PEABODY — Milton senior Owen McHugh lifted the Northeast 7v7 New England Championship Gold Cup trophy to his lips as he pretended to drink from it before being engulfed in celebration by his teammates.
McHugh’s electrifying performance at quarterback and pick-six on defense paced Milton to the program’s first New England championship. The Wildcats defeated Dedham, 19-6, in the championship game Thursday night at Bishop Fenwick, earning the top spot from a field of over 100 teams.
McHugh put the Wildcats up by two scores in the first five minutes of the championship game, stretching full extension to intercept a pass in the back of the end zone from his Cover 2 position at free safety. He spun around untouched before rocketing up the field and splitting two defenders to complete the pick-six.
McHugh is a natural three-sport athlete, centering the first line on the hockey team and playing shortstop for the baseball team, which captured the Division 2 state championship in June.
“You don’t get kids like Owen a lot, I’ve had a few of them,” said Milton coach Steve Dembowski. “They are the kind of kids that are just motivated to be the best they can be all the time. He competes, he weight trains, he’s a 4.3 GPA. He’s an athlete, a great kid that just loves to play. He’s one of our four senior captains and we’re thrilled that this is finally his time.”
McHugh will take over under center for Chase Vaughan, a three-year starter who led the Wildcats to an 8-3 finish last season and a trip to the Division 3 state quarterfinals.
“It means a lot, I’ve been working for it for my full life now,” said McHugh. “I can’t wait to go out there. We want to win a state championship and we’re going to get that done. It’s just exciting and I’m ready to go.”
The Wildcats struck quickly on the first possession, with McHugh connecting with senior receiver Luke Sammonon a crossing route over the middle. Sammon opened his hips, juked to the left and picked up another 10 yards and was rewarded by catching a touchdown off a slant route on the next play. Sammon would score the final Wildcats touchdown, finishing off a strong game where he created constant separation.
Senior captain Jack Finnegan proved invaluable as a two-way player, flying across the field. A Bay State Conference All-Star at cornerback last season, Finnegan will handle the ball-carrying duties this season and serve as a weapon out of the backfield in the passing game.
The Wildcats hope to carry over their confidence as momentum into the season, with high expectations and a strong schedule on the horizon.
“For Milton, it’s awesome,” said Dembowski. “We won a regional and won the final 10 and you just hope that it carries on, provides motivation to finish the summer strong and get into the season with some positivity.”