Meade's Jason Reese got the surprise of his life on the bus en routeto Chesapeake High School and the Class 4A Region IV final.
It was there that the Mustangs junior learned he had been given the unenviable task of marking Severna Park's explosive striker, Brian Peterson.
That's the same Brian Peterson who was leading his team in scoring with 11 goals and seven assists. The same Brian Peterson who holds the school record for career goals (42) and assists (19).
"If I had told him Monday of last week, or Tuesday, right after we beat Chesapeake (3-1 in the region semifinals), that he was going to be markingBrian Peterson, he probably would have been sick. And he probably wouldn't have played well," said Meade first-year coach Mike Dey.
Both strategies worked to perfection.
Making his first start at the stopper position, Reese helped silence Peterson during Saturday night's finale, and the third-seeded Mustangs (11-3) went on to upset the top-seeded Falcons (11-3) in a shootout, 1-0, to qualify for next weekend's 4A state playoffs.
Reese, normally a right fullback, also contributed a goal during the pressure-filled shootout, which Meade won, 9-7.
But his most important task was preventing goals, not scoring them.
"I was real scared because I knew how fast he was," Reese said. "I just had to do my job and hopefully, things would turn outright. I just concentrated on containing him."
Peterson said, "Hedid a good job on me. I didn't really do that much, but (Coach Don Gregg) wanted me to stay wide and open some space in the middle."
Not that Peterson was a absolute non-factor. But he became "a passer, not a shooter, and that's what I wanted," Dey said.
"Brian worked real hard this game," Dey added. "He got open and hurt us with some good, accurate passing and sent some dangerous balls into the corner.
"I said earlier in the week he's like a shark. If you let him justfloat around the 18-yard line, he'll kill you. And I wanted him as far from the 18 as I could get him."
But why Jason Reese?
"Of our defensive backs, he probably has the most speed, so I thought, well, I'll let him chase Brian Peterson," Dey said. "And I needed the other seniors who were out there to do other things. So he was the man who got the job. And he did a nice job."
So did Eric Washington when he was assigned to Peterson during an Oct. 12 game, won by Meade indouble-overtime, 1-0. But the senior midfielder was moved to sweeperas a replacement for Bryan Mitchell, who was put at center-midfield to help protect a right eye that needed 20 stitches after a collisionlate in Tuesday's game.
Somehow, all the juggling paid off, though the Mustangs were outshot, 25-10, and often seemed on the verge of collapse.
"Coming here, I was real nervous," Dey said. "We've played a different lineup every game, and I was less comfortable with this one than others. In other lineups, I thought we had control of things, and with this one, I felt like they could get control. And they outplayed us the majority of the game."
But the Falcons never brokethrough, thanks in large part to Reese, who knocked down a Peterson shot from close range with 10 minutes left in regulation. In the first overtime, he circled behind Peterson and stripped him of the ball.
"I was surprised; I didn't think he had the qualifications (to mark Peterson) ," said Meade senior goalie John Gratson, who made 17 saves and scored the game-clinching goal during the shootout.
"I thought Eric Washington was going to cover him, but I had faith in Jason."