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Hubs, Leopards get ready to rumble

September 21, 2007|By ANDREW MASON and DAN KAUFFMAN

If there's one thing the coaches of the archrival North Hagerstown and Smithsburg girls soccer teams can agree on, it's that the championship game of the Washington County Tournament will be worth the price of admission Saturday night.

The No. 1 Hubs (4-0), the three-time defending county champions, face the No. 3 Leopards (3-1-1), the two-time reigning Maryland Class 1A state champs, at 7:30 p.m., at South Hagerstown's School Stadium.

"Both teams are going to put it on the line and treat the fans to a great game," Smithsburg coach Bill Fowkes said.

"We'll definitely put on a show for the spectators," North coach Rick Aleshire said.

The game is a rematch of last year's county final, won 3-1 by the Hubs. North also beat Smithsburg 2-0 in a later match to sweep the season series. The previous three years, the teams went 1-1 against each other.

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"Every time you play North, it's just a typical North-Smithsburg varsity girls soccer game," Fowkes said. "It's just a great rivalry, whether it's for the county championship or a regular-season game. Both teams play to win."

While the Leopards have won two straight state titles and six straight West region crowns, they haven't won the county title since 2003, when they prevailed 3-2 over - you guessed it - North.

Because the teams go their separate ways in the playoffs - the Leopards in 1A and the Hubs in 2A - the county tournament dictates county bragging rights.

"It's definitely bragging rights," Aleshire said. "You like to say that you won the county championship so you can say you're the best team in the county."

Through four games, Maria Borland and Alluka Ogle-Moore have each scored seven goals as the unbeaten Hubs have outscored their opposition 22-2.

Shelby Layman has a team-high four goals for the Leopards, who arguably have faced a tougher schedule thus far, losing 1-0 to 4A Linganore and tying South Carroll 0-0 in their last two games. South Carroll, which recently moved to the 1A South, ended the Hubs' season last year in the 2A West semifinals.

"These are playoff-type games," Fowkes said.

It's sure to be a playoff-type atmosphere Saturday at School Stadium, where Smithsburg might have a crowd advantage. The Leopards also are in the boys final, which follows at 9:30 p.m. They'll face Williamsport.

The rivalry will continue at Mike Callas Stadium on Oct. 16, when North and Smithsburg meet again.

"Over the years, both of us have been each other's archrival," Aleshire said. "But that's a good thing in that it makes us both play better. It makes all the girls want to work harder and succeed. It's a good thing for both schools."

Smithsburg's boys came oh, so close to winning their first county title last year, only to watch North Hagerstown prevail 3-0 in a shootout after the teams played to a 1-1 tie. The Leopards get another crack in the final Saturday.

"We've had a really good week of practice and they've got a pretty idea of how we want to approach the game," Smithsburg coach Paul Newman said.

The Leopards shut out South Hagerstown 6-0 in the first round and turned away Clear Spring 4-2 in the semifinals. Josh Edwards - who leads all county public school players with eight goals through Wednesday - scored three in each of the first two rounds as the primary attacking option of a Smithsburg offense loaded with speed.

"That's our game plan," Newman said. "Hopefully it will be there, but if not, we'll need to find a different way to score. We hope we're not one-dimensional."

Williamsport's road to the final was more difficult. The Wildcats battled back to tie the Hubs at 1, then won the shootout 6-5. In the semifinals, Williamsport defeated Boonsboro 3-1.

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