The game had all the drama and circus atmosphere excitement anyone could ask for.
It had a regional championship at stake, an unlikely game-winning scoring heroine, a come-from-behind 2-1 victory, a protest that the winning goal really wasn't a goal and instead had fallen through a hole in the top of the net, a key player from the winning team taken to the hospital by ambulance, and a huge crowd to witness it all.
It was also the third and decisive meeting of the year between the two teams who had split their previous matches.
And when it ended Saturday night, Oakland Mills (12-2) walked off with the Region IV, Class 3A/4A girls soccer championship, and Howard (10-4) was left with the satisfaction of having played well almost all season, only to fall a tad short of its hopes and dreams.
First off, pay no heed to that old theory about home-field advantage.
Not only didn't it hold up with Howard and Oakland Mills this year, the home field seemed to be a disadvantage.
Howard beat Oakland Mills 2-0 Sept. 5 at Oakland Mills in a sparsely attended afternoon game.
Exactly one month later, on Oct. 5, the Scorpions turned the table on Howard with a 4-3 victory on the Lions' home field before a good-sized nighttime crowd. That was a spectacular game in which the Scorpions rallied from a 3-1 halftime deficit to win in the waning moments on a goal by Scorpion star Mia Dammen.
Oakland Mills seems to thrive under the lights, so when the higher-seeded Scorpions had a choice in the regional final between an afternoon contest at their place, or a night game at Howard, they gave up the so-called home-field advantage for the glitter of night-time action.
The decision paid off handsomely, although the start was shaky for the Scorpions.
A determined Howard team scored first in the ninth minute off a beautiful goal by stopper Susan Olson. She timed a high direct kick from Michelle Bagrosky perfectly at the right post and hit the ball into the net off her knee.
It didn't take Oakland Mills long to rally. In the 17th minute, Stefanie Magro scored her 13th goal of the year. Magro took a free kick from Mia Dammen, dribbled and then shot a left-footer over the left shoulder of Howard goalie Krista Fulton from 15 yards out.
"The big crowd hyped me up and made me feel really good," Magro said.
"It made me more intense. We were all nervous because each team had won once, and this was the decisive game."
Oakland Mills almost scored again in the 37th minute, but a miracle kick-save by Howard sweeper Camille Powell prevented what seemed a certain Oakland Mills goal. Powell covered up an open goal after keeper Fulton had come out and broken up a play, and the sweeper reacted with split-second decisiveness to kick away a hard shot.
That play kept the scored tied at halftime, and Howard's hopes of victory alive.
Howard's hopes had to be enhanced by an injury to Scorpion Tyann Blissett late in the first half. Blissett is a speedy forward, one of Oakland Mills' most dangerous scoring weapons.
She hyper-extended her right knee while making a tackle on Shannon Bagrosky and was taken to Howard County General by ambulance for precautionary x-rays early in the second half.
Another Scorpion starting player, midfielder Mandi Kolste, was also on the sidelines with a hamstring she re-injured during the first half.
But in the 62nd minute, Oakland Mills fullback Bridget Roberts wiped out all thoughts of injuries, momentarily at least. She made an unexpected and controversial goal, her first of the year.
"I got a throw-in from Danette (Lemrise) and just turned and kicked it," Roberts said. The ball sailed high 30 yards and came down over the outstretched arm of Fulton, who seemed to have drifted out just a bit.
Howard claimed that the ball had come down through a hole in the top of net and shouldn't be a goal. But the referees, after a delay of several minutes while the net was examined, disagreed, and allowed the goal to stand.
It proved to be the game-winner in a 2-1 final score.
The Lions juiced up its offense trying to tie, forcing Oakland Mills goalie Jenny Golding to make four saves in the final 18 minutes. But Golding came through it unscathed.
Howard's midfield star, Kristi Greer, played well despite the lingering effects of a two-week-old badly sprained ankle. She wasn't quite fully recovered, and wasn't the overly dominant player she had been most of the season.
Oakland Mills' midfield star Mia Dammen played a strong game after recovering from the flu earlier in the week.
"I thought the key to the game was our stopping Shannon Bagrosky," Dammen said. "They were going to her all night long."
The Scorpions are scheduled to play a state semifinal game Saturday against Old Mill at 1 p.m.