Rodney Rawlinson's finest hour was preceded by a moment he'd just assoon forget.
With about four minutes left in the second overtime period of yesterday's exciting Meade-Severna Park boys soccer game, Rawlinson hustled to the scorer's table to be subbed into the game.
But when the time came for Rawlinson's re-entry, first-year Meadecoach Mike Dey saw him talking casually with spectators.
"I had to yell at him to go in," Dey said. "Ron's a very affable kid, but he certainly wasn't where he was supposed to be."
Rawlinson was in the right place at the right time just over 2 1/2 minutes later, scoring his fifth goal of the season to lift the visiting 7-1 Mustangs (1-0against the county's 4A Friendship Division) to a 1-0 victory.
The speedy Rawlinson, who ran under a long ball served from the midfield by sweeper Bryan Mitchell, had a step on two defenders. But he chipped it right into the hands of keeper Jason Zaks (eight saves).
Zaks mishandled the shot and was grounded on the left side when the Mustangs' J. J. Grewe touched the ball back out to Rawlinson, who had gotten behind Zaks. Rawlinson put a low, left-footed shot into an emptynet off of the far post with 1:27 left.
"I just lined up and shotit. I didn't even look at the net," Rawlinson said. "All week, I've beenthinking, 'I just want to score.' "
"I should have held on to the ball the first time, but I could have used some weak side help on(the goal) because I was grounded when he got it off," said Zaks, who allowed his first goal after six shutouts.
The "biggest goal" ofRawlinson's career ended Severna Park's regular-season winning streak against county opponents at 35.
Meade, ranked No. 13 in the metro area, was the last countyteam to beat the third-ranked Falcons (7-1, 0-1) in the regular season, winning its 1987 season finale. The Mustangs also defeated the Falcons in the 1987 regional semifinals.
Meade's only loss so far this year came, 1-0, to Bay Division leader Broadneck -- a team that has lost only to Chesapeake, 2-1, and the Falcons, 2-0.
Meade's five-man defensive backfield of Mitchell, JasonReese, Rick Baur, Eric Washington and Mike Remy thwarted the Falconsearly, overlapping in transition with midfielders Grewe, Rawlinson, Jason Hall and Jim Dey in a 5-4-1 formation.
Controlling the pace,the Mustangs' air attack sometimes bypassed the midfield to find Luis Morales, the lone forward, working the left corner of Severna Park's defense for an early 3-0 advantage in shots.
"I don't like super-defensive soccer, and they had six of 11 guys back there," said Severna Park coach Don Gregg, who is in his 18th season. "We made some mistakes and couldn't compensate for their counterattacks. We didn't keep the ball on the ground like we wanted to."
Severna Park's defense of sweeper Steve Neuberger and fullbacks Jamie Cornett, Kevin Shultz and John Denman did adjust, however, and by halftime, the Falcons trailed just 4-3 in shots.
Washington, the Mustangs' top scorer with six goals and four assists, played one of two stopper positions, hawking striker Brian Peterson, who entered the game with a school-record 16 assists and having tied the mark for career goals (40).
"Wewere effective offensively and defensively and you saw a lot of runsfrom us," said Dey, whose Mustangs had an edge in both shots (8-7) and corners (4-1) during regulation play. "I just don't think Severna Park has really figured out what our strategy was. Their assistant coach came up to me afterward and said, 'We know what you did.' But what he described wasn't it. We were playing to win, not to tie."
Thegame seemed headed in that direction after each team botched clear scoring opportunities in the second overtime.
Just three minutes in, Meade's Bo Lepinsky dribbled to the endline and lured Zaks to the right-hand post before switching the ball to a charging Jim Dey on theopposite side. But Dey's header was wide of the far post.
SevernaPark missed two consecutive chances moments later.
With 3:48 remaining, Peterson shanked his fourth direct kick of the game to the left of the goal.
Then the Falcons' Nick Groseclose sent a 20-yard volley booming toward an empty net after Mustang keeper John Gratson (nine saves) had committed to the wrong side.
But with a Severna Park player streaking in for the coup de grace, an alert Mitchell used abicycle kick to preserve Gratson's fourth shutout. Gratson has allowed just six goals in eight games.
"I saw the cross and just swung my legs," said Mitchell, who has scored four goals. "We've had eight days since our last game (a 4-0 victory over Arundel) to prepare for this. They've always been in control in the county: They beat us, 5-1, when I was a freshman, 4-1 as a sophomore and 3-1 last year, so I've been thinking about this all season."
The Friendship Division race heats up tomorrow with three key games.
The Mustangs visit the No. 6 Chesapeake Cougars (7-0-1, 1-0), who are coming off Thursday's 2- 1 overtime victory over the Annapolis Panthers (5-2, 0-1). The Panthers, who entered the Chesapeake game with a six-game unbeaten streak, visit the Old Mill Patriots (4-3, 0-0-1), who battled to a scoreless tie with the tough Glen Burnie Gophers (3-4, 0-0-1). And the Gophers play host to Severna Park.