UPPER MARLBORO — Severna Park has so many offensive weapons that its veteran defense often gets overlooked, but its competence and dependability may just be championship worthy.
Ryan Muldoon scored in the 38th minute and Drew Belloff converted a penalty kick in the 58th minute, and the Falcons’ defense handled everything else, posting its 11th shutout of the season with a 2-0 victory over Bowie in a Class 4A boys soccer state semifinal at Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School.
The Falcons (18-0-1), making their 22nd state tournament appearance, will play for their fourth state title, and first since 2013, against Bethesda-Chevy Chase, who defeated Sherwood, 1-0, in the other semifinal.
The Bulldogs (15-4) were also making their 22nd appearance in the state tournament and had won five straight and 15 of 16 coming in. However, they had trouble holding possession on Severna Park’s side of the field, and were reduced to long-ball attempts that were harmlessly discarded by the Falcons’ defenders. Sam Farrell made three saves in goal and was clean on several long attempts and crosses into the box.
“It is the backbone of any great team. Without a strong defense, it is tough to be successful,” Severna Park coach Ryan Parisi said. “We have those veterans in the back along with Sam, and our midfielders also do individual things to make that work.”
The team has allowed nine goals in 19 games. The Falcons frustrate their opponents consistently by staying on the ball, man-marking ferociously, supporting each other while staying in formation, and staying with the ball and the man on long sequences. Farrell and his unit — Ian Musser, Maxim Murphy, Kevin Kobosko, Ryan Nelson and others. They have been extra stingy in the postseason, allowing just one goal in four games.
“It takes 11 to win a game, so we pride ourselves on playing 11 strong,” Muldoon said. “If everyone is doing their job individually, we will come out with a good result.”
Meanwhile, at the other end of the field, Severna Park pressed further and further in their chances, evolving as the game progressed from long balls to through balls to strategic ball movement all around. Although the Falcons did not have many chances on goal in the first half, they worked themselves into position to take the lead at the end of the first 40 minutes. Muldoon took a pass in the middle of the box from Keaton Bathras and finished in the 38th minute for his sixth goal and a 1-0 lead.
“Good possession led to a good build-up goal,” Parisi said. “Ryan did a great job finishing his opportunity and it was a good boost to have that kind of result just before halftime.”
Bowie goalkeeper Timothy Mangen (four saves) kept the Bulldogs close with three nice saves in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but the Falcons continued to press though in search of something extra. They earned a penalty kick when they had a player taken down in the box in the 58th minute. Belloff converted for his team-leading 21st goal.
Severna Park handled every long-ball press by Bowie, which could not get their top scorers Isaiah Price (20 goals, 9 assists) and Justin Longbah (16 goals, 8 assists) free up top. The result was particularly satisfying as the Falcons’ last loss came on this very field, in last year’s state semifinal, to Bel Air.
“This game was big for us. I remember 365 days ago, coming in here and we lost, 2-0,” Muldoon said. “Tonight, we came in and won, 2-0.”
All this is swell, but nothing but a state title will satisfy this veteran group.
“This win is great, but that is not what we were working towards,” Muldoon said. “We are working towards the final product — a state championship. I am excited to play. It should be a great game.”
Severna Park 2, Bowie 0
Goals: SP — Muldoon, Belloff.
Assists: SP — K. Bathras.
Saves: SP – Farrell 3; BOW — Mangen 4.
Half: Severna Park, 1-0.