The results of Saturday's four boys and two girls state soccer championships told only a minor part of the story. The major part was the inspirational and even courageous roles shared by the many heroes.
Bowie nipped Broadneck in sudden-death overtime, 2-1, as reserve Byron Pena converted a 35-yard sizzler, perfectly placed in the corner of the net. The champions began a victory lap, common in World Cup circles, raising aloft the black armbands worn in memory of a teammate who died last summer.
The Broadneck players -- spent and tearful -- their coaches and fans stood to applaud the champions, the state's lone unbeaten team (16-0). The Bulldogs, state champions in 1978, '82, '83 and '87, and currently ranked No. 1 in Washington and No. 2 nationally, stopped to console Broadneck goalkeeper Sean Tettemer, who withstood a barrage of 32 shots and made a dozen sparkling saves, but could not in a million tries have stopped the game-winner.
"I saw the opening and aimed right," said Pena. "I thought he [Tettemer] was going to make another incredible save, but the ball just seemed to sail over his diving hand and just slipped through in the top right corner."
The Bruins (10-2-4) of coach Kevin McMullen were decided underdogs in their first state finals appearance, but with two minutes remaining, striker Matt Weimer broke through two defenders to center a pass that Richie Aftoora headed into the goal to force the overtime. With that goal, the senior became the Bruins' all-time goal scorer with 31.
Oakland Mills, No. 1 in The Evening Sun Top 20, blitzed Franklin, 6-0. The Scorpions hoisted coach Don Shea on their shoulders in celebration. Shea's father had died suddenly Thursday and the coach had flown back from Pittsburgh for the championship game.
"I told my team before the season that there were three things I would not do this year," said Shea. "I would not get involved in drills. I would not punish them with pushups and I would not give them extra running. I had 15 seniors and I wanted them to take responsibility for winning a seventh state championship."
The Scorpions were led by striker Malcolm Gillian (three goals, two assists) and back Clint Peay (one and two).
"We wanted to win this for the coach," said Gillian. "He lost his father and was hurting, and we were hurting for him."
Atholton stopped Fallston, 3-0, to earn its first ever state title and emerge from the shadow of Howard County powers Oakland Mills, Howard and Centennial. Junior striker Tony Dedmond (two goals, one assist) led the way.
"Our game with Howard was crucial," coach Reg Hahne said of the 1-0 loss midway through the season. "The players walked off the field knowing they could play with top caliber teams."
The Raiders finished 12-3-1, the best record in the school's history, and graduate only three seniors.
Brunswick downed Havre de Grace, 4-1, but reaching the finals was a big stride for coach Alex Spooner's Havre de Grace squad, which finished 9-6-1.
"The school last won a state title in 1926," said Spooner. "We reached the state semifinals in 1984, but this was our first winning record since 1968."
Severna Park downed Oakland Mills, 2-1, for its third straight state title. The Falcons of coach Joyce Stefancik have gone 46-0-1 in the last three seasons. All of the seniors, except for four-year starter Betsy Anderson, have never lost a game.
"We lost four my freshman year," said Anderson, who set up Michelle Cope's game-winning goal with a well-placed touch pass.
Anderson was eager to console members of the Oakland Mills squad and their coach Cynthia O'Dell.
"After we fell behind, 1-0, it shocked some of us," said Anderson. "We wanted to prove a point. All we ever hear is how good Howard County soccer is and that Anne Arundel County soccer is not as good. This one [third title] is sweetest because we're seniors and we proved our point."
Middletown stopped Patapsco, 2-0, but the losing Patriots could take solace in being the first ever Baltimore County team in the state finals. It didn't help that their top player, senior Linda Bauer, didn't have a good leg to stand on.
Bauer, who finished the season with 54 goals and 24 assists and her career with 121 goals and 63 assists, has worn a brace on her right knee since suffering a severe injury in her sophomore season. She entered Saturday's contest with her left ankle heavily taped.
"Linda tore ligaments in her left ankle," said coach Pat Poletynski. "Rest is the only cure. She was limping, but she would not quit."