In what might decide the WMAC soccer championship, DeMatha defeated Ireton, 1-0, yesterday at Ireton. The Stags showed why they are one of the best teams in the metropolitan area as they won their 12th straight, 10th straight shutout and second straight shutout over Ireton.
DeMatha (14-2-1, 9-1-1 in the league) scored 10:10 into the game as Gregg McLaughlin ran down the left sideline and crossed the ball to Chris Mercier, who was 15 yards out. Mercier headed the pass to Mark Melvin, who scored inside the near post from seven yards on the right.
Ireton had a chance to tie when DeMatha's Mark Urban was called for tripping with three seconds remaining. But John Norem's penalty kick glanced off the crossbar and was deflected by goalie Chris Janus, who smothered the rebound as time expired.
"This was the most emotional game we've had this year," said Mercier, who was instrumental in shutting down Ireton's midfield attack. "We knew what was at stake. We knew the winner had the best shot at winning the championship."
DeMatha leads Ireton (11-3-1, 8-2-1) by a game with three games remaining. The Stags finish the season against St. John's, O'Connell and McNamara. Ireton plays Bullis, McNamara and O'Connell.
As it has all season, DeMatha's midfield of Mercier, David Ross, McLaughlin and Pete Despres was able to take the Cardinals out of their game.
"To win, we've got to push the ball man-to-man and create opportunities," said Ireton Coach Pete Johnson. " . . . This is the best DeMatha team I've seen."
"They just shut down our midfield," said Ireton's Eddy McCue. "They don't have pretty style, but they get the job done."
DeMatha, which seemed to move the ball at will in the first half, slowed the tempo after intermission to protect its lead. The maneuver almost backfired when McCue had two scoring chances. He missed wide left with 15 minutes remaining and, with five minutes left, his open-net attempt from 15 yards sailed high.