After Bowie lost to Sherwood, 2-1, in the Maryland 4A semifinals Saturday night, Bulldogs Coach Richard Kirkland remembered a few things that made this team special.
Of course, he knew the hard data: Bowie (16-3) had not trailed an opponent since Sept. 13, and the Bulldogs had run off a 15-game winning streak that included Prince George's County and 4A South Region titles.
But what made this year's team special to Kirkland were times such as the team practice before Halloween, which brought a chuckle when he recalled it.
"Those knuckleheads dressed up in costumes and masks and stuff and played a whole practice," Kirkland said. "It was an enjoyable season because they were a delight to coach -- there was a love for the game and there was cooperation."
It was cooperation grounded in experience. Nine of the 11 starters were seniors and, according to four-year starter and co-captain Christopher Flynn, the Bulldogs were a tight-knit squad.
"We are all friends and we pal around a lot, and I think that was what was so fun about this year -- we were more comfortable and confident," Flynn said. "But I seriously think if we had played for the entire game [against Sherwood], we could have gotten this game into overtime and what would have happened there, I don't know."
The Bulldogs were stunned by the quickness with which Sherwood scored two goals in the first 17 minutes of the game.
Not including an early-season tournament at which Bowie dropped two matches to Montgomery County teams, the Bulldogs had only trailed one team, Parkdale, the entire season. In that game, Bowie overcame a 2-0 deficit to win, 7-3.
In Saturday's game, Flynn (team-leading 11 goals and 11 assists) helped Bowie bounce back with a penalty kick goal in the 27th minute to make it 2-1. And in the second half, Bowie seemed inspired as the teams battled evenly.
Sherwood Coach Hector Morales Jr. admired the Bulldogs' effort: "I knew Bowie was going to fight to the end . . . the penalty kick definitely gave them the momentum and intensity that they needed. And then they were really high pressure for the end of the first half and through the second half."