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Leopards fall in final

Smithsburg beaten by 12-time champs

Smithsburg beaten by 12-time champs

November 18, 2002|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

CATONSVILLE, Md. - As Smithsburg coach Paul Newman put it, "Sometimes the gods of soccer don't shine on you."

Sometimes the sun doesn't shine, either.

With just over 21 minutes remaining in a rain-soaked Maryland Class 1A boys soccer final Saturday at University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Oakland Mills' Saah Johnson punched a goal through the hands of Smithsburg keeper Sean Hunt to lift the Scorpions to a 2-1 victory.

"It just slipped out of my hands," said Hunt, who initially appeared to make the diving save to his right to keep the score knotted at 1-1. "The weather was a big factor. My gloves were wet. It was tough."

Yet, Hunt stayed tough, going to his left eight minutes later to stop Glenn Clardy's penalty kick and keep Smithsburg in one-goal reach.

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"I knew if I stopped it, we still had a chance," said Hunt, who finished with eight saves, as each team took 13 shots. "I looked at it as a win-lose situation, and I got to it and gave our team some more confidence."

The Leopards (14-5-1) rebounded with a pair of corner kicks and four shots in the closing 20 minutes, but none found the back of the net.

And Oakland Mills (12-4) held on for its fourth state title in the last five years and state-record 12th overall.

While Smithsburg had its school-record 10-game winning streak snapped, the Leopards - whose 14 wins are also a school mark - ended their year in positive territory.

"This is the farthest a Smithsburg team's ever gotten," said Leopards senior midfielder David McDougal. "It feels great to be here, but I wish we would have finished it off."

With 2:22 left in the first half, McDougal caught a crosser from Stephen Kurz 10 yards out and blasted it into the left corner of the goal to tie the game at 1.

"Biggest goal of my career," said McDougal. "I knew after we got one in we could step up the momentum and get a couple more in. But they just packed it in on defense and we couldn't get any more opportunities."

Smithsburg didn't allow the Scorpions' speedy forwards many opportunities either.

"Their offense was definitely faster than our defense," McDougal said. "But we didn't allow their offense to get the ball that much."

It all came down to a pair of touches by Johnson, who scored both Oakland Mills goals unassisted. The junior forward gave the Scorpions a 1-0 lead six minutes into the first half, scoring on a tapper after the ball - cleared by Oakland Mills at midfield - took a turf bounce over Hunt's head.

"They just got two scrappy goals," McDougal said.

"I don't think that team was better than us or outplayed us," Newman said. "But I couldn't have been more proud if we'd won.

"The kids never quit until the end and when they lost, they handled themselves like gentlemen. When they wake up tomorrow morning, they'll realize that they've won more games than any other Smithsburg team and have been some places that no other Smithsburg team has gone."

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