Ben Donovan was the only Towson High School player in street shoes. A recently injured calf muscle in his left leg prompted the switch from his regular, but harsher, spiked ones.
Although he wore beat-up tennis shoes and enough tape to wrap a small mummy, however, Towson's leading scorer proved as effective as always. He scored the winning goal last night in his team's 2-1 Class 2A state semifinal victory over Parkside of Wicomico County.
"This was all I wanted," Donovan said, "and the injury wasn't bad enough to keep me out. It's just what the whole team fought for."
After two years of early playoff exits, the Generals (15-0) advanced to next Saturday's Class 2A championship game against Rockville of Montgomery County, which was a 2-0 winner over Liberty in the early game.
Towson used its speed to control the action from the beginning, outshooting Parkside, 26-4. The Rams played without five top players due to various injuries and illnesses.
According to Rams coach Andy Hall, however, what affected them just as much was Towson's first goal. That came on Jon Giordani's shot from close range, only 4 minutes, 7 seconds into the game.
"That really hurt us," said Hall, whose team ended its season 11-4-1. "Scoring like that really put a nail in their backs and took their heads out of the game."
Donovan's game-winner came 22:42 into the second half. After teammate Alan Lee fed him with a header, Donovan used his shoulder to turn the ball toward the goal, then put it in.
In the other semifinal, Liberty lost its bid for its first appearance in a state title game by losing to Rockville.
Though playing the role of aggressor for much of the game, the Lions failed to convert on several prime scoring opportunities.
"We came here to win. There's no doubt about that," said coach Lee Kestler, whose third-seeded team finished 11-3-1. "But just getting this far means something, also. I hope our play today showed people that Carroll County really can play soccer."
The Lions stayed with the speedier Rams (11-2-2) for most of the game. Liberty was outshot by only 9-8.
But Rockville won the game at midfield.
Time and again, especially in the first half, Liberty had the ball stolen near the center of the field, where Rockville took control and penetrated into the Lions' end.