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Ball keeps bouncing for No. 1 TJ

Middletown's early near-miss allows Thomas Johnson to keep from falling behind while protecting an undefeated season.

Middletown's early near-miss allows Thomas Johnson to keep from falling behind while protecting an undefeated season.

October 23, 2002|by CURT HORNBECKER / Staff Correspondent

MIDDLETOWN, Md. - Bob Sheffler will just have to live with what might have been.

It took less than 10 minutes for the "game of inches" axiom to bite the Middletown boys soccer coach twice Tuesday, as county rival and No. 1-ranked Thomas Johnson kept its perfect season intact with a 3-0 win.

The ninth-ranked Knights' first shot of the game was a missile that sailed toward the upper right corner of the goal, only to be deflected at the last minute by TJ goalkeeper Gladimir Elysee.

Only moments later, Patriots junior Joe Thomas' shot from 25 yards out floated just beyond the outstretched fingers of Middletown keeper Danny Favarulo.

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"Even after that first save, we came back and played some pretty good soccer," said Sheffler. "I thought their first goal had a bigger effect on us, but who knows what would have happened had we scored first."

One things is certain, had the Knights scored first, TJ's team slogan would have been a moot point.

"We knew we were good enough defensively, that if we got a couple goals, we'd be all right," said Pats' coach Mitch Rubin. "Our motto is 'We can never lose a shutout.'"

But both teams played remarkably well defensively.

Of TJ's four shots on goal, three found the net - and two of those three simply got away from Favarulo. They likely would have been saved on any other night.

"Danny suffered through a tough night," said Sheffler. "But if he wants to lead this team to the playoffs, he's got to come back from this, and I think he will."

Meanwhile, Middletown (7-5-1) managed five shots on goal, all of which were saved by Elysee, and two of those saves were simply outstanding efforts.

TJ freshman Nathan Dowiak made it 2-0 in the 18th minute on a shot that simply swung out of Favarulo's arms.

Dowiak's bother, Lucas, a senior, completed the scoring with a 20-yarder in the 52nd minute that again deflected off of Favarulo into the net.

"It's disappointing," said Sheffler, "I thought we played well. We gave up three unfortunate goals, and all of them were from the outside. That's what we really want to do.

"But for us as a team in the playoffs, we need to be able to come back from this and react better."

Middletown won the JV contest, 1-0.

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