During its undefeated run through the regular season and regional tournament, Leonardtown has benefited from its myriad weapons.
Its three-pronged attack -- Chad Johnson, Weston Sellmer and Ian Titus -- has wreaked havoc on opposing defenses. The steady midfield, led by junior Danny Poe, has controlled the pace of games all season. And the defense -- Blake Roth, John Greely, Tim Smith and goalkeeper Steve Mortiz -- shut out opponents for more than 860 consecutive minutes during the regular season.
But on Friday night, in the Maryland 3A South Region final against 10th-seeded McDonough, the Raiders also benefited from home-field advantage. Though both teams had to play on the same sloppy field, the slips and bounces seemed to go the Raiders' way in a 2-0 victory.
In the 49th minute, McDonough goalkeeper Scott Hettel slipped while punting, and the ball landed right at Johnson's feet. From 35 yards out, Johnson booted the ball over a scrambling Hettel for the Raiders' first goal.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Leonardtown scored its second goal when sophomore Peter Krech, dribbling down the right flank, got a fortuitous bounce from the soggy turf, which popped the ball over a sliding defender. Krech took advantage of the hop and drilled a shot into the right side of the goal.
"We both had to play in it, so it couldn't be that big a factor, but it was sloppy," Johnson said. "I've spent four years playing varsity, and this is our third time making it to the regional finals and finally, finally we made it."
With the win, Leonardtown (17-0) continued an undefeated season and will advance to the state tournament for the first time. The Raiders will face Dulaney at Urbana High School in Ijamsville at 5 p.m. Monday.
"I know for me, as a senior, it's special to be able to walk off our home field for the last time knowing that we won the regional championship for the first time in school history," Roth said.
McDonough (9-8-1) did not play like a 10th-seeded team. After defeating 2001 3A South Region champion Northern in the tournament quarterfinals and downing La Plata on penalty kicks last Monday, the Rams were playing with tremendous confidence. They were the more aggressive team in the first half and had several opportunities to score. But even with a frantic, late comeback attempt, the Rams could not get past Leonardtown's sterling defense.
"They played great," McDonough Coach Jeremy Campbell said. "We came this far, we knocked off everyone except for the one seed, but I was proud of them. It was real difficult with the field conditions; obviously that was a factor.
"I thought we had a lot more shot opportunities, but they had more set pieces that made me nervous. My hat's off to Leonardtown. They were the better team."
Said Phil Richter, a senior midfielder for McDonough: "This season was great. It was fun while it lasted. We knew we had a good team the whole season. We just now brought it all together and made it this far. It was a tough loss, but we'll be cheering for them."
Leonardtown next will face an opponent it has never seen and knows virtually nothing about. Dulaney, however, had some representatives in the stands Friday night.
"We don't know really much about this team. We just know that they were one of the top teams in their region," Poe said. "We'll just have to take it to them."