Things don't look like they'll get any easier for the cardiac 'Cats,who have won back-to-back overtime soccer games to reach the state Class 1A finals.
An impressive performance last Saturday by keeper Todd Bradford enabled Wilde Lake to sneak past Fallston into this Saturday's 2:30 p.m. championship game against undefeated Clear Spring (15-0) of Washington County. The 'Cats won, 2-1, in a shootout at South Hagerstown High School.
And the Wildecats will depend on Bradford's experience again Saturday as they try to win their first state title since 1984. The 'Catswon four straight state titles, from 1981-1984, in Class 1A.
Bradford played on last year's Class 2A state-champion Atholton team, so he knows what it takes. His family moved into the Wilde Lake districtthis year, enabling him to play for the Wildecats.
The Wildecats beat Brunswick, 2-1, in double overtime in the regional final to earnthe right to play Fallston.
The back-to-back barn-burners left 'Cats coach Dave Nesbitt gasping for air.
"I feel like we've alreadyplayed two state championship games," Nesbitt said.
Bradford madethree saves on penalty kicks during the Fallston shootout, and several more good saves on corners and long crosses during the game.
"He showed tremendous composure, and we'll need another good game from him Saturday," Nesbitt said. "He was magnificent against Fallston."
It was Wilde Lake's second win over Fallston this year. An earlier 2-0 victory was much easier. But Saturday the 'Cats needed a tying goal from star striker Hamisi Amani-Dove off a Matt Nesbitt pass with 22 minutes left to force an overtime.
Amani-Dove, an All-American, has 15 goals and six assists. Nesbitt has 14 goals and 15 assists.
Clear Spring will have to shut down those two if it hopes to win Saturday.
Clear Spring coach Mark Myers scouted Wilde Lake and considers Nesbitt, son of the coach, the team's best player.
"If he doesn't play well, then they don't play well. He's the playmaker and willbe marked all the time."
Myers said he didn't see any weak spots on Wilde Lake's team. "You have to take their passing game away if you hope to win," he said.
Wilde Lake has scored 46 goals and given up 17. But Clear Spring has a potent offense of its own. The Blazers (15-0) have scored 68 goals and allowed 20 while posting four shutouts.
They have three high-scoring strikers, including Troy Englehart(17 goals, 5 assists), Mark Shives (14, 10) and Wade Elwood (14, 7).
"Clear Spring plays direct and tries to get it to the scoring area as quickly as possible," 'Cats coach Nesbitt said. "This leaves them open to counterattack and makes their defense work harder to get back.
"We want to slow the ball down, make good decisions and not get into a Ping-Pong match. Our outside backs will have to play well tospread the field and use our passing game," Nesbitt said.
Wilde Lake's outside midfielders are GianPaulo Einaudi and Kweisi Ewol-Robotham. The outside fullbacks are Mike Aballo and David Lubitz.
Mike Curtis is another good inside midfielder to go with Nesbitt.
'Catssweeper Corey Sautter has played a key role in their successful season. "Sautter was outstanding Saturday, and it's real important he have another good game to pick up people sliding through the middle," Nesbitt said.
Myers also said goalie Joe Hoff is highly effective. "He made about 20 saves against Easton."
The 'Cats are 12-2-1 and have seven shutouts.
Clear Spring's only other state playoff appearance was in 1976, when it won the 1A title.
Myers played on that 15-0 team, and he said this year's team is sick of being compared to it.
"They want to prove they're better, and a win Saturday would make them 16-0," Myers said.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 16
Time: 2:30 p.m.
Place: Old Mill High School
Records: Wilde Lake, 12-2-1; Clear Spring, 15-0.
Coaches: Wilde Lake, Dave Nesbitt; Clear Spring,Mark Myers.
Key: Wilde Lake must slow the ball down, and its outside backs must play well to spread the field and open up the Wildecats' passing game.