Underdog role suits Warriors quite nicely

November 14, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

BOONSBORO -- Thanks to Pocomoke's pedigree -- five Maryland Class 1A state titles in the last seven years, including the last three -- Boonsboro's boys soccer team will enter tonight's Class 1A state final at University of Maryland-Baltimore County as underdogs.

That doesn't bother the Warriors one bit. They've been underdogs this entire postseason, and it hasn't slowed them down.

The Warriors (15-4) are the perfect example of what coaches strive for -- they're peaking at the right time.

"They want it," Warriors coach Brad Delauter said. "I had great athletes last year, but this team wants it and they're willing to work and sacrifice for it, and you don't usually get that."

Boonsboro was not supposed to get past the 1A West semifinals, when the Warriors traveled to Frostburg, Md., to face then-undefeated Mountain Ridge. Undaunted, they scored early in the first half, then broke a 1-1 tie on Keith Welch's penalty-kick goal late in the second half to stun the Miners.


Boonsboro was not supposed to get past the 1A West final, when the Warriors traveled to face Williamsport -- which defeated the Warriors twice, once for the Washington County Tournament title and once on the way to the MVAL Antietam title. But Boonsboro took the lead on Welch's 20-yard free kick in the 68th minute, then after Williamsport tied the game late in regulation, the Warriors prevailed in a shootout, 4-3, to win their first-ever region title.

The Warriors' state semifinal debut could not have gone better -- Boonsboro scored four goals in a 12-minute span of the first half and overwhelmed Sparrows Point, 4-1. Welch scored two goals -- both on headers -- to bring his season total to 15, while Shane Lowery scored his 25th goal of the year and also had his 15th assist, finding a wide-open Micaiah Jessie after Lowery beat two defenders while running up the left side.

Boonsboro is clicking in all phases of the game, led by four seniors -- Lowery, Welch, Ryan Barrett and Steve Kopp.

Lowery's speed up front makes him a constant goal-scoring threat, and he also has the vision to find open teammates for scores.

Barrett's corner kicks and long throw-ins make every set piece Boonsboro runs dangerous -- especially with Welch as a target in the middle.

Welch has been fantastic controlling the midfield with his poise. Even when defenders surround him and he has little time, the game seems to slow down when the ball is at his feet, and he is able to shield defenders and find open teammates.

"He's so smart. For a high school player, he has a lot of professional qualities," Delauter said. "When most players look down at the ball, he's looking up and figuring out where to distribute it."

Kopp has been a rock in the middle of the Warriors' defense, getting to numerous dangerous balls and clearing them out of harm's way. In Boonsboro's four losses this season, the Warriors have conceded 16 goals -- the same number they've allowed total in their 15 victories, which is why Kopp is so important.

Sophomore goalkeeper Paul Jordan also has been solid -- and at times spectacular -- in the playoffs. Without his diving save of Michael Reyes' penalty kick in overtime of the 1A West final, it could be Williamsport playing for a state title and not Boonsboro.

They may be the underdogs entering the state final today, but that's not keeping the Warriors from feeling good about their chances.

"We have confidence that we will win it all. We beat an undefeated team, we beat our archrival, and now this," Lowery said after the victory over Sparrows Point. "We feel no one can stop us."

"Right now we're on a seven-game winning streak and it feels like no one can stop us right now," Welch said.

The Herald-Mail Articles