War­riors come up a goal short

Lose to Raiders in SMAC boys soc­cer fi­nal

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By ANDY STATES as­tates@somd­news.com

Three years ago, Leonard­town’s boys soc­cer team was a team with a lot of young tal­ent but not much of a ré­sumé. On Tues­day night, the Raiders and their 11 se­niors won a third con­sec­u­tive South­ern Mary­land Ath­letic Con­fer­ence ti­tle by virtue of a 2-1 de­ci­sion over La Plata at North Point High School.

Leonard­town, the SMAC Ch­e­sa­peake Divi­sion cham­pion, scored first mid­way through the first half and dou­bled its lead with a sec­ond goal be­fore La Plata’s Owen But­ler con­verted on a late penalty kick to cut the War­riors’ deficit to one. But the Raiders were not go­ing to be de­nied their third straight con­fer­ence crown.

“Give a lot of credit to La Plata. They came out strong, es­pe­cially in the sec­ond half,” Leonard­town

head coach Robert Hor said. “We thought we pos­sessed the ball ex­tremely well in the first half, but in the sec­ond half they stepped up their game and we didn’t match it at first. It re­sulted in us los­ing pos­ses­sion for a pe­riod of time, so credit to them.

“We have a re­ally good group of core se­niors that have been on var­sity for four years and have won three of these SMAC cham­pi­onships in a row. Credit to them.”

One of those se­niors, Ryan Con­way, was able to find the net for an in­sur­ance goal with roughly eight min­utes to play at a

time when La Plata had been ratch­et­ing up the pres­sure on the other end of the field. For Con­way, Tues­day night was not just an­other night on the way to­wards the play­offs.

“Com­ing in the SMAC cham­pi­onship, it’s some­thing we al­ways strive for and al­ways want to win,” he said. “La Plata is a great team. We knew com­ing in that it would have to be a hard­fought vic­tor y.

“I love it. This is what I live for. I’ve been play­ing soc­cer since I was 4 years old, so these mo­ments un­der these lights, there’s noth­ing bet­ter.”

On a se­nior-heavy team, it was

sopho­more Con­nor Yager who got Leonard­town (11-1 over­all) on the board first, as he was able to de­posit a re­bound into the net mid­way through the first half.

“I was just run­ning to the box hop­ing to get a de­flec­tion, if there was,” Yager said. “I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”

While SMAC Po­tomac Divi­sion cham­pion La Plata (8-5) cre­ated it­self sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties over the fi­nal 20 min­utes, it was never able to pull even. Still, War­riors head coach Chris But­ler was en­thused about the ef­fort his team de­liv­ered against the pro­gram that has stood above the con­fer­ence over the past few sea­sons.

“I’m ex­tremely proud of the

way we played,” he said. “We cre­ated chances. In the first half, we tried to play a lit­tle bit more de­fen­sively and give their guys the ball in the back. The last 20 min­utes of the sec­ond half, I’d told them ‘Let’s keep it 1-0 and when there’s 20 min­utes to go then we’re go­ing to start at­tack­ing.’ The game changed that last 20 min­utes. We had a lot more chances.

“They’re a re­ally, re­ally good team. They’re a 4A team and have a lot of kids in their school and a lot of great travel play­ers on their team. We’re just a tiny, lit­tle 2A school try­ing to do our best against a big, skilled team. I can’t say enough about my guys. They came out and fought for 80 min­utes. They passed the ball, pos­sessed the ball, they did

ev­ery­thing I asked of them. I’m proud of them.”

Seeded sec­ond in Sec­tion II of the Class 2A South Re­gion, La Plata is sched­uled to open the post­sea­son at home on Tues­day in a sec­tion semi­fi­nal against the win­ner of a first-round matchup be­tween sixth-seeded West­lake and third-seeded Calvert that is sched­uled for 5 p.m. Fri­day.

The top seed in Sec­tion II of the 4A East, Leonard­town is set to host the win­ner of a first-round matchup that has fifth-seeded South River at fourth-seeded An­napo­lis on Tues­day.

While the Raiders have dom­i­nated SMAC in re­cent years, the suc­cess has not car­ried over to the ul­tra-com­pet­i­tive re­gion in which they re­side in the post­sea­son, which is heavy

in peren­nial state pow­ers from Anne Arun­del County. Leonard­town is hop­ing this will be a break­through year.

“Go­ing for­ward we just need to come out and at­tack ev­ery sin­gle game,” Con­way said. “We can’t come out slow. We have to come out fast, come out fir­ing. I have faith in this team. We have a re­ally good core. I’m ex­cited and ready to play.”

“Our goal at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son was to ad­vance to the state fi­nals,” added Hor. “We have five games to play. That’s the way we’re look­ing at it. Five games from here. We love hav­ing SMAC, but we want it all. These boys have been work­ing hard and we have the tal­ent. We just need to put it all to­gether.”

PHOTO BY DAR­NELL MAR­BURY

La Plata’s Owen But­ler works with the ball in front of Leonard­town’s Kobe Har­ris dur­ing the SMAC boys soc­cer cham­pi­onship game at North Point on Tues­day night. But­ler scored La Plata’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the Raiders.

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