Nov. 11—TOPSHAM — Mt. Abram got by with a little help from its foes.
The Roadrunners' defense was again stalwart, so all their prolific offense needed in Saturday's Class C boys soccer state final was one goal.
Morgan Thibodeau provided it with a first-half corner kick that deflected off a George Stevens Academy player and into the goal to give Mt. Abram its first boys soccer state championship with a 1-0 win at Mt. Ararat High School.
The shutout is the Roadrunners' 15th of the season, and they only allowed three goals this fall.
"I mean, I always welcome another goal, it just wasn't meant to be, as far as that goes. So we had to rely on what we haven't had to rely much on this year, but our defense," Mt. Abram coach Darren Allen said. "They're incredible. We ended the game, I don't know how many guys we had back. We just weren't making any runs. I just asked, you know, play to the ball to the corner. Brennan Mitchell was in there as a freshman, we're trying to get him in the corner just to kill the clock a little bit."
Mt. Abram (18-0) came out flying to open the game, with Thibodeau's volley of an Andrew Rother cross going over the crossbar less than two minutes in, and Eagles goalie Haven Smith stopping a similar Rother-to-Thibodeau connection a minute later.
Mt. Abram had its first corner kick a little more than 11 minutes into the game, and while it was cleared out of the box immediately, the Roadrunners were able to get it back in quickly and get off three shot attempts that were all blocked by George Stevens Academy (13-3-2) players.
"You know, we always look to get the early goal. It didn't come as early as we wanted to, I guess, this game. But we put a lot of pressure on them in the first half, especially," Thibodeau said. "And we knew we'd get one. We trust our abilities, we trust each other, we play hard for each other."
"Just got unlucky a couple times, not finding the back of the net," Thibodeau added. "But that one goal was really important for us, kept us in it."
The C South champion Roadrunners' second corner kick was a short tap from Ash Rollins to Thibodeau, who fed Chase Ross for a shot on goal that was deflected by Smith off the crossbar and out for a third corner.
That third corner kick was the charm for Mt. Abram, as Thibodeau's curl from the left corner went off a George Stevens Academy player and crossed the goal line to make it a 1-0 lead for the Roadrunners 16:05 into the game.
"I just wanted to put it into the middle for my guys to get at the end of," Thibodeau said. "At the end of the day, I just put it in the middle, see what would happen. You know, I trust my guys, but at the end of the day, I put it at the near post and the guy kind of missed it. It ended up going back of the net. So I was thrilled with it."
Sam Cockerham nearly made it a two-goal lead less than two minutes later, but Smith made a diving save.
After being kept out of the 18-yard box for the first 27 minutes, George Stevens' Reed Pambianco sent a 45-yard free kick into the box that was cleared. He had another one from 35 yards out that also was cleared with under 10 minutes to play before halftime.
Mt. Abram goalie Logan Dube finally got his hands on the ball with just over four minutes left in the first half, making a diving save and corralling the shot as it tried to escape his grasp.
"He, and then Trey (Reed), have done that all year. They've had to like be cold for a long time, and then have to come out and make some saves. But, I mean, they're used to it," Allen said, noting that assistant coach Glenn Mirlocca trains the goalies hard.
Play was more even after halftime, and Dube was tested twice as much. The first shot on goal he faced in the second half came on a long shot where the ball eluded his grasp, but fortunately for Dube, one of the Mt. Abram defenders cleared the loose ball. Dube held tight to a second shot moments later.
The Roadrunners only had one shot on goal in the second half after putting five on frame in the first — a header by Cockerham off a long Thibodeau free kick that was stopped by Smith.
Bear Rollins appeared to double the lead with just under 10 minutes left, but his would-be goal was waived off for offsides after Smith (five saves) was unable to corral an initial Roadrunner run.
The Roadrunners held off the Eagles for the rest of the game to secure their first Gold Ball.
"George Stevens, man, gave us a game like heck," Allen said. "I mean, they really did a number on our midfield. We couldn't get free, we couldn't get some open looks. They played so hard. My hat's off to those guys, incredible team. Toughest team we played all year. Like, they really gave us some issues. And we just had to hang on, and play a way that we haven't played all year.
"But, I mean, my boys, those boys, are just incredible."
Allen and Thibodeau both said it was hard for them to put into words what the first state championship for the program meant, but they both used the work "unbelievable."
"Anything's possible," Allen said. "Man, anything's possible."
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