HAMPDEN — With time winding down in regulation Saturday, blood was coming out of Max McHugh’s nose after she got nailed by the ball, and the Central junior staggered off the Hampden Academy turf, hoping it wouldn’t drip onto her white jersey.
“I was aiming to just keep it off my uniform, so I could wear this when we won the state championship,” said McHugh.
McHugh was battered and bloodied, but far from broken. The Red Devils’ junior gave legions of Central girls soccer followers something to celebrate, scoring with 3:52 remaining in the second overtime to give the Corinth school a 2-1 victory over St. Dominic’s of Auburn and the program’s first Class C state championship.
McHugh, who played all 107 minutes of this hard-fought battle, took a perfectly executed through-ball from Brianna Speed and struck a left-footed shot into the upper right-hand corner of the goal to polish off an undefeated season for coach Mike McHugh’s club (15-0-1).
“It was a give-and-go with Bri, we’ve done that all season,” said Max McHugh, the coach’s daughter. “I had no thoughts running through my mind. I just saw the goalie and I aimed away from her.”
St. Dominic, which also was seeking its first state championship, completes the season 14-4.
With time winding down in the second overtime, the Red Devils were facing an all-too-familiar scene of going to penalty kicks for the second time in as many games. Instead, Speed got behind the defense in the center of the field, dished off to McHugh, and the rest is history.
Even though Central defeated Orono in PK’s in the Eastern Maine final, the Red Devils didn’t want to be in that situation again.
“We were working hard and we told ourselves we should score that goal in overtime so we did not have to go to PKs,” said Max McHugh.
Senior goalkeeper Samantha Brownell was working hard, making 15 outstanding saves on 19 shots, while also stuffing four St. Dom’s breakaways.
“That is the game of her life,” said coach McHugh. “She has improved so much as a ‘keeper and she’s the most dependable ‘keeper in Class C. She’s amazing.”
Brownell came up huge in a game that St. Dom’s was dominating in the first half. Its physical style had the Red Devils pinned back in their defensive end, and Courtney Costello’s goal with 15:04 left in the first half put the Saints up 1-0.
But the Devils adapted to St. Dom’s physical play, and McHugh was pushed up from to attacking midfielder after the break, which led to more chances.
“We noticed that in the midfield we weren’t getting a lot of touches on the ball, so he pushed me up and only put me back on throw-ins and corners,” explained Max McHugh.
Central was rewarded with 29:38 left in regulation, as Speed scored off a McHugh corner kick.
“We knew we had to get back in the game, we couldn’t let them defeat us physically,” Brownell said. “We just came out hard and tied it up.”
Prior to Speed’s goal, McHugh nearly scored on a direct kick, but St. Dom’s ‘keeper Mary Caron tipped the ball over the crossbar.
The Saints’ Kayla McLellan posed problems for Central’s defense, but Brownell stopped her twice on breakaways, coming out of the cage after McLellan would take a long touch.
“I wanted to win this so bad and I knew I had to get the timing right and stop them or else we would’ve lost,” said Brownell.
Caron had five saves on nine shots for St. Dom’s, while Dayle Jordan set up several chances with her flip throw-ins.