At halftime of their Class 4A state semifinal with defending champion Bowie Friday night, Meade's boys soccer team trailed just 1-0 and was still within striking distance.
Then, the Mustangs' Rodney Rawlinson beat grounded Bulldogs keeper Dan Mckeon (three saves) to a loose ball.
For a split instant, a dream was alive again. Rawlinson, a senior, had earlier in the year scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory that snapped Severna Park's regular-season winning streak at 35.
Butan instant more and Rawlinson's dream went the way of his shanked opportunity -- high over the goal and into oblivion.
What followed was a four-goal explosion by the top-seeded Bulldogs (14-0), who got tallies from Mark Jonas -- his second of the night -- two more from Greg Ossont and another from Andy Moore in a 5-0 rout.
"I think after a while, the score did not tell it all, how well Meade played," said Bowie coach Rich Kirkland, whose six-time champions now have a 30-game winning streak since losing to Walt Whitman in the semifinals twoyears ago.
But the Bulldogs, who play third-seed Churchill (13-2)in next Saturday's final, showed just how they have outscored their opponents, 87-6.
"It was just boom, boom, boom on a couple of quick opportunities where we caught them flat-footed in a mental lapse," Kirkland said.
"But they were a good team and belonged here playing us. They just missed some opportunities."
And those blown opportunities came back to haunt the fourth-seeded Mustanges (11-4). They were outshot, 7-1, in the first half, but that statistic isn't indicative of the Mustangs' effective attack.
Sweeper Erik Washington andstopper Bryan Mitchell led a five-man defense which often thwarted players like forwards Steve Wandzilak (13 goals, six assists) and Byron Tena (five, three) and Moore (12, six) by redirecting the ball intothe offense.
But Jonas (21 goals, five assists) was still able topenetrate for the game's first goal. With just 9 minutes, 28 secondsgone, the U.S. National team player broke free on the left and beat two defenders to Ossont's pass in the corner.
Racing toward the right endline, Jonas forced keeper John Gratson (nine saves) to commit toward the play, stopped short even with the left-hand post, and lifted a rising shot into the net's far corner.
"We were doing just what I wanted to do, even though we gave up that early goal," said Meade coach Mike Dey.
"We just couldn't sustain it for the whole game,and they could."
For the remainder of the first half, however, Jim Dey, with occasional help from his teammates, kept fairly tight reins on Jonas. Gratson later stopped a point-blank shot by Wandzilak, which seemed to ignite his teammates.
Meade's only first-half shot,Dey's 25-yarder, floated harmlessly into Mckeon's hands.
There was, however, Meade's game-opening rush when Mitchell charged into the corner to Mckeon's left, and pushed a nice pass in that Rawlinson couldn't run down and Bo Lepinsky couldn't get a foot on before it was cleared.
But what about Rob Azzura, whose second-half shot was headed for the net's upper corner for the game-tying goal before Mckeon tipped it away?
Or what about the similar shot seconds later by Jason Reese that Mckeon nudged over the crossbar?
Will anyone remember how close the Mustangs really came to winning?
"The only thing that upsets me," said Dey, "is that people will read the final score and not know how well we played."