Even though they are ranked No. 3 in the Baltimore area by The Sun, the Oakland Mills Scorpions (7-2 overall, 3-1 league) are struggling to make the Class 3A playoffs this year.
That's what comes from playing in the toughest soccer region in the state, one that includes Centennial and Howard. Only the top four teams in a region make the playoffs, and the Scorpions have lost to Bowie and Howard.
So, despite a 1-0 victory over No. 8 Atholton yesterday, Scorpions coach Don Shea was still sweating bullets in the second half.
His team tried desperately to score a second goal, but Atholton goalie Kori Hunter played a spectacular game, making 12 saves, several of them sensational.
"We have to win all the rest of our games and hope Liberty and North Carroll beat each other," Shea said. "If we go 10-2 we still might not make it."
With 18 minutes left to play, Shea got conservative and moved his premier player, midfielder Clint Peay, back to sweeper for defensive strength.
"A tie would have been a disaster for us," Shea said. "Hunter wasn't going to be denied, so I gave up trying to get the second goal."
Oakland Mills got its lead with eight minutes left in the first half.
Lopaka Trout scored on a flying kick to goalie Hunter's right, inside the far post from 3 yards out. The assist went to Mike Fitzgibbon.
"The ball (from Fitzgibbon) just got over a defender's head and I was all alone," Trout said. "Their goalie (Hunter) was really good."
Atholton coach Reg Hahne thought Trout must have been offside on the play.
"But I wasn't there," he said. "We didn't cover the outside post on the play. Oakland Mills should have been up 3-0 at halftime. We just didn't get into the game in the first half, but they let us back in."
Hahne was pleased with the turnaround his team displayed in the second half, when Oakland Mills outshot the Raiders only 7-5 as Atholton (7-2, 2-2) showed much more offense.
"It's tough losing, but I'm happy," Hahne said. "We continue to play well against good teams and that's important."
Atholton's playoff picture in Class 2A is much rosier than Oakland Mills'. The Raiders can still afford to lose another game and make the playoffs.
Oakland Mills dominated the first half, taking 10 shots and getting 12 throw-ins and six corner kicks. Atholton had only one shot.
"They were killing us on the outside midfield," Hahne said.
Without Hunter, there's no telling what the score might have been. On one play, Hunter made two saves, stopping a hard kick that bounced off his body and then getting up to grab another hard shot.
"He's the best goalie in the county, hands down," Shea said.
With eight minutes left to play, Hunter stopped a one-on-one effort by Malcolm Gillian.
Oakland Mills has no letup in its tough schedule. The Scorpions travel to Centennial at 3:15 p.m. Saturday.