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Soccer notes - No. 2 Leopards sit and wait ... and wait ...

October 21, 2005|by ANDREW MASON and DAN KAUFFMAN

andrewm@herald-mail.com

kauffman@herald-mail.com

While most of the area's prep soccer teams are putting the finishing touches on their regular seasons, the No. 2 Smithsburg girls have been done for more than a week now.

If the Leopards (12-1-1) receive a first-round bye in the Maryland Class 1A West playoffs, which begin Oct. 28, it'll be another 11 days before they play again.

That kind of layoff might concern some teams, but not four-time defending West champ Smithsburg, which likely will receive the top seed and home-field advantage in the region.

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Leopards coach Bill Fowkes said the break has been a bonus.

"It's given our team time to heal any bumps and bruises that we have and get everyone healthy again," he said. "And it allows me to go out and scout teams and opponents we might face in the playoffs."

By now, Fowkes might know some teams better than they know themselves. He's seen nearly every team in the region play at least once - and some teams, such as Allegany, three times - and he's already scouting potential state-final opponents.

"Year in and year out, (Smithsburg assistant coach Joe Burger) and myself take the opportunity to go out and scout as many opponents as we can," Fowkes said. "We like to see teams play before we play them so that we can put a game plan together. It gives us an advantage to know ahead of time. If you want to try to be successful, you want to get every edge that you can."

If anyone is scouting Smithsburg, they probably don't like what they see. The Leopards have won 11 straight matches, including a 7-0 run through the MVAL Antietam, even with senior forward Shannon Fowkes, a 2004 All-State first-team selection, not playing at full strength for much of that time as she's recovered from a knee injury.

The slack has been picked up as 12 out of the 17 players on the Leopards' roster have scored. Sophomore forwards Shelby Layman and Chelsea Hoover have combined for 17 goals and eight assists and junior midfielders Katie Seifarth and Cara Jordan have combined for eight goals and 18 assists.

"We've been successful with everyone contributing," Bill Fowkes said. "We played well without Shannon, and now we'll have her at full strength for the playoffs. That's only going to help things."

A fifth straight region title seems to be on the horizon.

"Hopefully we'll be able to advance through the playoffs again, but you have to take it one game at a time," Fowkes said. "Our chances are as good as any, but anyone can beat anyone on any given day. I know that's a clich, but it's the truth."

- Martinsburg's quest to get back to the West Virginia boys final four nearly ended 90 minutes after it began, as the No. 5 Bulldogs survived Musselman's upset bid for a 3-2 win in overtime in the Region II Section 4 semifinal Tuesday night.

The Applemen scored twice in a three-minute span in the second half to take a 2-1 lead, before two Will Rouse goals - one in the 70th minute, the other seven minutes into the second overtime - saved Martinsburg.

The Bulldogs were playing without leading scorer Trent Reid - third in the Tri-State area in points - who had to sit out after picking up a red card in an earlier match. Martinsburg will need Reid at his best to make another deep playoff run, as he picks up the scoring burden held by 2004 Herald-Mail Player of the Year Nick Benavides last year.

"Trent is our leading goal-scorer. He makes things happen," Martinsburg coach Greg Miller said. "He shows for the ball, and Will and our other midfielders work well with him.

"Last year we were a highly offensive team. In the early part of the season, our defenders needed a lot of work, but in the second half they came together. We're still pretty offensive-minded and our defense is decent."

- St. James boys coach Chris Downs has stood on his strength-of-schedule soapbox several times this season, saying the Saints' losing record against Mid Atlantic Conference foes is a function of how good the conference is, and not how well (or poorly) the Saints were playing.

Downs' argument got a lot stronger Tuesday, when St. James played to a 2-2 tie with No. 1 Boonsboro - the first time this season the Warriors walked off the field without a win.

"I hope people now know what they get when they play us," Downs said. "(Boonsboro was) talking about Goretti was the only (team) to get close to them this year. It's nice to know that little blemish on their record was not from our crosstown rival. That feels pretty good."

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