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Campbell boys soccer still No. 1

Photo by CHRIS PANTAZIS Captains Joaquin Heller and Tyler St. Onge accept the Division III championship plaque Sunday night.

LACONIA – Despite the fact that the Campbell boys soccer squad had gone undefeated right up to its Division III title game battle with Mascenic in Laconia on Sunday night, there was absolutely no reason to believe that the Cougars would be able to simply coast to their second consecutive state crown. And they didn’t.

It took eighty minutes of regulation time, then nearly 18 more of overtime, but the top-seeded Cougars managed to squeak out a 3-2 victory over the tough-as-nails and third-ranked Mascenic Vikings to retain the D-III crown.

The locals were able to rebound from a 1-0 deficit with two second half goals from senior forward Joaquin Heller to collect a 2-1 lead before Mascenic flew back with the tying goal, and it was on to overtime.

Freshman forward Sam Gomes eventually potted the game and title-winning tally with a mere 2:17 left in the second OT to send his team and its fans into full-on celebration mode.

“It’s surreal. I never would have thought it would be me who did this,” said a smiling Gomes minutes after his huge goal..

The Cougars went undefeated through the regular season, posting a 14-0-2 record and then disposing of number 10 White Mountain Regional, number eight Prospect Mountain, and finally fifth-ranked Mascoma Valley in the semifinals to advance to the state title match again.

Mascenic went 14-2 during its superb regular season – winning 14 of the last 15 – before pushing on to the finals by knocking off 14th-ranked Laconia, number six Trinity, and seventh-seeded Hopkinton in tourney play.

When Campbell and Mascenic met up in the regular season – in Litchfield on Oct. 15 – the host Cougars managed a 2-0 success.

Mascenic took full advantage of its first glittering scoring try of the chilly evening, with Nathan Wilkins racing in alone on Cougars’ sophomore keeper Jack Noury and driving a sizzling shot right along the turf and well inside the right post for the 1-0 advantage.

Play was back and forth through much of the opening half, but the Cougars wound up having a big 7-3 advantage in shots on net and they brought a good amount of pressure to bear on the Mascenic net. But they also faced that 1-0 deficit.

Cougars’ goalie Noury came up huge in keeping the deficit to one goal early in the second half when he made a big stop on a sizzling boot by Viking Nathan Wilkins, who busted his way up the middle of the field between several Campbell defenders.

And Campbell knotted the score at 1-1 with 26:35 showing on the clock on a scrum at the right post of the Mascenic net in which Heller thumped the ball into the netting.

He would come up huge for his Cougars yet again a little more than 11 minutes later – with 15:05 showing on the game clock – when Heller sprinted in toward the right post and glided the ball along the turf into the net just inside the post on the other side. And the defending state champs had their first lead of the match.

Mascenic knotted the score at 2-2 with 4:30 remaining, and that would be it on the scoring until Gomes managed his heroics on a rebound just 2:17 before penalty kicks would have been required to decide the matter.