Damon Warren takes great pride in his friendships with defenders from opposing soccer teams.
“I usually talk to them when the ball’s on the other side of the field and say, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’” said Warren, a senior striker from Franklin and Sumner Memorial High School in East Sullivan.
“On every team we play, I’m friends with pretty much everyone on the defensive side. We talk quite a bit on the field.”
Many of those defenders might suggest Warren has a funny way of showing his friendship, given his propensity for getting the best of them.
His 112 career goals entering the Class C quarterfinals rank third all-time among Maine schoolboy soccer players behind only Drew Hayward of Woodland (128) and Ian Lee of Madawaska (127).
“After I score a goal usually they give me a high-five,” said Warren who, during an Oct. 7 match at Jonesport-Beals, became only the seventh Maine boys’ soccer player to reach 100 goals.
“They’re like, ‘Dude, you’re too fast.’”
Warren scored 24 goals through his first two seasons at Sumner, then exploded for a state-record 52 goals last fall when Sumner went 13-1 and reached the Class C North semifinals before falling to eventual state champion, Fort Kent.
The 5-foot-10, 150-pound Warren has racked up 36 goals this year to help the Tigers secure the No. 1 seed in Class C North. Their 13-0-1 record is the program’s best since Sumner had the same record in 1984 when current head coach Tom Hart was its junior goalkeeper.
Hart cites the leadership of the team’s seven seniors — led by captains Warren, Silas Goldfarb, Aidan Weaver and Alex Rumill — as pivotal to the Tigers’ recent success. He also noted the presence of talented younger players like sophomores Caelan Billings and Eduardo Figueroa-Flores.
“I would say we’re blessed with some very skilled guys up top, but there are so many ingredients that go into this particular cake,” said Hart, whose team hosts No. 8 Houlton on Wednesday. “They’ve been playing for a long time, and if you were around them every day, it’s hard not to laugh because they like each other so much.”
Much of Warren’s offensive contribution stems from quickness.
“[Damon’s] as fast as lightning, and one of his greatest gifts is that the ball is never more than 6 inches off his foot,” Hart said. “I don’t care whether it’s at a full sprint or a 50 percent move as he’s going through the middle, he has insane control of that ball, and at his speed, that’s deadly at this level.
Warren also is a smart player with excellent body control.
“And he’s got an amazing shot, a very powerful shot, that can take you by surprise,” Hart said.
Warren also has been adept at anticipating Goldfarb’s midfield work in transitioning from defense to offense and then working with Billings and Figueroa-Flores to press the attack. He has expanded his team’s potential scoring range this year by working more from side to side along the 18-yard line.
“Damon sees things 360 [degrees],” Hart said. “If it’s time to cycle it back and switch fields that’s what he does. If Eddie has a beautiful run and that little through-ball with the outside of his foot is going to result in something, he’s giddy about it. Damon’s an incredibly selfless player.”
Warren says he has great offensive chemistry with Billings, who joined him on Sumner’s forward line a year ago after they previously collaborated in middle school.
“We just know each other,” Warren said. “We know the right things to do on the field together.”
Warren’s offensive skills helped Sumner score 90 goals during the regular season, and such firepower likely will be needed as the Tigers face a deep Class C North postseason gantlet that includes fellow contenders Orono, Mount View of Thorndike, George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill, Washington Academy of East Machias and Central of Corinth, the latter of which played Sumner to a 1-1 tie on Oct. 1.
Warren is hopeful this year’s team can match or surpass the program’s previous deepest playoff run, believed to be a regional championship game loss at Schenck of East Millinocket in the late 1980s.
“We could really go all the way, I think,” he said.