UMBC - Before Saturday's MPSSAA Class 2A boys soccer championship game, Fallston Head Coach Drew Bisker said to Hereford skipper Mike Lacko, "no matter what, the Class of '75 will win this game."
It turned out Bisker was right, though the odds were strongly in his favor. The two coaches, who had respectively piloted the Fallston and Hereford squads to the championship round, were teammates on the soccer team at Baltimore County's Parkville High School, and they graduated together in 1975. It was Lacko's team, however, that walked away from the match with the state title trophy, as the Bulls needed only a 65th-minute goal from Patrick Fisher and a stalwart defensive effort to beat the Cougars, 1-0.
"This was a coin-flip game, really," Lacko said during a press conference after the game. "You had two strong teams that play very similar styles. I knew that the team that scored first was going to win this game, and we scored first."
"We knew that Hereford plays a lot like we do, and that it was going to be tough," Bisker said. "We saw them play last weekend before our semifinal game. Originally we thought that we'd be able to wear down their defense a little bit, and make something happen then. The thing is, their defense never wore down, never lost a step."
The first half of Saturday's final passed without a goal, and with possession time split fairly evenly between the teams. With two minutes left before halftime, Hereford was presented with back-to-back, open-goal opportunities, but the Fallston defense cleared the ball each time to keep the game scoreless.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, which kicked off with a strong offensive push by Fallston, the Bulls scored. The play began on a punt by Fallston goalkeeper Kyle Tyree that was intercepted by Hereford's Nate VanResselaer. After settling the ball, VanResselaer quickly sent a seam pass to Fisher, who was streaking down the left side of the field. Fisher touched twice, then sent a left-footed shot to the far post, past the arms of the diving Tyree into the net.
"I was up top, and I saw that a big gap had opened between their sweeper and their stopper," Fisher said. "Nate hit me with that pass, and I just went right for the gap. It happened really quickly."
"My punts were just a little off today," Tyree said. "I left that one a little short, and they took advantage of it. That was on me."
With eight minutes left, Hereford nearly broke the game open with another goal, but Tyree and the Fallston back line fended off three straight shots on goal from inside 10 yards.
Shortly after Hereford's trio of near misses, Fallston set up its best scoring opportunity. Center midfielder Chris Grant broke down the right side of the field, cut toward the goal and sent a head-high cross directly through the Hereford penalty box. Before any of the Cougars could put a head on the cross, Hereford goalie Dan Staab went up and grabbed it, ending the play.
"I really think I have some of the best athletes in the state on this team," Lacko said of his championship squad. "Not one of these guys plays on a travel team, or a club team, in the off-season. We have wrestlers, basketball players, baseball players, tennis players. That's why we start a little slow every year, but these guys are such great athletes and hard workers that we make it work."