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Five Century players surrounded the ball in preparation for a free kick to make it look like any one of them would actually take the kick.

The players rushed the ball when the whistle sounded, but four backed away to let senior midfielder Alex Grasso get the touch. Grasso fired the ball, untouched, to the back of the net about 11 minutes into the game to give the Knights a 1-0 lead over La Plata in the Class 2A final.

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That lone goal was all Century needed, and the Knights captured their second state championship in program history Thurdsay at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex.

“I don’t think it’s set in yet, but it’s very exciting and good for our program,” Knights first year coach Trey Howes said. “It’s good for the kids and for our fans and it’s definitely more than I could have expected my first year ... just an unbelievable season and a dream season. Everybody at the beginning didn’t talk about us, didn’t think we could do it, and we’re here. We did it. We’re really happy for them and really happy for our program."

This was Century’s fifth tournament appearance and the Knights’ first time back in the state final since they won it in 2003.

Grasso’s early goal helped the Knights (15-4) take control through most of the match — that, combined with a dominant performance by the team’s defense, which registered its eighth shutout this season.

“The last three games I’ve come really close to scoring on more of those and today when the ball went off my foot I felt like it was going in,” Grasso said. “That was it. It went in and everyone started celebrating.”

Knights junior goalie Ethan Ricketts made a slide save under pressure from La Plata senior forward Cole Trani with 21:32 left to play in the first half.

La Plata forward Blake Davis sent a shot in from the right side of the goal, but the ball was caught by Ricketts.

Grasso took another free kick with 6:56 left in the first half, but the shot was pushed out by Warriors goalie Nick Meadows. The Knights fired back with three more shots, but the Warriors’ back post coverage survived the rush.

Century senior midfielder Connor Grow ripped a shot, fell backwards to the ground, and put his hands over his head in disbelief as he watched the ball sail just over the top of the crossbar about 10 minutes into the start of the second half.

Century's Joe Bergamaschi makes the slide tackle to knock the ball away from La Plata's J.D. Santiago nd turns to chase down the loose ball during Thursday night's Class 2A state final at Loyola University in Baltimore.
Century's Joe Bergamaschi makes the slide tackle to knock the ball away from La Plata's J.D. Santiago nd turns to chase down the loose ball during Thursday night's Class 2A state final at Loyola University in Baltimore. (Matt Button / Baltiomore Sun Med/Carroll County Times)

The Knights took two set piece opportunities about a minute apart — the first was shot too high over the goal, and the second was pushed out to midfield by La Plata’s defense.

“All week leading up to the game, Coach said the game was going to be won in the midfield,” Knights senior midfielder Jackson Glenn said. “We won the 50/50s, Colin Williams stepped up and it was huge.”

It took eight rounds of penalty kicks for the Knights to outlast reigning 2A state champion Oakdale in a state semifinal on Nov. 9. Senior midfielder Jackson Glenn scored in the second half of regulation to tie the teams 1-1 and the Knights finished the Bears off when midfielder Colin Williams delivered the game-winning penalty kick.

La Plata made its third state final appearance in program history, and the Warriors were looking for their first state championship.

Goals: C-Alex Grasso.

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Assists: None.

Saves: C-5 (Ethan Ricketts); LP-7 (Nick Meadows).

Halftime: Century, 1-0.

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