ROCKVILLE — Perry Hall's much-discussed postseason came to an abrupt end Saturday night against a powerful Walter Johnson team that skillfully moved the ball around the field with simple one and two touches.
The Gators created several chances throughout, but the Wildcats capitalized on the best scoring opportunity for a 1-0 victory in a Class 4A state semifinal at Richard Montgomery High School.
Perry Hall was appearing in its eighth state tournament, but the Gators arestill looking for their first state championship.
"That was a good team there," first-year Perry Hall coach Pete Eibner said of his opponent. "It was a big roller coaster, and we had some great moments. We wanted to get better every game, and we did. [Walter Johnson] might be the best public high school team I've ever seen."
The Gators (8-7-1) were embroiled in a controversy over allegations that players taunted Dulaney parents and fans with a celebratory dance after their regional quarterfinal victory. Perry Hall principal George Roberts responded by terminating the season, but he decided to overturn his decision a day later following further investigation.
Perry Hall made the most of its second chance, beating Blake and Westminster to reach the state semifinals for the eighth time. Walter Johnson (16-0-1), ranked second in The Washington Post poll, won state championships in 1978, 2000 and 2006. It was the Wildcats' fifth appearance in the state semifinals.
Walter Johnson got on the board just two minutes into the second half on a goal by Juan Ortiz, who fired in a loose ball from about 20 yards out. Perry Hall goalie Austin Kroll made several acrobatic saves to keep the Gators within striking distance for most of the game.
"At first, we weren't putting a lot of balls in the net, but we were playing well," Perry Hall captain Chris White said of the season. "In our county, we dominated possession. When the playoffs came, we started finding the net. Walter Johnson is a very quick team, and they play a lot like a McDonogh or Curley. We won the ball, but we were trying to think too fast."
Perry Hall's Ryan Carter also created several chances with long-range shots. The Gators had to play a man down in the final 13:20 because of a red card for a late tackle.
Walter Johnson 1 Perry Hall 0
Saves: P-Kroll 6; W-Meyers 4.