The No. 1 McDonogh boys soccer team (19-0-1) was on a roll when a slight opening came about Monday at No. 2 St. Paul's.
The Eagles were two games away from completing a perfect regular season when the home team Crusaders (13-3-1) battled them to a 3-3 draw. For McDonogh, the tie and missed opportunity at a perfect season was sheer disappointment.
For St. Paul's -- and the other four teams that are competing in the upcoming Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference with McDonogh -- it represented hope.
The MIAA postseason opens Friday afternoon with quarerfinal round play -- No. 11 and sixth-seeded John Carroll at No. 8 and third-seeded Archbishop Curley and No. 10 and fifth-seeded Loyola at No. 6 and fourth-seeded Gilman. Both games are set for 3:30 p.m.
The semifinals will take place at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday with the Loyola/Gilman winner at top-seeded McDonogh and John Carroll/Curley winner traveling to second-seeded St. Paul's. The championship game is set for Sunday, Nov. 10 at Archbishop Spalding. Game time is 5:30 p.m.
Friday's quarterfinal games bring interesting matchups with nothing to be taken for granted. Curley's season-ending 2-2 tie against defending league champion Loyola, teamed with Calvert Hall's upset win over Gilman on Wednesday, gave the Friars the third seed and a visit from John Carroll.
But the upstart Patriots proved were Curley's nemesis in the regular season, beating the Friars twice by a goal.
Gilman and Loyola played to ties in both regular season meetings.
Down the playoff road, the question is an obvious one: Can any team beat McDonogh?
Despite Monday's draw, the Eagles have put together one of the finest seasons ever in the MIAA. In going 15-0-1 in league play, they outscored their opponents by a whopping 52-7 margin with 11 shutouts.
The Eagles have an impressive possession game and a number of playmakers and scoring threats. Midfielder George Campbell has led the way with Connor Smith, Tunde Akinlosotu and Keegan Kelly also difficult marks.
After falling to McDonogh, 4-0, early in the season, St. Paul's showed considerable progress in earning Monday's draw, with Nate Hall leading the way with two goals.
The Crusaders had timely pressure up front that disrupted the Eagles usually tidy defense and was able to withstand significant pressure at the other end to earn the draw.