The Searsport District High School boys soccer team likely had hoped to make a bigger splash in Western Class D this season.

Instead, the Vikings are struggling to merely keep their roster intact.

Through the team's first seven games, the Vikings have only had the maximum 11 players on the field (10 field players and one goalie) twice, including the team's 4-2 loss to Bucksport Sept. 26.

The Vikings are 1-6 on the year, with the team's lone victory an 8-2 win over Islesboro, a coed squad also competing in Western Class D.

Needless to say, playing with fewer players on the field, in addition to not having the luxury of substitutes, makes competition challenging for the Vikings.

“You can't practice too well,” said coach John Frye. “You can't do too many drills if you don't have enough kids. And then competition-wise, you've got to leave holes somewhere on the field. Good teams are always going to find where we don't have a defender.”

“It's very challenging,” said junior co-captain Jay Burkard. “There's always one extra guy open so we all have to play twice hard to make up for that.”

It was discussed early in the season that the team sit out the year, which would incur a two-year suspension from varsity level competition by the Maine Principals' Association. Team members said no.

“I met with the captains first then I met with the whole team and they said, 'Absolutely' that they didn't want to do that [quit] and they wanted to play,” said Frye.

Jacob Powell, the other junior co-captain, said quitting on the season was not an option as they would have “been letting down the whole school and the team.”

“We all just have to push through it,” Powell said. “Sometimes [opponents] sub out their whole team and we just have to stay out there and play the entire game. It's hard.”

“It's been great to watch them play as far as their intensity and how they don't give up,” said athletic director Ruth Fitzpatrick. “Are there times where their legs are just exhausted? Absolutely. But they're out there trying really hard and I haven't seen anyone slack off, and I think that's quite a testament to those young men and not giving up.”

The Vikings have 12 players on the team, but anything can bring down the team's numbers.

Sometimes it's injuries. Sometimes it's driver's-ed.

Sometimes other student-athletes, such as Alex Woodward, one of the school's top golfers, participate in a match, such as Sept. 26 when Woodward was in Lincoln with the golf team to participate in the Penobscot Valley Conference championships and state Class C qualifier.

The MPA permits Class D schools with fewer than 100 students to allow middle school-aged players to participate in varsity athletics.

Searsport's enrollment as of last spring, when the determination was made to drop to Class D, was 173, thus making them ineligible to exercise that loophole. Presently, Searsport's enrollment sits at 158.

Nearby island schools such as Islesboro, North Haven and Vinalhaven all have less than 100 enrolled students.

According to Mike Burnham of the Maine Principals' Association, the minimum number of players a boys soccer team can tout on the field without incurring a forfeit is seven.

Reserves likely will be on the way next season, with the Searsport District Middle School boys soccer team boasting 14 players, seven of whom are eighth-graders. The younger Vikings are 6-2 through eight games in the Busline League.

“It's a strong group [coming up],” said Fitzpatrick. “And I think that's part of what's pushing our kids on is they want to keep the team going because they can see the future of it.”

SDHS Viking team members include juniors Woodward, Powell, Burkard and Dylon Grant; sophomores Bryce Shorey, Dean Evans, Cody Parks, Matt Barlow and Eric Phillips; and freshmen Cameron Watt, Barrett Grant and Lucas Henderson.