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Leopards seek title ending

November 18, 2005|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

For all the victories and team accolades Smithsburg seniors Shannon Fowkes, Emily Burger, Tara Bywaters and Courtney Brown have helped the Leopards accumulate over the last four years, there's still a void in their prep soccer careers.

Smithsburg can fill it Saturday when it faces Sparrows Point in the Maryland Class 1A state championship match at University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Smithsburg last played for the title in 2002, falling 1-0 to Poolesville in double overtime. The Leopards lost in the state semifinals in 2003 and 2004.

"This is the last piece of the puzzle for those four young ladies," Smithsburg coach Bill Fowkes said. "Those are the four players that have remained from that 2002 team. They have started all four years and have accumulated 60 wins, 13 losses and one tie."

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The West champion Leopards are 16-1-1 this season and winners of 15 straight. They clobbered East champ Colonel Richardson 6-0 in the state semifinals last Saturday and have outscored their four playoff opponents, 16-1. For the season, they've outscored the opposition, 61-9.

"We like our chances," Bill Fowkes said. "We're pretty confident that if we play our game, we have a very good chance of coming home with a state championship."

South champ Sparrows Point (15-2) probably likes its chances as well. The Pointers, who knocked off North champ Rising Sun 3-0 in the other state semi, have only allowed one goal in the playoffs while scoring 11. For the year, they've outscored the opposition 59-5 and have a 1-0 victory over Class 3A finalist Towson on their rsum.

The only common opponent is Catoctin. Smithsburg edged Catoctin 2-1 in the regular season, while Sparrows Point beat the Cougars 2-0 in the South title game.

"It's hard to judge from that, but we know Sparrows Point is a good, quality team. They're legit," Bill Fowkes said. "They have good midfielders and good forwards and, given the chance, they're going to be able to finish.

"But we'll be ready. I think we'll give them a challenge with our speed."

Sophomore forwards Shelby Layman and Chelsea Hoover share the team high in goals for Smithsburg this season with 12 each. Shannon Fowkes, a 2004 All-State first-team selection who missed the first part of the season with a knee injury, has nine goals and 65 for her career. She needs one more goal to tie Kyley Thompson's school record (66) and two to break it.

"Shannon would like to get that record," Bill Fowkes, her father, said, "but she doesn't care who scores as long as we win a state championship."

The Leopards last won a state title in 2001, when they shared it with Loch Raven after their championship game ended in a scoreless tie.

"If you back it up to 2001, we're 79-13-2 over the last five seasons. That's pretty impressive for a small 1A school," Bill Fowkes said. "That's just a tribute to the type of players our program has been fortunate to have participate in soccer."

Win or lose Saturday, Smithsburg's future still looks bright.

"We have 19 underclassmen on the roster," Bill Fowkes said. "They're gaining valuable experience, learning what it's like to contribute and play in playoff games."

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