Meade goalie John Gratson spent the last few weeks haunted by the specter of Tony Dedmond, Atholton's 6-foot-2, 165-pound scoring wizard.
"I knew who he was and what he could do to you," Gratson said of Dedmond, a senior who scored 15 goals with 11 assists last year, leading the Raiders to the Class 2A state soccer title and the best record (12-3-1) in school history.
In yesterday's 2-1 double-overtime victory over the Raiders (2-2), Gratson got a "real-life" look at Dedmond and -- with a little helpfrom his teammates -- recorded 17 saves in the unbeaten Mustangs' fourth straight win.
The game-winning goal came with 6 minutes, 23 seconds left in the second 10-minute overtime period, when senior midfielder Bo Lepinsky pounced on a mis-kick by a Raiders defender and took it toward the left end line.
Atholton keeper Josh Seidman was standing at the right-hand post and had no chance of stopping Lepinsky's shot, which was lifted with his left foot into the left-hand side.
Dedmond (three goals, two assists this year) was being thwarted by Mustangs sweeper Bryan Mitchell and taking a beating from stopper Eric Washington, who was moved from the midfield by Coach Mike Dey to stop Howard County's top returning scorer.
"The one guy, Washington, was muscling me off of the ball and the other one would stick me, kicking the ball to their offense," said Dedmond, who runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash.
Dedmond assisted on teammate Tim Whitcome's goal just five minutes into the game for a 1-0 Atholton lead, but was limited to two shots the rest of the way.
"Coach told me to shut him down, but he was very fast -- faster than me. So I just tried to keep him from turning to the goal," said Washington, who scored his secondand third goals of the season last week in a 2-1 victory over Southern.
"I made a few mistakes today, like overplaying the ball a couple of times. But every mistake I made, Bryan would cover for me."
The Mustangs evened the score midway through the first period when Luis Morales took a lead pass from J. J. Grewe near midfield, dribbled past two defenders and placed a low shot past Seidman (six saves).
But the big hero was Gratson, who made clutch stops inthe closing moments of regulation and in the first overtime period.
In the last eight minutes of regulation, the 6-3, 170-pound senior made a double-handed dive to tip a Dedmond shot wide of the right post, smothered another attempt at the charging Dedmond's feet from about 15-yards outand stopped Adam Shavitz's low 18-yarder to force the overtime.
Gratson's most acrobatic feat came in overtime.
He was screened by several players and had just recovered from a sprawling stop of a previous shot when an Atholton player sent a volley angling toward the goal's right-hand side. Gratson leaped and was parallel with the ground when he extended his right hand and tipped the ball inches wide of the post.
"This game scared me at first, but I recovered in the second half," said Gratson, who has blanked Queen Anne's (5-0) and Northern (3-0).