Canton’s men’s football makes program history, clinches spot in title match
MARLBORO – The Canton High boys’ soccer team had never reached a state title game in their history – until now.
After two halves and two extra times in the MIAA Division 2 semi-finals, No. 21 seeded Canton faced East Longmeadow (14-3-5) even for over an hour and a half. of game, until he is a senior. Charlie McKinney’s goal on penalties sent the Bulldogs to the national final.
The West Springfield number 6, whom the Bulldogs (14-4-4) face at Doyle Field in Leominster on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., is still preventing Canton from potentially securing its first state title.
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“I absolutely dreamed that the game would depend on me. The pressure really fueled me, ”McKinney said of the game-winning goal, his third goal of the season. “Especially being a senior, it being my last season, it was a really special time for me.”
Equally essential to the Bulldogs’ success in extra frames, goaltender Giovanni Ruggeri played as a backstop in response to East Longmeadow’s offense holding camp in Canton Township for extended periods in the second half. The senior crushed any potential goals thrown in his way, saving his team’s season (while also extending his career). Canton won 4-2 in PK, with Ruggeri making two saves.
“We practiced (penalty kicks) every day in practice. We thought that moment could come and he finally did, ”said Ruggeri. “We all introduced ourselves. “
“(Ruggeri) has a pirate mark on the back of his leg. He can barely walk, but he set out to make this stop (in the shooting). I mean, that illustrates it all, ”Canton coach Danny Erickson said. “And then for Charlie to come up and finish it, just guts.” Serious victory.
In the 18 games he has played this season, Ruggeri has given up the fifth-under-scoring Hockomock League with 19, averaging 1.06 allowed scores per game.
“Everything is mental,” Ruggeri said. “Even if they score you have to get up, you have to raise your boys and make sure they are 100% (in) like you. I just do my job like everyone else is.
With nine seniors and 13 juniors, it was important for Erickson and his veterans to savor every moment of the playoff race. This season not only marks the program’s first trip to the state title game, but just its second run to the Final Four. The Bulldogs advanced this far in 2010, when they suffered a 2-0 loss to Concord-Carlisle.
This year’s team, however, believes – and has proven – that the ranking is just a number. The Bulldogs beat No.12 Woburn and No.20 Amherst Pelham ahead of the game against East Longmeadow. With Wednesday’s victory, Canton handed the Spartans their first loss since October 13 and their second since September 16.
That said, it’s been a tough road for the Bulldogs, as Erickson assesses his team’s twisty road to the state final, so far run at 600 miles. Each of them is worth it, in the end.
“I feel amazing. This is something these guys really wanted to accomplish. They’ve really been a team all year, they’ve worked together and they’ve improved, ”said Erickson. “My boys played really well and they represented Canton very well today. They never give up.
“It obviously means a lot to the school,” McKinney described. “I would absolutely love to bring home a state title for Canton.”