Leopards make it a double

November 14, 2002|by ANDREW MASON

Boys match girls in reaching final

Who could blame the Smithsburg boys soccer team for being all fired up Wednesday night at School Stadium?

Heck, the two-time Class 1A West champ Leopards were facing East champ St. Michaels in the state semifinals.

But, when Smithsburg finally gained its composure at halftime, there was even more reason to be excited in Leopardland.

After outshooting St. Michaels 14-4 with only a 1-1 tie at the break to show for it, Smithsburg erupted for five unanswered goals in the second half to win, 6-1.

The Leopards (14-4-1) are now set for their first state finals appearance on Saturday at noon at University of Maryland-Baltimore County vs. Oakland Mills - a 2-0 winner over Rising Sun in Wednesday's nightcap at School Stadium.


"We had a lot of opportunities in the first half. We knew we were playing better," said Smithsburg coach Paul Newman. "But we weren't calm and composed in the box. The kids were so excited, and we were sloppy."

Newman decided to abandon the short passing game in the middle for bombs-away downfield in the second half, and the Leopards wasted little time cleaning up their act.

Thirty-five seconds into the half, Smithsburg went ahead to stay, as junior striker Gerry Spessard headed Zach Fay's deep, right-side throw-in pass into the far post. Four minutes later, Russell Hoyt punched in a 6-yarder off a Spessard cross pass to give the Leopards a 3-1 lead.

"We couldn't finish in the first half," said Spessard, who finished with two goals and two assists. "After we started scoring, we just got the momentum and confidence and started putting more away."

Even the cheering from the stands of former Baltimore Orioles slugger Harold Baines - whose son, Harold Baines, Jr., is sophomore midfielder for St. Michaels - couldn't help the Saints (11-5).

The Leopards, who outshot the Saints 13-5 in the second half, continued to do the slugging. With 31:25 left on the clock, Fay again found Spessard, who scored on another header.

Stephen Kurz then rounded out the scoring in the final four minutes, connecting off passes from Fay and Devin Burns.

"We just got together as a team and decided we wanted to do this and came out hard in the second half," Kurz said. "We really wanted this. Our team's worked hard all season, and we're really happy to play in the state finals. It's been a goal of ours all season."

Smithsburg took a 1-0 lead with 28:35 left in the first half, as David McDougal scored on a breakaway, taking a pass from Spessard and beating two defenders. St. Michaels tied it 12 minutes later, as Josh Roark headed in a corner kick from second-team all-stater Josh Poore.

Smithsburg keeper Sean Hunt made six saves, while St. Michaels' Brandon Yost made 13.

Smithsburg girls seek one more solid effort

The girls soccer teams from Smithsburg and Poolesville have not made many mistakes of late.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. The Leopards (14-4) and Falcons (8-1) are set to square off for the Maryland Class 1A state title on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

However, mistakes still happen. And on that prime-time center stage, they'll likely stand out.

"In games like these," Smithsburg coach Bill Fowkes said, "it's usually whoever makes the mistake loses."

Controlling the middle of the field will be key, as the sides set to pounce on the other's potential miscues.

"You need to be able to keep the ball in the attacking zone," said Fowkes.

That hasn't been a recent problem for the Leopards, who are on an eight-game winning streak, including a 4-0 postseason run where've they've outscored the opposition, 11-0. In its 4-0 semifinals win over Cambridge-South Dorchester on Monday, Smithsburg outshot the Vikings, 24-0.

"Our defense (led by junior and all-state honorable mention Cortney Kerns) has been what has carried us through, and we've just been pretty solid all-around," said Fowkes. "Hopefully, we have one more solid effort in us."

Another stellar Leopards effort could also go a long way to making up for last season, when they went 19-0-1. The only game they didn't win was the 0-0 state-final deadlock with Loch Raven, as each side had to share a piece of the crown.

"It's very big for the seniors because this is our second time at states," said Smithsburg senior midfielder Stephanie Smith. "Hopefully we won't be co-champions, we'll just be champions."

Yet, Smithsburg - which lost 14 seniors, including eight starters, from last season - had defied a lot of odds just getting this far.

"We kind of talk about it being unfinished business," said Fowkes. "But on the other hand, to look at the season as a whole, it's been a credit to the girls' hard work and just a dream come true."

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