EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Like a true heavy-weight champion, the Katahdin boys soccer team withstood every punch that defending Class D state champ Richmond threw at it.
The Cougars of Stacyville stood toe-to-toe with the tough Bobcats, refusing to back down.
The Cougars wound up throwing the knockout punch late in the second half, as Marshall Davis’ goal capped a furious rally that delivered their first state championship in school history with a 5-4 victory over the Bobcats at a soggy Schenck High School Saturday.
Katahdin never led until Davis’ second goal of the match with 5:11 remaining, which put the cap on an inspiring surge from a two-goal, second-half deficit.
“The only person that hates losing more than me is my entire team,” said Cougars coach Matt Lindsay, whose team capped an unbeaten campaign at 17-0-1.
“They do not like losing, they hate losing, they despise it.”
A loss seemed probable when speedy Richmond striker Andy Harrington scored his third goal of the match 1:17 into the second half for a 4-2 lead, after he set up Eric Curtis 2:12 before halftime.
But the boys from Stacyville didn’t back down, working the midfield soundly and utilizing their speed on the wings to produce scoring chances.
Davis and Qualey teamed up to bring the Cougars within a goal with 20:17 left, as an unmarked Davis knocked home a Qualey rebound in front of the goalmouth.
“We’ve been down two earlier in the season [and] we came back. We’re used to it, we gave it everything,” said Davis, one of nine Katahdin seniors.
The Cougars were awarded a penalty kick three minutes after Davis’ first goal, as a Bobcat defender pushed a Katahdin player in the penalty area.
Qualey knew just what to do, faking out Richmond ’keeper Bruce Carver and blasting a low shot inside the right post.
“Fake one side and go to the other every time,” Qualey said.
The sequence on Katahdin’s winning goal was set up by a remarkable save by senior goalie Matt Tarr.
With Harrington bearing down looking for his fourth goal, Tarr rejected a point-blank shot.
Once the ball was cleared, Davis dribbled down the right wing, faked out his defender, cut to the middle of the field, worked his way around a couple more defenders and tucked the ball inside the right post.
“I was just hoping to get a touch to the left of him and get a shot off. Luckily, I got it,” said Davis.
The two teams traded goals early and often in the first half, with Harrison scoring just a few minutes in and Qualey answering at the 35:06 mark.
Kolby Gallagher added a first-half goal on a diving header off a long cross from Davis with Harrison scoring 10 minutes prior to Gallagher’s tally.
Tarr and Carver each finished with five saves.
“My boys came out, they played a good game, it was a physical game both ways,” Lindsay said. “Overall, I think both teams played an outstanding game.”