Severna Park 1, Northern 0
Several of Northern's seniors slumped together on the Patriots' field, yards away from the Severna Park team that had just secured a 1-0 victory in Tuesday's Maryland 3A South Region boys' soccer championship.
While the Falcons hugged, danced and celebrated earning their second state tournament appearance in the past three years, some of the Patriots scattered across midfield fought back tears as they faced the end of a remarkably successful season.
Senior midfielder Kevin McGowan, however, took a different tack. In McGowan's view, there were plenty of reasons to be disappointed, but just as many to be pleased.
"I think there are a lot of positives we can take away from this as a team," McGowan said of Northern, which had become the first team from Calvert County to win the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference's regular season title. "We played a solid second half tonight, and we showed how hard we can play in front of a lot of fans that came out to support us."
Despite frigid weather, several hundred fans packed the upper portions of Northern's stands. They saw the Patriots rebound from a first half in which Severna Park dominated possession and outshot Northern, 6-2, including several near misses.
Northern (13-3-1) seemed the luckier of the two teams by escaping the first half without allowing a goal.
But in the second half, thanks to small tactical adjustments in the Patriots' attack, senior striker and leading goal scorer Mike Mitchell (12 goals, eight assists) seemed to re-energize Northern. The highlight was his one-on-one breakaway against Severna Park junior goalkeeper Kyle Quigley 10 minutes into the second half.
Quigley snared Mitchell's shot, but Northern continued to pressure the Falcons' defense with quick counterattacks, one of which resulted in an apparent goal that was called back on an offsides call in the 69th minute.
Severna Park senior forward Greg Fenton scored the game's only goal three minutes later, off a rebound from a shot by junior midfielder Taylor Young.
Northern continued to mount counterattacks, thanks to the dogged play of Mitchell and sophomore defender Collin Leadbeter. The Patriots had at least three opportunities to score after Fenton's goal.
"This was two identical teams tonight, but we got the lucky goal and that's what wins and loses games sometimes," Severna Park first-year coach Bob Thomas said. "Our league, Anne Arundel County, prepares us very well for games like these. We are very similar to the [SMAC]."