Rarely will you find the McDonogh boys soccer team, arguably the area's finest offensive side, caught up in an extended celebration after scoring a goal during the regular season.
But the extra jubilation that came Friday at Gilman was certainly justified.
Junior midfielder Matt Linardi provided the excitement — and relief — when he scored from 10 yards out in the third minute of overtime to send the No. 2 Eagles to a 1-0 win over No. 4 and defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champion Gilman in a rematch of last year's title game.
McDonogh (10-1-1) improves to 6-1-1 in the MIAA, while the Greyhounds (10-3-1) fall to 5-2-1 in league play.
After being blanked by Gilman, 1-0, in last year's title game and frustrated in a scoreless overtime game at McDonogh in the teams' first meeting on Sept. 12, Linardi's overtime goal was a long time coming in the Eagles' eyes.
All-Metro senior Malcolm Harris set up the play at midfield, finding senior forward Mike Gamble down the left side with a through ball. After getting past a defender, Gamble sent a ball to the middle and Linardi handled the rest with his second goal of the season.
"Gamble played a great ball across and the goalie was coming across and I hooked it back across his body," Linardi said. "We kept getting chances in on crosses, but we hadn't been able to get anything on frame until then. I just had a good touch on it."
After an evenly-played first half, the Eagles pressed throughout the second half, only to see shots go high, wide or have Gilman senior goalie Andrew Harris (six saves) make the necessary saves.
The two biggest saves from Harris came in the final 15 minutes of regulation. Gamble found rare space down the left side to get deep into the penalty area, but Harris came out aggressively to cut down the angle and deflect a low shot from eight yards. With 9:05 to play, sophomore defender Brett Ebel had the ball at his feet right in front, but Harris got a piece of his shot to keep it out of the goal.
Despite the long drought against Harris and the Greyhounds, the Eagles stayed persistent and their reward finally came early in overtime.
Gilman coach Jon Seal was quick to praise McDonogh's talent and said he was just as proud of his team's heart.
"When you have the personnel they have and they float guys around the park, it's really tough for you to account for where everyone is…. They did a real good job of spreading us out and breaking us down," he said. "I told my kids I'm proud of the effort and we need to continue to get better. This is a very talented group and they are playing very well."
2 McDonogh 1, 4 Gilman 0 (OT)
Goals: M -- Linardi
Assists: M -- Gamble
Saves: M – Sanchez 3; G – Harris 6.
Half: 0-0Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun