The cards seemed stacked in Atholton's favor when the game began Friday.
The Raiders had the motivation of playing for Atholton's first county boys soccer championship. A win would have tied them with Centennial.
Their opponents, Wilde Lake's Wildecats, were playing without star offensive midfielder Matt Nesbitt (12 goals, 12 assists), who was sitting out because of an ejection Tuesday in a game against Hammond.
"Our only motivation was pride," Wilde Lake Coach Dave Nesbitt said. "And we played very well as a team, with Mike Curtis and Hamisi Amani-Dove really stepping up their games."
Pride won out as the Wildecats defeated a disappointed Atholton squad, 2-1.
The Raiders, coming off a double-overtime 4-4 tie with Centennial on Tuesday, played sluggishly in the first half against Wilde Lake.
"It was hard toplay again at Tuesday's level," Atholton coach Reg Hahne said. 'We outshot them but didn't finish well. We thought we'd win with Wilde Lake playing minus Nesbitt."
An expected high-scoring contest from the county's two most offensive-oriented teams never developed.
Instead, Wilde Lake's unheralded defense, which has recorded six shutouts in 12 games, shut down Atholton completely in the first half.
The Wildecats led, 1-0, at halftime on a goal by Amani-Dove off a 30-yard free kick from Curtis. Amani-Dove headed in a 10-yarder for his 13th goal of the season.
In the second half, Atholton's offense fired up, outshooting Wilde Lake, 11-4, and putting some intense pressureon Wildecats goalie Todd Bradford.
He made two exceptional saves early in the half. First there was a 15-yard header from David Kelleyoff a throw-in by Jeff May that Bradford saved one-handed, pushing the ball over the crossbar.
Then there was a powerful kick by John Walter from 15 yards out that Bradford dove to stop.
Atholton was its own worst enemy at times. Kelley, who made a great move to get free, missed a good chance from 10 yards out in the 55th minute as his kick went wide right.
Kelley missed again to the right after taking a pass off a free kick down the right side.
Wilde Lake then wentup, 2-0. Kwesi Ewol-Robotham missed a sensational diving header thatbounced off the far right post into the middle of the field. GianPaulo Einaudi followed it with a hard kick from 10 yards out to score his fourth goal of the season.
With 20 minutes to play, Atholton washard-pressed to come back. But in the 65th minute, the Raiders made it exciting when Kelley scored on a 15-yard kick off a short pass from Tim Whitcome. It was 2-1 with 15 minutes left to play.
Amani-Dove's presence on defense became highly noticeable at that point, however, with several clearing kicks out of Wilde Lake's end.
Yohan Choi also won a crucial battle with Kelley for possession at Wilde Lake's 30-yard line with three minutes to play. Choi managed to clear the ball to the other end of the field.
Amani-Dove made another big clear in the 40th minute to seal Atholton's fate.
"This was only thesecond game I've dropped back to defense," Amani-Dove said. "This one and Centennial. We wanted to jump on them quick because we thought they might be stronger than us at the end with Matt (Nesbitt) out. Wewanted to keep the ball up top as much as possible."
Hahne, whoseteam compiled its best league record ever, praised the play of Amani-Dove and Bradford. "I expected a big scoring game," Hahne said.
Atholton's offensive star, Tony Dedmond, was not much of a factor after his sensational game Tuesday against Centennial.
Nesbitt described his defense as unsung and getting better each game.
"This win puts us in a good frame of mind for the playoffs," he said.
Wilde Lake will be the No. 1 seed in the Region 2, Class 1A playoffs and will be host Wednesday at 3:15 p.m. to an team not yet determined Fridayafternoon.
Atholton will be second-seeded and host to a Region 3,Class 3A playoff game Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. against an opponent stillundetermined Friday afternoon.