The last time Havre de Grace won a state title in soccer, none of today's players were even born. Nor were their parents. Nor some of their grandparents.
The Warriors' last -- and only -- state championship came way back in 1926. This weekend, the Warriors boys soccer team hoped to bridge that gap by winning a second title.
After beating North Caroline, 3-0, in the state Class 1A semifinal Nov.
10, Havre de Grace (9-5-1) advanced to yesterday's scheduled state title game (after The Harford County Sun deadline). The Warriors were to meet Brunswick, of Frederick County, in the final.
"The kids are proud, and the kids are not satisfied," explained Warriors coach Alex Spooner, after the victory over North Caroline. "At Havre de Grace, we have very large maroon and gold banners for championship teams. The kids would very much like to put one up this year."
Since boys state competition was resurrected in 1968 after being disbanded shortly after World War II, Havre de Grace hadn't had a single winning record -- until this year. The Warriors did reach the state final four in 1986, but they lost in the semifinal.
This year, the Warriors started off a little slow, but their strong defense held on until Spooner found the winning offensive combination.
Against North Caroline, both teams struggled early, but the Warriors finally broke through with 28:58 left in the game. Center forward Randy Wheeler scored on a feed from Jim Ervine on the right wing.
"We just got fired up after one play where we shot the ball, and it looked like it went in, but it was called back," explained fullback Brian Smith.
Once the Warriors got their first goal, the other two came along quickly. Ervine scored the second goal with 9:19 to go. Midfielder Jason Barnard scored the final one with an assist from halfback Sean Smith with 2:15 left.
The Warriors outshot North Caroline, 16-12. Although he didn't score, left wing Andy Deibel set up a handful of opportunities.
"We dominated the first half," added Smith, "but we just couldn't get anything in. We were kind of lucky, because they had two good scoring opportunities."
Warriors goalie John Hanna had 12 saves. The rest of the defense -- especially sweeper Steve Gorham and fullbacks Smith and John Ryan -- also played extremely well.
The defense faced its biggest test of the year against North Caroline's super forward, Ben Ossei. Ossei, highly skilled and amazingly quick, had scored 19 goals during the season. The Warriors' whole team had scored 22.
Spooner had so much respect for Ossei that the Warriors played a zone defense, so everyone could keep an eye on him. Center halfback Ryan and Brent Bramwell covered him most of the time while Gorham had him near the net.
"He was the fastest kid I've seen this year," explained Spooner. "He beat two fullbacks down field, and when a third tried to slide-tackle him, he just lifted the ball up with his feet and leaped the kid. I told the kids to try and stay in front of him and not to slide-tackle him. We did a real nice job to shut him down."