TRURO - The sign of a good team, perhaps?
The Cobequid Cougars weren't at their best Thursday, but left CEC Field holding the NSSAF Northumberland Region Division 1 boys soccer banner anyway. The Cougars held the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Royals to a 1-1 draw, taking their two-game aggregate series 5-1 after winning the opener 4-0 Tuesday in Antigonish.
"It feels pretty good," said senior centre midfielder Austin Castellanos, who scored Cobequid's lone goal on a penalty kick at the 30-minute mark. "I think we could have played a little better. I don't think we played to our standard but it feels good to win regionals."
The title - Cobequid's second in three years after Dr. John Hugh Gillis took it in 2011 - earns the Cougars the right to host a provincial qualifying match Oct. 27, leaving them one win away from making the final four. Coach Jay Foster said his players should be proud of where they are at this point in the season after also finishing first in the regular season at 4-0.
"Because we've had a really solid year," Foster said. "I think they'll look back and see they don't come easy and they're excited. But they're also excited about the next opportunity of playing against some of the top teams in the province."
The four-goal cushion coming into the contest may have saved the Cougars a ton of stress Thursday, but Foster said it wasn't the cause of a much tighter match than the opener. The Cougars were aiming to take it to the Royals on home turf and wanted to cap their regional title with a victory.
"We had no intentions of trying to protect a 4-0 lead," Foster said. "We wanted to go out and win the game and we just didn't quite get it done, but in the end we're happy with the title. We just didn't execute offensively very well."
The Cougars wanted to attack their opposition because they knew although the Royals are a young squad this season, they had been improving in every meeting this season and would have their best for Cobequid Thursday.
"We knew they were going to come out strong," Castellanos said. "We were expecting it and they played much better today."
Liam MacDonald knotted the game with a goal, also from a penalty kick, near the 60th minute.
But Cobequid managed to hold their opponents there with some strong defensive play that didn't allow many quality scoring chances.
"We made sure they couldn't get any shots and it helped us preserve the tie," Castellanos said.