Five County youth soccer teams won regular-season divisional titles in the the Carroll County Boys' Soccer League this year.And four of them will carry that momentum into next Saturday's postseason tournament championship games.
The Freedom Blazers, South Carroll, FreedomStrikers and Deer Park each clinched appearances in their respectivedivisional finals after semifinal wins this past Saturday.
But the day's most exciting game saw the demise of Mount Airy, the under-14A regular season winner.
It fell to fourth-seeded North Carroll, 4-3, in double overtime at North Carroll Middle.
"I told them we could pull it off and we did," said North Carroll coach Doug Eckard, who watched his team lose a 3-1 lead in the final minutes of regulation and then win on a goal by winger Tony Reightler with less than two minutes to go in the second overtime.
Ryan Bowles scored twice for the winners, and David Rongioni added another.
Eric Moreau tallied twice for Mount Airy and Kenny Jenkins once.
The Blazers' under-10A semifinal was a lot easier on the nerves of their coach,Bernie Schreiner.
Striker Pete Schaffer scored three times and mates John Tamburo and Jeff Hagood each added one in their 5-0 win overNorth Carroll.
Fullbacks Greg Bohle, Kevin Taylor and David Pohlit keyed the Blazers' defense.
While most of those youngsters are only 8 or 9 years old, they are soccer veterans.
Most have played soccer four or five years, Schreiner said.
The experience pays off.
"They play as a team. Nobody tries to do it all himself. I just show them what I want and they go out and do it," he said.
That's what Steve Centineo's South Carroll under-10B squad has also been doing this season, even though many of his players are soccer novices.
South Carroll remained unbeaten for the year, as it used goals by Steven Robinson and Joey Beall to edge a stubborn Charles Carroll squad, 2-1, at Watkins Park in Mount Airy.
Unlike the under-10A champs,Centineo's squad is younger and more inexperienced, qualities that generally mark the Boys' League's B divisions.
Centineo said he recruited the traveling team from both soccer and baseball and often chose players simply because of their athletic ability.
But they willhave to show what they've learned in next Saturday's finale because they face Westminster, whom they tied in both of their games this season.
The under-12A Strikers have learned quite a bit about soccer over the years, winning three consecutive regular-season Boys' Leaguetitles.
But they have never won a postseason championship despitetheir outstanding record over that time.
This season they were 8-1-1, tying with Deer park for first.
But a strong defense which yielded only five goals all year gave Freedom the title by virtue of its better ratio of goals for and against.
Saturday's wind-blown contest against the South Carroll Top Guns at Eldersburg's Oklahoma Parksaw the Strikers' Doug McCurdy score the game's only goal in the first half, his 40th of the year.
Keeper Adam Downes made the game's key defensive play in the first half when he stopped three consecutive point-blank shots.
Sweeper Mike Rabinovitz and fullback David Fetterhoff provided strong defense out front.
"Defense has been our key all year," said Striker coach Mike Roy.
They will need it in this Saturday's finale against a Pikesville team that knocked them outof last year's postseason tourney.
"Pikesville's bigger and olderthan us. We'll have to move the ball around and spread their defenseout," Roy said.
Deer Park also had to struggle to win against a team it had dominated in the regular season.
But that pair of 4-1 wins meant nothing when Bob Winters' youngsters faced New Windsor Saturday at chilly Deer Park.
Gary Whitehouse put Deer Park on top with an early goal, only to have New Windsor tie it near the end of the first half.
New Windsor continued to press the attack against the 8-0 regular-season champs after intermission until Jimmy Silfee scored the winning goal with eight minutes remaining in the game.
Winters likes the team-oriented attitude on this first-year entrant in theBoys' League despite the relative inexperience of his players.
"You don't always have to have the aptitude but you need the attitude. We have the attitude," Winters said.