreless draw at Freeport before bouncing back Thursday with an 8-0 win at Wells.

Gray-New Gloucester has been very competitive under new coach Will Burdick, a one-time standout at Waynflete (Class of 2016) who later played at Emmanuel College in Boston. The Patriots opened with wins over Wells (5-0) and Lake Region (6-1), then tied Fryeburg Academy (1-1) before beating Poland (7-0). Close losses to York (2-0) and Freeport (1-0) followed before a 5-2 home loss to Greely Monday. The following day, Gray-New Gloucester bounced back with a 3-1 home victory over Traip Academy.

The teams last met in 2019, a 1-1 tie in Gray.

Saturday, on a 57-degree afternoon that featured a mix of clouds and sunshine, the good feelings started before the game even began, as Yarmouth’s 14 seniors were honored with their families.

That group included Conant, with his father, Barry, who has devoted his life to his son.

Jared Conant lost his mother (Rae) to cancer when he was 4, then came to Yarmouth in elementary school from New Mexico and has become a fixture on the sidelines.

When the Conants moved into the same neighborhood as Hagerty, they were welcomed into the extended Yarmouth soccer family, as Barry Conant served as an assistant coach and statistician extraordinaire, while Jared quickly became a favorite of the players and the fans (suffice it to say if Yarmouth had a mayor and Conant ran, he’d win in a landslide).

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 championship celebrations. He received plenty of attention in the form of chants from the student section as well.

As a freshman, Conant scored his first career goal against Lake Region. The next year, he scored a goal against Fryeburg Academy. Last season, Conant scored during the Clippers’ 7-1 win over North Yarmouth Academy.

Saturday, Yarmouth got the ball to start the game and quickly worked it down the field where senior Isaac Grondin set the ball at Conant’s feet right in front of the goal and Conant sent it over the line with the game just 35 seconds old. Conant’s teammates then mobbed him as if he’d scored a state championship-winning goal and he got his share of appreciation from the Patriots as well.

“It really meant a lot to me,” Conant said. “It’s good to be with my fellow seniors and get to share the moment with all of them. It was special that Isaac, one of my closest friends, helped me score the goal. It was cool to have a lot of my family here to see it. I get pretty excited before these games. I wish I got to get more goals, but it was fun getting the four I got. I really appreciate Coach Hagerty for helping make this happen.”

“This is one of those things you really have to write a script to believe,” said Barry Conant. “We had to have cooperation from all of the other schools to do this. You see how opposing players rush to him as much as his own teammates do when he scores. High school sports should have more moments like this. It’s tremendous for us and the community. He gives all the time and today’s a chance for him to get a little. Jared sees how other kids with diseases are often in the corner and he understands how lucky he is to have a chance to do his thing.”

“Coming into it, we talked about today being Senior Day, but more important it was ‘Jared Day,’ and we wanted to make it special for him,” said Lockwood. “He brings a lot to the team. I think he’s really our MVP. As a captain this year, he’s stepped up and helped our camaraderie. He leads by example.”

“Eight years ago, we didn’t dream about getting Jared on the field,” Hagerty added. “His disease progressed faster than expected in middle school, but it slowed down in high school and that surprised a lot of medical people. Then, we had a scare when he had a seizure in the preseason, so we wanted to make sure we got him to Senior Day. That jolted all of us. It made today that much more special. For me, it’s about how every day he’s appreciative and is happy to be here. So many of us are stuck in the grind. We get caught up in not being present, especially the last 18 months. He’s a very good reminder to be present and grateful. Jared doesn’t know any other way to be. He could have taken a different path in life, but credit to Barry and his family and mostly to Jared.”

While the first 35 seconds were a tough act to follow, the Clippers, after sending the ball into their own goal to tie the game, put on an impressive offensive show the remainder of the first half.

With 36:04 to play, in transition, senior Owen Gillian passed ahead to Augur, who raced in and beat Gray-New Gloucester junior goalkeeper Drew Reynolds for a 2-1 advantage.

After some near-misses, Yarmouth struck again with 25:06 to go, as Lockwood set up Augur for a second goal and some breathing room.

After Augur’s bid for a hat trick was sent just high, the Clippers built from the back and had a quick transition for a fourth goal.

The play began with a beautiful long feed from senior back Kevin Kamm (give him the “hockey assist”) to McLaughlin, who set up Peters for a 4-1 lead.

With 19:43 on the clock, McLaughlin got a goal of his own, as after sophomore Will Caruso sent a blast off the crossbar, McLaughlin was waiting for the rebound and finished.

With 12:56 remaining in the half, Reynolds saved a shot from senior Zhi Cowles, but Flowerdew scored on the rebound.

Yarmouth took a 6-1 lead to the half, thanks to a 7-0 advantage in shots on frame.

“The seniors on the bench cheered us on,” Lockwood said. “We’ve all played together a long time and have great chemistry.”

“There was a little bit of juice left over from (Jared scoring),” Hagerty said. “I’m glad today came together nicely. We have a very special senior class. To have 14 nice, hardworking seniors is really special. The seniors love to play for each other. It’s rare we get all the seniors on the field at the same time because we have such good underclassmen. They came out focused. It was a well put together first half.”

The second half saw the Clippers as content to pass than shoot, but there were some opportunities.

Yarmouth couldn’t cash in on any of them, however, until just 58 seconds remained, when off a corner kick, senior Oliver Prinn got the ball to Lockwood, who scored his first goal of the season.

“That goal felt good,” Lockwood said. “It was nice to get involved in the scoring.”

That brought the curtain down on the 7-1 victory.

“Gray’s a good team,” Hagerty said. “They’ll be a tough out in the playoffs. To hang six (goals) in the first half on them was quite an accomplishment. We’ve changed some formations and moved a couple kids around. I honestly think I did some overcoaching early in the year instead of letting kids play positions where they’d play positions more naturally. The kids have thrived with that.”

Yarmouth finished with a 10-1 shots advantage.

Gray-New Gloucester hopes to get back in the win column Tuesday at Wells. The Patriots host NYA Friday.

Yarmouth still has multiple tests on its slate, starting with a key home tilt versus Cape Elizabeth Tuesday. After going to Fryeburg Academy Friday, the Clippers play York at home, visit Greely, then close at home against two-time reigning Class C champion Waynflete.

“We’ve got some tough games left,” Hagerty said. “Cape will be a good test. They’re solid, athletic, tough on the ball. It could be a preview of a playoff game. The first seed is ours to win, but we have to keep winning.”

College and beyond

Yarmouth still has a lot of season to play and Jared Conant will play an integral role in the Clippers’ quest for yet another Gold Ball, but he has bigger aspirations.

According to Barry Conant, his son, who is an honor student, wants to study engineering in college and the search is on for a college that will best suit him.

There’s no doubt that Jared Conant will continue to inspire in the years to come, but he’s forever synonymous with the Clippers and he’ll be immortalized for his time with the Yarmouth soccer program.

“It’s a mixture of happy and sad because it’s the last time I’m going to do this,” Jared Conant said. “It’s bittersweet, but knowing I’ll be known about for awhile and my legacy will live on makes me feel very special.”

“For me, the last two or three days have been really emotional because it’s another thing that I know is the last time it’s going to happen,” Barry Conant said. “I can still visualize the last Little League at-bat he had in an all-star game. Today’s another day like that. There’s a lot of good things, but for me, it’s incredibly emotional to know that this is it. Moments like these will help us going forward when we have dark days. We’ll have incredible memories to flash back to.

“Jared will revel in this for a long time.”

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

Comments are not available on this story.