The Havre de Grace Warriors battled just-above-freezing temperatures, a loud, partisan crowd and a hard-charging Perryville Panthers squad Tuesday night, and still came out on top with a 2-0 victory to capture their second straight Class 1A North regional boys soccer title. The Warriors will travel to North County High School in Anne Arundel County for a state semi-final match at noon against Brunswick, the 1A West champion. Sixth-seeded Havre de Grace came into the 1A North tournament with a losing record, but has managed to beat the bracket's top three seeds on the way to the regional crown. Perryville was tapped as the region's top seed, while the Warriors' previous opponents, Sparrows Point and Overlea, were the second and third seeds, respectively.
"We knew we were going to play good teams this year, being in the Chesapeake (upper) Division," Sean Smith, Havre de Grace's head coach, said after Tuesday's victory. "We had to play C. Milton Wright, Bel Air and North Harford. We didn't beat any of those teams, and our regular-season record wasn't that good, but those games prepared us to play teams in our same class and do well. We've beaten the number-one, two and three seeds in this region now."
Nine minutes into the first half, Havre de Grace's Fahim Bachu knocked a shot toward the Perryville net that was deflected into the goal by a Panther defender, putting the Warriors ahead, 1-0.
The Warriors took their one-goal advantage into the halftime break.
Havre de Grace struck next with 17 minutes left in the second half, as Gabe Larrimore buried a half volley in the Panther goal after collecting a corner kick from teammate Chris Anderson.
"We didn't finish all that well tonight, but the two goals we got, they really mattered," Smith said. "We play most of our games on the turf field at home, which gives you a different touch and is faster. Playing here, on the grass, we knew we'd have to slow things down a little, and work on keeping possession of the ball. We were able to do that for most of the game."
Perryville's front line applied pressure throughout the second half, but could not crack through the Havre de Grace defense far enough to produce a breakaway or a cross into the Warriors' penalty box.
The Panthers came closest to a tally with 17 minutes left in regulation, when Perryville was awarded a free kick 35 yards from the Havre de Grace goal. Panther forward Armando Ercole took the kick and sent it toward the upper right corner of the net, but James Antonoplos, the Warrior goalie, was there to tap it over the bar.
"We knew we would have to deal with their three main guys, [Ercole, Tim Toncic and Asa Driscoll]," Smith said. "They're fast and skilled up top, so we had to try and contain those three. Our defense did a fantastic job of that tonight."
Fallston knocked out
The Fallston Cougars were knocked out of the 2A East regional tournament Tuesday night with a 2-0, final-round road loss to the Queen Anne's squad.
The Cougars earned their spot in Tuesday's regional title game by topping Rising Sun in the 2A East District VII final.