St. Albans was timid out of necessity in the second half of Saturday night’s District of Columbia State Athletic Association final at Georgetown. After senior captains Nate Johnson and Chris Fleischer picked up cautionary yellow cards in the first 40 minutes, the heart of the Bulldogs midfield couldn’t afford an aggressive misstep.
Amid a flood of whistles and noisily packed stands, the pair of four-year starters kept their calm to control the game. St. Albans survived an equalizer by Washington International in the dying minutes of regulation before senior forward Jabari Wilbon thumped home a corner kick from Fleischer for a 2-1 overtime victory.
“It’s hard not to go all out in your last high school game, but I did my best not to get sent off after my yellow,” said Johnson, who played the majority of the match despite suffering a torn hamstring in Tuesday’s quarterfinal. “Nothing was keeping me from this game.”
A failed clearance bounced St. Albans way midway through the second half, and the Bulldogs’ Sam Lalor beat Washington International goalkeeper Oliver Steinglass to a bouncing loose ball to head in the game’s first goal. With four minutes remaining, a crowd of bodies in front of the St. Albans net produced the equalizer.
A Washington International defender picked up a red card in the ensuing celebration, and the Red Devils (19-2-1) were reduced to 10 players just as they had tied the game. St. Albans (15-3-1) threatened throughout overtime before Wilbon’s header ended the game eight minutes into the first extra period.
“We haven’t scored too much off corners this year, so I’ve been waiting for that one,” Wilbon said. “As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going in. The goalie got a hand on it, but there was no way he was keeping it out.”
After losing in overtime to Gonzaga in last year’s final, St. Albans added the DCSAA title to a 2015 trophy case that already included the Interstate Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships.
“Couldn’t have asked for a better finish to my career,” Johnson said.
In an undefeated fall, Wilson drew a handful of games to preserve its unblemished record, but the DCSAA final against St. John’s demanded a decisive result.
As a rapidly retreating defender slammed into her, junior striker Jisca Adigo finished the Tigers’ first chance of the game, and Wilson’s backup goalkeeper Anna Joos made timely charges off her line to preserve the lead in a 1-0 victory.
“I’m normally a defender so I was nervous at the beginning,” said Joos, who was called into action when starter Ella Gantman left town with her club team. “Our defense cleared everything and made it easy for me.
St. John’s forward Maliah Morris, who arrived at the final with 17 goals in her freshman season, consistently attacked Wilson’s defense with a combination of speed and close ball control but was unable to break through. Tigers center back Kaili Gregory, who is committed to Cornell, won headers and boomed clearances to lead Wilson (15-0-5) to a shutout.
“When you take an early lead, it’s easy to sit back and invite the attack,” Gregory said. “But we never let up. We played like it was 0-0 the whole game.”
The Cadets finish 10-8-3.
The teams drew 2-2 on Sept. 8 before the Tigers breezed through the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association with an offense that averaged four goals per game. Wilson remained undefeated with ties in five of its nine games against private school competition.
“It’s good to beat a private school because everyone is always assuming that they’re better than us,” Joos said.