Last season, the Mount View boys soccer team, after missing the playoffs for three straight seasons, took Class B North by storm and surprised many in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.

This season, the Mustangs are not surprising anyone. And, unfortunately for opponents, this year’s version looks better — and hungrier.

“We’re off to a good start without a doubt,” said coach Dale Hustus, who is in the midst of his second full season as the Mustangs' coach. “But it’s a long season. We’re at the halfway point, but there’s still a lot that can happen.”

As of Monday, Sept. 24, Mount View was 7-0 and second in Class B North, close behind No. 1 Caribou, although the Mustangs have held the top spot at several points this fall.

The ‘Stangs missed the playoffs from 2014-16 as Hustus took over as the team’s coach a few games into the 2016 season.

The Mustangs then went 13-1 in Hustus’ first full season as coach in 2017, he was KVAC Class B coach of the year and led his squad to a berth in the KVAC Class B championship game.

Not that one would get Hustus to make much hoopla about his effect on the team.

“It is more the players,” he said of his group of nine seniors, three juniors, eight sophomores and seven freshmen. “This year’s senior class has played together for a long time. They are a very tight-knit group of skilled athletes.”

The Mustangs graduated only three starters from last year’s team, including goalie Max Tomlin, Gage Gilley, Josh Larrabee, Noah Oathout and Kevin Randall. Tomlin, Larrabee and Oathout were starters.

The Mount View offense has amassed 34 goals through seven games, while the defense has pitched shutouts in four of those contests and has given up only five goals on the campaign.

The Mustangs have a new keeper this season in sophomore Ricky Nelson, whom Hustus said, “Has done a good job, but he’s been helped by a great defensive unit in front of him.”

Damien Doughty, a four-year varsity player, is “the heart” of Hustus’ defense at center back as “he does not get overly excited, he stays cool, calm and collected, has great footwork and rather than just booting the ball, he’s always looking for a target in the midfield.”

Flanking Doughty on either side are seniors Matt Overlock and Chase Gilley. Overlock was a goal scorer last year but shifted back to the defense, volunteering after seeing a need to be filled on that side of the ball; and Gilley, who was a substitute last year, but “has really stepped up and taken a much bigger role” with the ‘Stangs, the coach said.

Seniors Andrew Savoy and Jackson Martin are the yin and yang of the defensive midfield.

“[Andrew is] fast as lightning [and] can run the whole game if I would let him,” said Hustus. “He has shown some great maturity this year as well. He is really understanding his role well as when he needs to take a more defensive stance and when he can afford to push up and make those runs on offense. [And] Jackson is one of the more solid defenders that I’ve seen. He doesn’t have a ton of speed, but super smart, always in the right spot because he’s smart. He knows what angles he has to take to put himself in the right spot.”

Darrett Fowler, Elijah Allen and Logan Curtis are the team’s attacking midfielders, each of which brings a different quality to the table. Fowler, a senior, showcases versatility as he can shift back as a defensive mid or defensive back and not lose a step, while Curtis, also a senior, is not only willing to do whatever is asked of him, he “has more soccer knowledge about teams throughout the state of Maine than anyone else on the team," the coach said.

“Logan is a wealth of information,” said Hustus. “You’re always trying to find out anything you can about your opponents before the game starts. It’s so nice to have Logan that’s so involved with the soccer community. From Caribou south, he knows somebody. It’s a great asset to have.”

And Allen, a junior who as a sophomore led the team in scoring with 26 goals — and this year leads the team through seven games with nine goals and six assists — is “without a doubt, the absolute hardest-working athlete I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching," the coach said.

“He plays goal-to-goal,” said Hustus. “Doesn’t matter which end of the field the ball is on, whether we’re on offense or defense, he’s in the mix. He’s always the guy that’s getting double- and triple-teamed in the offensive third and the guy that’s willing to get all the way back on defense.”

Cassidy Pound, a senior, and Noah Jacobs, a junior, are the team’s forwards, which are tied for second on the team in goals with five apiece. Pound has “great ballhandling skills and does a phenomenal job for us distributing the ball and making things happen,” while Jacobs “doesn’t shoot a ton, but when he does, he typically connects," the coach said.

The team is fundamentally sound and more well-rounded than last year’s version, which also relied on Allen for the majority of its goal scoring, the coach said.

“We had probably three, four, five guys that could score for us and we relied heavily on one or two guys to find that back of the net [last year],” Hustus said. “[This year] I’ve got eight guys that have scored and of those eight, five of them have scored five or more.”

Mount View is seasoned and ready to make a deep run in the regional tournament. Particularly after being knocked out in the quarterfinals, then as the third seed, by No. 6 Hermon, at home a year ago.

“We’ve matured up and down our lineup,” Hustus said. “Last year when we lost to Hermon, it left a bad taste in our mouths. We felt that we controlled that game the majority of the time, and still came away with a loss. And we’ve kept focusing on the fact that if everyone does their job, and we all work together, we can be successful.”

Hustus said last year, which was cruise control for much of the campaign, the Mustangs had gotten into a bad habit of looking past teams.

Not this year.

“The whole preseason the only team we talked about was Nokomis [of Newport], because that was our first game of the season,” he said. “And after that we started talking about Waterville, and then Ellsworth. The thing with soccer, this year especially, there’s not a team out there you can afford to look beyond.”

Hustus said the Mustangs have also undergone a culture change over the past few seasons, which has been for the betterment of not just the team, but the program as a whole.

“We’ve got a mentorship program within the team,” said Hustus. “Where our juniors and seniors are assigned freshmen and sophomores to mentor to help improve their game [and] help make the adjustment into high school varsity sports. It’s quite a change for a lot of folks coming from the middle school to the high school ranks. We’ve found that it’s easier for them to make that transition when they have an upperclassman that they can go to for anything.”

Hustus believes the Mustangs have what it takes not just to make it to the Class B North regional championship. But perhaps host it.

And even win it.

“We’ve been a great second half-team this year and lot of it comes down to the fact that I’ve got eight or nine guys who I would say, if I needed them to, could go the full 80 minutes without a sub,” the coach said. “When you’ve got that kind of endurance, coupled with skill and experience, that leads to some great soccer.”