This was supposed to be the hard part for Atholton. The Raiders had expended so much energy just to get to this point, few could gauge if they had anything left.
The Raiders answered that question resoundingly in the affirmative, wrapping up a run of narrow wins through the regional and state playoffs with a 2-0 victory over Eastern Tech at UMBC to capture the Maryland 2A boys' title, their first since 1990.
Winston Jackson and Patrick Corbett scored for the Raiders (15-4-1), who had battled through three one-goal wins in the 2A South playoffs and a comeback win over Liberty in the state semifinal.
"That made us all the more prepared for today," Atholton keeper Austin McAfee said of his team's rigorous playoff stretch. "Playing all those teams on the road -- that just fired us up even more."
The Raiders won in the same manner that had propelled them to a 12-game unbeaten streak heading into the final: smothering defense and timely offense that often finished on the foot of Jackson, their leading scorer.
Atholton had only four shots on goal in the first half but its attack was relentless. The Raiders' persistence paid off in the 51st minute when Michael Bouman found Jackson off a corner kick, and the senior forward's shot slipped into the right corner of the net. Atholton's offense didn't ease off with the lead.
The Raiders sealed it when Corbett corralled a pass from Tim Breen in the 66th minute and placed a shot from the middle of the box just past the outstretched arms of keeper Jason Alex.
It marked the 14th shutout of the season for the Raiders, who allowed only one goal over their final seven games. Atholton's decided possession advantage provided McAfee with a rather uneventful afternoon. But he made the necessary stops when called upon, including a leaping save off an Eastern Tech (16-4) corner kick late in the first half.
"It's easier to play offense than it is to play defense," Atholton Coach Roch DeFrances said. "We work on passing a lot. I told them our passing game is better than anyone we've seen all year. As long as we can possess the ball we're in good shape."
Middletown Finishes on Top
Forward Whitney Boyer scored in the 53rd minute to lead Middletown past J.M. Bennett, 1-0, in the Maryland 2A girls' soccer final at UMBC.
Rachelle Burman and Sarah Hess combined to stop seven shots for Middletown, which won the state title for the first time since sharing the championship in 2000 and handed J.M Bennett (19-1) its first loss of the season.
Looking to inject some energy into its offense after a rather stagnant first half, Middletown (13-7) grabbed the lead when Amanda Kinna's shot was stopped by keeper Brittany Curtis, and Boyer raced in to plant the rebound inside the left post.
For Titans, a Season of Firsts
Courtney Yee scored two goals, and Molly Franklin added a goal and an assist as Tuscarora defeated Sparrows Point, 5-1, in the Maryland 1A girls' soccer final at UMBC.
The Titans (18-2) won the title in only their first full season at the varsity level, an impressive feat considering they only have two upperclassmen on the roster. Tuscarora outscored its opponents 67-13 this season. Sparrows Point finished 11-5.