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Boys Soccer: Despite falling in 1A state final, Francis Scott Key relishes ‘insane experience’

Jakub Mihulka and Jacob Wantz, two of Francis Scott Key’s 10 seniors, sat alongside coach Larry Haines wearing medals around their necks.

Neither player sported a smile with disappointment setting in after Friday’s setback in the Class 1A state championship game. The awards weren’t what FSK came to Loyola University seeking.

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But Haines seemed determined to not lose sight of his team’s accomplishment.

“I’m proud to be sitting here," the coach said following FSK’s 3-0 loss to Mountain Ridge at Ridley Athletic Complex. “I’m so proud of these guys. We’re being led by [10] seniors. Live and die by the seniors on this team. Today we just didn’t have enough to compete to win. But I’m proud of them. They’ve put my program kind of always where I’ve always wanted it to be.

“We’ve talked about that. We’ve tried to build a foundation and these guys have built the walls for it. Quite honestly, we probably put the roof on it this year. We just forgot the shingles.”

Mountain Ridge (15-4) got a pair of goals from senior forward Brady Weimer, and the Miners built an early two-goal advantage that changed the flow of the game for the Eagles. An offense that liked to be aggressive and score quickly had to re-route its scheme a bit.

Key (9-6-2) applied pressure the rest of the way and played even with its opponent from Frostburg, but the deficit was too much to overcome. Francis Scott Key fell just short of capturing its first state championship in 33 years.

The Eagles did their best to savor the moment, however.

“I mean, I’m playing soccer with a group of guys that I’ve loved since Day 1 of my freshman year,” said Wantz, a defender, who displayed his runner-up hardware. “Sitting there, looking at the crowd, all eyes on you, and you’re playing around the guys that you love. It’s just an insane experience. It’s just the best feeling in the world.”

From left, Francis Scott Key's Griffin Garvis, Keith LaPierre and Jacob Wantz console each other after losing 3-0 to Mountain Ridge in the Class 1A boys soccer state championship.
From left, Francis Scott Key's Griffin Garvis, Keith LaPierre and Jacob Wantz console each other after losing 3-0 to Mountain Ridge in the Class 1A boys soccer state championship.(Steve Ruark For Carroll County Times/Carroll County Times)

FSK’s talent and skill got the attention of Mountain Ridge coach Tim Nightengale, particularly in the second half and his team ahead by two.

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“What a battle, what a war,” Nightengale said. “FSK just did a great job. They played another guy up top, had a four-man front. We hung in and survived.”

Mountain Ridge had the run of play in the early going when junior forward Jacob Ritchie, the Miners’ leading scorer, waited at midfield for a header pass from fellow junior Logan Kiddy and created just enough space to drill a shot from about 20 yards out that went in along the far post.

Ritchie helped the Miners break through in the eighth minute of play, and added a second goal nine minutes later.

Ritchie started a fastbreak chance with a through-ball pass to Weimer, whose speed helped him get behind FSK’s defense for a one-on-one opportunity. Weimer buried the shot, and the Eagles faced a two-goal deficit less than halfway through the first half.

“I was quite disappointed in those mistakes,” Mihulka said. “I thought those were defensive mistakes that ... could been prevented. I think if we just fixed our mistakes then I think we could compete and play with these guys. But it just didn’t really go our way.”

The Eagles had a few more chances in the second half, and collected four corner-kick opportunities. Griffin Garvis found himself in the middle of the box with about 19 minutes remaining, but his 12-yard strike was saved by Miners goalie Eathan Ashenfelter.

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

Five minutes later, Weimer netted his second goal of the game after some maneuvering along the end line and separating himself from a few FSK defenders.

Ashenfelter made seven saves for the Miners.

Francis Scott Key was trying to end a long state championship drought for its boys soccer program, and the school itself. The Eagles have gone without a state title of any kind since 2009, while the rest of Carroll County has 73 combined championships. The other current schools have won at least six state crowns in that stretch.

The Eagles’ soccer program, which won back-to-back Class C titles in 1985 and 1986, will have to wait a little longer to snap its skid, while Mountain Ridge earned a third state crown and first since 2011.

“Sometimes it just goes your way and other times it doesn’t,” said Haines, a Key alum (Class of 1991). “Tonight, we weren’t as sharp as we have been all season long.”

Goals: MR-Brady Weimer 2, Jacob Ritchie.

Assists: MR-Logan Kiddy.

Saves: FSK-3 (Nathan Perry); MR-7 (Eathan Ashenfelter).

Halftime: MR, 2-0.

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