Warriors come up a goal short
Lose to Raiders in SMAC boys soccer final
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.”
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.