CATONSVILLE — For Severna Park forward Daniel Kwon, Blake’s defense was a suffocating blanket during Friday night’s Maryland 4A state final. He was closely guarded on every corner kick. He was routinely hounded by multiple defenders when he made his runs with the ball. He even got tangled with a Blake player at one point, and officials had to step in to prevent a shoving match.
But in one of the few moments that Blake left the striker unmarked, he made them pay. Kwon found himself all alone in front of the box eight minutes into the second half, and after receiving a cross, he promptly delivered a left-footed strike into the back of the net from 10 feet out.
Aesthetically, it might have been the best looking goal he scored this fall. It was certainly his most important, and it proved to be the difference as the No. 2 Falcons outlasted Blake, 1-0, at UMBC Stadium.
“I knew that Griffin had played a really good ball down the middle, and I just faked it with my right and I just put it away with my left foot,” Kwon said. “I know that the team has my back, and I play for the team. We all play for each other.”
Both the Falcons (17-0-2) and Bengals (15-4) had taken similar paths to Friday’s title match — playing a combined 10 overtime matches this season and both prevailing in down-to-the-wire fashion in last week’s semifinal round. But Blake was making its first appearance on the state title stage, and Severna Park, with six tournament appearances in seven years, was not.
“It was like a championship game should be, back and forth,” Blake Coach David Edlow said. “Unfortunately we couldn’t [convert] on the end of any of our chances tonight.”
The confident Falcons had been here before, and hadn’t lost a match in a year — the last coming in last November’s 4A state title match against Wootton. Severna Park controlled the possession early, using swift passing to create several dangerous scoring opportunities and limiting Blake to just one chance in the first 40 minutes — a 20-yard strike that drifted several feet high of the crossbar late in the first half.
Though the Bengals (three goals in each of their last three postseason wins) made adjustments and more runs at the net in the second half, Kwon’s motor was the difference early in the frame. The Falcons played the ball wide, and senior midfielder Griffin Kowaleski telegraphed his cross to Kwon. The team’s leading scorer (16 goals, five assists) crossed-over on a Blake defender and beat the Bengals’ goalkeeper into the left side of the net. He looked physically drained with just five minutes to play, when he was dropped to the ground after colliding with yet another Blake defender.
It was familiar territory for the junior. But a year after he was a starter on the Falcons’ 4A runner-up squad, he finally was able to collapse on the turf in celebration, not exhaustion.
The win marked Severna Park’s third state title, and first since 2001.
“Coming here last year and losing and winning it this year,” Kwon said, “it feels good to lead them as champions, honestly.”