As North County coach Steve Malone sat on the edge of the scorer's table on Chesapeake's soccer field earlier this week, looking relieved to have escaped with a narrow victory over the host Cougars, he was asked to critique his next opponent.
He took a deep breath, shook his head slowly and sounded like a man in complete awe of No. 7 Severna Park, the team that stood between the No. 6 Knights and a second consecutive berth in the state playoffs.
"They're very, very good. They're solid all the way though. They don't have any weak spots," he said.
That description fit both teams last night.
Sophomore Scott Vane scored with 3:04 left in the second
overtime to lift third-seed Severna Park over top-seeded North County, 5-4, in the Class 4A, East Region final at Chesapeake.
The Knights (12-2) had rallied from a 4-2 deficit to tie it 4-4 on a goal by Troy Hoskins off a pass from Emmanuel Uche with 1:57 remaining in regulation. Neither side scored in the first 10-minute overtime, and the teams appeared headed for a shootout when Vane booted a loose ball past North County goalkeeper Matt Collins, who had come out trying to beat Severna Park's Scott Neuberger to the ball.
"The ball just popped out and I put it in," said Vane, a sophomore who has four goals in five games since being called up from junior varsity.
Neuberger had scored three straight times to break a 1-1 tie and give his team some breathing room. And the Falcons (12-2) needed it.
Chris Cosentino scored his second goal of the game, on a penalty kick with 18:38 remaining, to reduce Severna Park's lead to 4-3. Earlier in the half, he had boomed in a direct kick from almost 50 yards that sailed over everyone and into the net, leaving the Knights behind 3-2.
The game took many twists and turns until Vane ended it.
"He's a super kid. He has a knack for playing the game," said Severna Park coach Don Gregg, whose team advances to the 4A state semifinals Friday at Arundel for the first time since 1989.
Collins made a couple of spectacular saves in the first overtime to keep the game deadlocked.
"We knew what was inside these kids," Malone said. "They refused to give in, they refused to believe they were going to be beat."