Repeatedly in the second half of Tuesday night's Maryland 3A South Region boys soccer final, Thomas Stone's players nearly scored the winning goal by using their hands and feet. But when they finally did score with seven minutes to play, it was a head--junior Brian MacFarlane's--that delivered a 2-1 victory over Leonardtown.
The victory allows No. 10 Thomas Stone (16-2) to advance to this weekend's state semifinals, where they will play Fallston, a 3-1 winner over Franklin on Tuesday. The Cougars will be shooting for a second consecutive state title--they were 3A co-champions with Linganore last season.
Leonardtown, playing in its first regional final in boys soccer, finished at 12-5.
Throughout Tuesday's 3A South final, Thomas Stone senior Ronnie Provenzano tried to set up goals with long throw-ins. Twice, his throws went directly into the goal--setting off celebrations on the Thomas Stone sidelines--but they were disallowed as goals because no player on the field had touched the ball.
The Cougars also had an apparent go-ahead goal from Brian Moroz with 16 minutes left in the game, but that, too, was disallowed after referees ruled that one of Thomas Stone's players had interfered with Raiders goalkeeper Jason Cooke.
But with less than seven minutes left, Stone finally broke through, on a corner kick that Provenzano took from the right side. MacFarlane rose above two Raider defenders and headed the ball into the top left corner of the goal from 10 yards away.
"Basically, I was in the right place at the right time," MacFarlane said. "I have been working all year on my headers off corners. We knew if we kept the pressure up we would be all right."
Said Thomas Stone Coach Mike Emrick: "Leonardtown has a narrow field, and we decided to use long throw-ins and set pieces to try and get pressure on their goalie. I remember playing in a state title game in 1991 against Centennial on a narrow field, and they used long throw-ins and absolutely killed us on it. Ronnie can throw the ball a mile, and we hoped eventually it would work."
Provenzano scored the first goal of the game when he latched onto a long pass from Moroz on a 2-on-1 fast break. He drilled the ball past Cooke, into the lower right corner.
Leonardtown tied the score with five minutes left in the first half. Senior Mike Mutchler scrambled with two Thomas Stone defenders and goalie Ryan Tomasko for a loose ball about 30 yards from Thomas Stone's goal. Mutchler deflected an attempted clearing pass past the defenders and Tomasko, then followed the ball as it went into the goal to tie the score.
The Raiders' main threats came from crossing passes from Mutchler, a central midfielder, and senior defender Mike Shutty. But for the most part, Thomas Stone's defense--led by senior Dave Bonney and MacFarlane--was able to handle the threats. The Cougars outshot Leonardtown, 23-7, and won seven corners to Leonardtown's two.
Leonardtown--which has improved since a 4-1 regular-season loss to Thomas Stone--should bring back a solid nucleus next season--two freshmen and two sophomores started Tuesday.
"Some people might have thought that Leonardtown was lucky to get this far in the playoffs," Leonardtown Coach Bruce Henderson said. "But by playing Stone so close, hopefully we proved those people wrong. . . . Maybe we do not have the tradition of a program like Stone's, but we hope to get there one day."
Thomas Stone (16-2) 1 1--2
Leonardtown (13-3-1) 1 0--1
GOALS--TS: Provenzano, 22nd minute; MacFarlane, 75th. L: Mutchler, 36th.
SHOTS--Thomas Stone 23, Leonardtown 7.
SAVES--TS 2 (Tomasko 2), L 10 (Cooke 10).
CAPTION: Thomas Stone's Brian Moroz, right, pushes the ball toward Leonardtown's goal in the regional final Tuesday. Raiders Daniel O'Brien, on ground, and Mike Mutchler defend.