Late rally lifts Hebron to third straight title

No. 3 Vikings overcome North Carroll for 3A crown

Mount Hebron 2 North Carroll 1

Boys Soccer

November 18, 2006|By Glenn Graham | Glenn Graham,Sun reporter

For the Mount Hebron boys soccer team to claim the program's third state title and complete its first unbeaten season, the No. 3 Vikings needed a first from midfielder Zach Barnett and the usual from striker Mike Napolitano - all coming in the final eight minutes of yesterday's Class 3A final against No. 11 North Carroll.

Barnett, a senior standout more accustomed to controlling the middle and distributing the ball, scored his first goal of the season with 7:33 left and Napolitano scored his 25th a few minutes later as the Vikings overcame a stubborn Panthers' defense for a resilient 2-1 win at UMBC Stadium.

Mount Hebron finishes the season with a 17-0-4 mark, capturing the Howard County championship; a demanding East region in which it knocked out last year's co-champ, River Hill; and then defeating last year's other co-champ, Towson, in the state semifinal round before cracking a determined North Carroll side that protected an early 1-0 lead until the closing minutes.

"Going out undefeated, being county, region and state champs - you can't ask for anything more than that," said Napolitano, who, patiently stationed at the midfield line, ran on to a ball sent over the top from senior Bobby Cooke and finished with a clean strike to the near post from 16 yards for the title-winning goal with 3:24 to play.

After the Panthers (14-3) got a goal from Andrew Hamilton in the game's fourth minute - coming off a long flip thrown by Nate Walker that was first headed off the crossbar by Tim Wineke - they were content to keep players back and marking tight.

Despite the considerable edge in territory, the Vikings were continually frustrated until Barnett took matters upon himself with a strong run into the box and an ideal finish to the far post from 12 yards.

"I'm just thinking I need one more shot at goal and I'll put it away," said Barnett, a converted sweeper who had 13 assists this season. "I had plenty of shots in the second half, but they were from far out. So I thought if I had a close one around or inside the 18 - I could put one in."

The Panthers got a fine defensive effort from senior midfielder Brian Bickel, who was given the task of marking Napolitano. The rest of the defense stayed organized and disciplined under the constant pressure, but couldn't hold off a traditionally high-scoring Vikings offense.

"I thought we did a great job - we had a game plan and we executed it. Even in the second half - up until seven minutes to go - we were right where we needed to be," said North Carroll coach Denny Snyder. "I tip my hat to them. But to be that close - seven minutes - I give my kids all the credit in the world."

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