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Welcome to Frostburg, where the soccer is hot

November 06, 2003|by ANDY MASON

The excitement was only outdone by the suspense at Beall High School in Frostburg, Md., on Tuesday night.

To say the least, the estimated crowd of 2,500 got more than its admission fee's worth of soccer. And it probably didn't take being a soccer fan to realize the bargain, either.

This was prep sports at its best - beautiful autumn night, packed house, four extremely talented teams and a pair of Maryland Class 1A West titles for the last ones standing.

In one corner, host Beall boasted the top-seeded and previously unbeaten girls and boys, who had a combined record of 28-0-1 and together had only allowed five goals all season.

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In the other corner were the second-seeded Smithsburg girls and Williamsport boys. The Washington County champ Leopards were gunning for their third straight region title, while the MVAL Antietam champ Wildcats, all sporting the playoff look with freshly shaved heads, were aiming for their first region title since 2000, following a pair of frustrating, early exits the last two seasons.

While the Washington County teams had to endure the long bus ride to Frostburg, they got to float home, after outlasting the Mountaineers in a pair of epic, drawn-out battles.

Nearly three hours after the Smithsburg girls prevailed in a 4-3 penalty-kick shootout, following 80 minutes of scoreless regulation and then two overtime periods that just wouldn't die suddenly, Williamsport survived a similar edge-of-your-seat marathon, taking the game-ending shootout, 4-2.

The girls matchup was so evenly matched that each team had to go to a sixth shooter to decide the shootout, with Smithsburg's Sarah Shinham getting the hero nod with her walkoff score.

Beall appeared to even the night with 6:57 left in regulation in the boys game, as a loose ball in front of the Williamsport net resulted in a 1-0 Mounaineers lead and a celebratory eruption in the stands. A win for the hosts seemed all but sealed when, a minute later, Williamsport's apparent game-tying goal was overturned.

But with 3:29 left, Phil Jordan headed in one of big-brother Ben Jordan's trademark throw-in bombs to tie it. No golden goals in OT then only made for a more precious moment, as Danny Gossard - the junior midfielder who was sidelined for Williamsport's first two playoff games with mononucleosis and came into the game after senior Tyler Cannon went down with a head injury - scored on the Wildcats' fifth penalty-kick attempt to clinch the win.

Regardless of the final outcomes, those were two of the greatest games I've ever witnessed on The Herald-Mail sports beat.

The fact that they were back-to-back on the same night ... I had to earn my free press-pass admission laboring to hit the deadline back in Hagerstown.

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