ELLSWORTH — Brian Higgins was relieved Wednesday night.
Ellsworth High School’s boys soccer coach was calmly enjoying the moment while trying to deflect attention away from his accomplishment as his Eagles put the finishing touches on his 500th career win, a 7-0 victory over Hermon at Del Luce Stadium.
The attention “has been embarrassing,” said Higgins, who began coaching in 1974 and has led his Eagles to at least 12 wins in 25 seasons. “It’s not me, you know. It’s the kids. Right.”
He admitted that he has been a “wreck” in the time leading up to Wednesday’s game.
“Now I know what guys go through when they’re trying to hit their 500th home run,” he laughed.
There was a large crowd on hand to witness the event and Higgins took notice. They counted from one to 500 as the game neared its conclusion.
“You know what the best thing about tonight is?,” he posed. “It’s not my 500th win, it’s all the alumni who have come from as far away as Portland to see this. They were part of this back 20 years ago.
“They’re just as much a part of this game as the kids on the field now,” added the 67-year-old Higgins, who is 500-95-42 including an 8-0 mark this season.
Those kids on the field put on an impressive demonstration as they created a high tempo and attacked with numbers. They also did a thorough job in the defensive third, blocking shots and protecting goalkeepers Thomas Sawyer and Steven Mahon.
“There was a lot of motivation. We weren’t messing around tonight,” said senior striker-midfielder Nick Holt, who scored two goals. “This was all about (Higgins).”
Sophomore midfielder Jake Hale, making his first varsity start, had two goals and three assists.
“They really wanted this bad,” said Hermon senior striker Kevin Frederick. “Congratulations to their coach. This was a huge win. That’s a lot of games.”
The Eagles wasted little time putting the 4-4-1 Hawks on their heels, scoring twice in the first 3 minutes, 31 seconds.
Maks Grover opened the scoring 1:01 into the game when Hale stole the ball, carried it to the end line and chipped a short cross to him in the middle of the penalty area.
“There was a defender on me but I tried to jump higher over him and I happened to get it off my forehead,” said Grover, whose 8-yard header squeezed through the hands of Hawks goalie Brendon Dyer, who scrambled across and tried to catch the head-high shot.
Holt made it 2-0 when he was set up in front by Jack Weeks and drilled a short shot past the helpless Dyer.
Grover hit the crossbar later in the half and the Hawks regrouped and generated a few chances of their own.
The Eagles put the game away just 44 seconds into the second half during a brief scramble.
The ball deflected over to Kyle Haslam and he hooked a 10-yard shot into the net off the inside of the left post.
Holt and Logan Dyer extended the lead to 5-0 before Hale added the sixth and seventh goals.
Sawyer and Mahon combined for three saves on 12 shots while Dyer finished with six saves on 22 shots.
Jake Maguire and Ben Curtis anchored the Eagle defense.
“They’re a very good team,” said Hermon coach Scott Deabay. “They’re well-coached. (Higgins) deserves it. He does a good job.”
Frederick and Darius Ntacyo turned in good performances for the Hawks.