MOUNT AIRY — Freedom Force coach Dominick Berarducci wanted to use speed against the Mount Airy Bulldogs in Saturday morning's Carroll County Boys Soccer League under-14 A division confrontation at Watkins Park.
But Mount Airy turned the tables, fast-breaking for two sudden second-half goals to trip Freedom, 2-0.
The squads were battling for the lead in the under-14-A division,which generally includes the older and better youngsters in that agegroup.
Mount Airy entered the game in first place, with a 6-2 record, but was closely pursued by Freedom and North Carroll, both tied for second with 4-1-2 marks.
Saturday's combatants were also vyingfor the top seed in the upcoming postseason league tournament, because the top team plays the bottom team in its opening tourney game.
Berarducci also considered the game important in an intangible way.
"I hoped it would be a springboard for the rest of the season," hesaid.
And if time spent in the opponent's end of the field was decisive, it might have been. His Force spent most of the first half there.
And it played the Bulldogs at least evenly after intermission, except for that brief fatal one-minute interval when Mount Airy's Eric Moreau and Ken Jenkins burned Freedom's net.
Both squads entered the game on a roll; neither had lost in five games.
Berarducci hoped to exploit his team's quickness.
"We wanted to bring the ball up on the outside and cross (pass) it into the middle," he said.
This tactic, he thought, would spread out the Mount Airy defense, or"widen the field," as he put it.
Then, he figured, the Freedom attackers could slip into the open middle areas for easy shots on goal.
Bulldog coach Sam Beck said the strategy was effective, even though the Force went scoreless.
"We'd been scoring a lot of goals, but they did a good job of keeping the ball away from us the first half," Beck said.
But Freedom rarely crossed the ball into the middle where it could get good shots.
Beck credited fullbacks Shaun McLellan, Brian Jacobs, Charles Blevins and Mike Amoss for protecting the middle area in front of their goal.
Even in the opening half, Mount Airy got several good shots, but Freedom goalkeeper Tim Shifflett turned all of them aside.
Just after intermission, Freedom threatened several times before Mount Airy suddenly saw a window of opportunity and went crashing through.
Midway through the 30-minute period,Mount Airy's Brad Centenio gained possession of the ball, passed to Jacobs, who spotted Moreau --ing down the left side toward the goal.
Jacobs hit Moreau with a perfect pass, and the latter booted in a 15-yarder to break the scoreless tie.
Moments later, the Bulldogs broke upfield again.
Brandon Dorsey launched a corner kick that Jenkins, perfectly positioned on the left side of the goal, neatly headed in, making the score 2-0.
Freedom threatened again later but was stymied on two crucial opportunities.
The first came when a penalty kick sailed over the goal, and the second died when Mount Airy keeper Tom Lewis blocked a point-blank shot by Freedom's Matt Horrell and fell on the ball.
Berarducci discussed missed opportunities afterward.
"If we have the opportunities and finish, we're a different team. But we didn't have anybody to finish today," he said.
Beckcited cohesion for the Mount Airy team's success to date.
"They play well together," he said. Looking toward the postseason tournament, he added, "If we play the way we did today, we have as good a chance as anybody to win it."