Hall-Dale senior Colin Lush still remembers the penalty kick he missed against Waynflete in last year’s Western Maine Class C semifinals.
Much more pleasant is the memory of the one he converted against the same team this year that clinched the regional championship for the Bulldogs.
“I think it’s just the confidence,” said Lush, who scored the fifth and deciding goal in the penalty kick session.
Lush played well last year when he was paired at midfield with Ben Crocker, but Crocker’s graduation allowed Lush to take more of a leadership role and he accepted it. He finished with 26 goals and 21 assists and was the linchpin on a talented experienced team.
For his efforts, Lush has been selected Kennebec Journal Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Hall-Dale seniors Zack McNaughton and Sam Shepherd, Maranacook senior Zach Elwell and Richmond senior Eddie Stewart were also considered.
This year Lush was paired at midfield with Zac Plummer who is more of a defensive player and it made a difference in his approach to the game.
“I kind of took over one of the leadership roles,” Lush said. “I felt like I had more responsibility. That pushed me a little harder this year.”
With 15 returning players from last season’s 14-2-1 team, the Bulldogs were a force to reckoned with in the Mountain Valley Conference. They lost 2-0 to Houlton in the state championship game this year to finish at 16-1-1.
“He was able to play at a much higher level this year,” Hall-Dale coach Andy Haskell said of Lush. “His supporting cast was so much better teams couldn’t just really key on him. He was also able to make the right decision.”
Lush has been playing soccer most of his life, picking it up when his friends did.
“I just started to love it,” he said. “I like the finesse involved. I feel like soccer slows down and other sports don’t.”
The Bulldogs played in a lot of one-sided games this season and really only had three strong opponents — Waynflete, St. Dominic and Houlton. Lush was at his best in those games and despite the talent around him, he drew the attention of opposing defenses. Houlton coach Mike Carlos adjusted and paid more attention to Lush after the Bulldogs controlled most of the play in the first half of the state final.
“We had to rotate,” Carlos said. “We weren’t rotating at all. Alec (Casillas) had to rotate up and guard their stud. You find out what the other team likes to do and you take it away from them.”
A lanky 6-foot-2, Lush uses his length and ballhandling skills to move around opponents at midfield and set up his teammates.
“I’ve never coached a kid with such an array of dribbling moves,” said Haskell, who has 20 years of coaching experience in high school and college.
Lush credits Haskell with a lot of his development.
“This year he took me aside and told me what I had to do,” he said.
Lush played for Central Maine United last year in the offseason but would like to reunite with Seacoast, one of the state’s top premier teams, in preparation for playing next year. He’s been contacted by a number of New England colleges and is considering the University of Southern Maine among other schools.
“I’m looking for a younger team so we can develop,” he said.
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638