Seldom do two teams that figure to play each other in a state championship battle each other during the regular season.
But that was the case Monday at Wilde Lake, where the red-hot Wildecats blanked Fallston of Harford County, 2-0, in a probable state Class 1A boys soccer championship preview. Both teams rate among the Top 10 in The Sun'spoll.
Wilde Lake's top scorer, Hamisi Amani-Dove, registered both goalsin the first half off assists from Matt Nesbitt and Mike Aballo. They were Amani-Dove's seventh and eighth goals this year, and Nesbitt'sassist was his sixth. Both players rank among area scoring leaders.
Eighth-ranked Fallston entered the game with a 5-1 record, its only loss to St. Mark's of Delaware, a team ranked 19th in the country by USA Today. That score was 2-1 in overtime.
Wilde Lake, ranked ninth by The Sun, had a 4-1 record going into Monday's game, having lost only to fifth-ranked Archbishop Curley, 5-3, on opening day. Since then, the Wildecats' defense has had five straight shutouts, including a 1-0 victory over Good Counsel of Washington. In another game thisseason, Good Counsel tied St. Benedict's of New Jersey, a team ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today.
"Everyone said today's game was going to be a possible state playoff preview, and we thought we would have to come out strong," Wildecats sweeper Cory Sautter said. "Wereally didn't play as well as we can, but a win is a win."
Wildecats coach Dave Nesbitt agreed that his team didn't play well.
"Butit's tough to get back up after last Friday's big win over Oakland Mills," he said. Wilde Lake won that game, 5-0.
Fallston, which hadrecorded three shutouts, was led by All-Metro sweeper Chris Eatough and forwards Shane Dougherty and Tom Gould.
Wilde Lake double-teamed whichever of those two forwards made the deepest penetration and marked the other one with single coverage. The strategy worked.
"You'd have to say the double-teaming gave us a problem because we didn't score," Fallston coach Len Petrey said. "And this is the first timewe've been shut out."
Not many people expected the Wildecats to have a defense capable of five shutouts in six games, the most by any county team.
"Yohan Choi and David Lubitz handled the double-teaming. Mike Aballo handled the marking," Coach Nesbitt said. Diego Valverde played well at sweeper, replacing Cory Sautter late in the game. Sautter, a transfer from Queen Anne's High School, had caught an elbow that bloodied his nose.
Despite the shutouts, Valverde describedWilde Lake's defense as simply "OK."
Gould had scored nine goals for Fallston and Dougherty had scored four, so the 'Cats stopped two pretty good scorers.
Wilde Lake's offense is a little better than OK, however. The 'Cats scored 19 goals in their first six games.
Wilde Lake's dynamic offensive duo of Amani-Dove and Nesbitt combined on the first goal Monday 15 minutes into the game. The goal-scoring opportunity developed after some diagonal midfield passes.
Amani-Dove broke free at the 18-yard line, took Nesbitt's pass and kicked a low shot into the right side of the net.
About seven minutes later,Amani-Dove scored from 12 yards out, going one-on-one with the goalie after taking a pass from Aballo. He kicked a low shot into the leftside of the net.
Wilde Lake outshot Fallston, 13-7.
"We stood around too much early in the game and let them create things," Petreysaid. "But we took it to them in the second half."
Wilde Lake faces Centennial, the area's top-ranked team, on Friday at Centennial.
"That's when we find out how good we really are," Coach Nesbitt said.