The Seneca Valley boys' soccer team already led by two goals when forward Miguel Orego poked in a loose ball in front of the Paint Branch net in the 48th minute to extend the Eagles' lead. But just as Seneca Valley appeared to be coasting toward victory in last night's Maryland 3A West Region championship game in Germantown, it had to endure a gut-wrenching final five minutes.

As time seemed to tick on interminably for Seneca Valley, Panthers defender Michael Edwards found a way to get the ball into the Seneca Valley net twice within a two-minute span to close the gap, but for Paint Branch the rally came too late as the Screaming Eagles were able to hold on for the 3-2 win and their first region crown.

"We thought we had it but right at the end was so scary," said forward Tim Kovack, who assisted on Ivan Echeverry's goal that made the score 2-0 late in the first half. "But now, it's the greatest feeling in the world. I can't even explain it."

Atholton Falls

Hammond defeated defending Maryland 2A champion and fifth-ranked Atholton, 2-1, in the 2A South Region boys' soccer final.

After a scoreless first half, Hammond took the lead on a goal by Mustafa Ebrahimnebad with 33 minutes left. Jimmy Headley added what proved to be the game-winner 10 minutes later. The Golden Bears allowed a late goal but held on for the win.

"That was just crazy. That was one of the best feelings I've had in awhile," said Headley, who scored through heavy traffic in front of the net after corralling a corner kick on the back post. "Everyone knew from the start it was our game to win. If we wanted it bad enough we could win. We knew we could do it."

Headley, a junior, is in his first season at Hammond after being displaced from his home in Mississippi by Hurricane Katrina.

"It's been really uplifting, what with the hurricane and all," Headley said. "This has really helped me a lot take my mind off of stuff after school."

Playoff Updates

Want to know where your team stands in the race for the football playoffs? Josh Barr breaks down the playoff scenarios in both Virginia and Maryland at www.washingtonpost.com/ highschools.

-- Charlie Moss

and Ryan Young