The Perry Hall boys soccer team was once again jubilant on Tuesday.
This time, the celebration included the Class 4A North region championship plaque — earned following the No. 15 Gators' tough 1-0 win at Westminster.
It also featured first-year coach Pete Eibner running full blast to avoid being dumped with a cooler of water. And the appreciative Gators once again made a point to applaud their loyal supporters, which filled the majority of the visitors' section.
Senior midfielder Vinny Magliano scored the game's only goal in the final minute of the first half, collecting a nifty through ball from fellow senior Chris White and finding the lower right corner from 14 yards.
The controversy that drew national attention last week — stemming from a celebratory dance the team displayed following its quarterfinal-round win at Dulaney last Tuesday — is now well behind them. After the dance drew criticism from the Dulaney supporters, Perry Hall principal George Roberts ruled Thursday to terminate the season only to overturn the ruling the following day after further investigating the incident. The Gators, seeded tenth and now 8-7-3, went on to defeat second-seeded Blake 2-1 on Saturday, and with Tuesday's win, will appear in their eighth state tournament in a bid to capture the program's first state championship.
They will take on the winner out of the West region — either Walter Johnson or Northwest — in Saturday's state semifinal at Richard Montgomery.
"These kids, we said the very first time we met when I got hired as coach that we wanted to get our name on the regional championship banner and this has been the goal all along," Eibner said. "And to go over the hurdles they've gone over to get here is simply incredible. It's a storybook season. I don't know what more to say. It's amazing and it's a testament to their character and their heart."
Westminster didn't make it easy.
The Owls (10-8) were able to stay on even terms in a tightly marked first half before Magliano was able to break through with his third goal of the season. The Gators didn't bend much in the second half, limiting the Owls' scoring chances in their bid to tie.
"I saw the ball go to Chris [White] and I screamed for it," Magliano said. "He knew I was there and played it right to me and I just put it in the corner. This is amazing. With everything we've been through, we're still so strong and I think it's brought us together even more. Everybody is playing for one another. Today, we were a little sloppy in the first half, but got the goal and then came out fired up in the second half to keep the lead."
After a 2-5 start, the host Owls also rallied this season, winning eight of the last 10 games before Tuesday's setback as they fell short of the program's first region title. Matt Chrencik, Ryan Drenner and Greg Fultz had strong performances for the Owls.
Class 4A North
Goals: PH -- Magliano
Assists: PH – White
Saves: PH – Kroll 2; W – Jaworski 4.
Half: PH, 1-0.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun