Moments before the start of overtime, Justus Denning pulled Winters Mill coach Ryan Lenz aside and pleaded to move him back into the attack.

The junior midfielder/defenseman was forced to play at right back for the majority of Thursday night’s matchup against Liberty because of an injury for the Falcons.


Without hesitation, the second-year coach listened — and the decision proved worthwhile.

Denning put on a display of skill, beating one Liberty defender and creating enough space to send a cross into the middle of the box.

The ball didn’t touch a Winters Mill player but deflected off the head of a Liberty defender and into the back of the net – one of two costly own goals for the Lions – as Winters Mill came away with the decisive 3-2 win on the opening slate of Carroll County Athletic League play.

The ball just happened to bounce the Falcons’ way but Denning was looking to set his teammates up.

“[I] was just trying to make the best opportunity for my team to score,” he said.

The last time these two teams met, the opening round of the Class 2A West Region playoffs, Liberty won 3-0 en route to sectional final appearance before falling to county foe Century. This time around, Winters Mill got the better of the reigning CCAL League champions.

“It’s kind of funny how that happened,” said Lenz. “[Justus] had the footwork, he had the speed and that move just came out of nowhere … I’m so happy for him.”

Liberty was first to strike and did so using a long throw in pass from Luke Rivard. The ball skipped past a slew of Winters Mill defenders and goalkeeper Josh Kappes right onto the foot of Seiler Oakley.

The junior midfielder buried the shot into the bottom left corner of the net — one of two goals on the night for Oakley — giving the Lions an early 1-0 lead.

When faced with a deficit, Winters Mill responded and used the mistakes of the opposition to its advantage.

Kappes booted a goal kick almost the entire length of the field, forcing an urgent clearance by Sam Kraus. His header that was meant to fall out of bounds skipped past goalkeeper Anjan Singh.

Goals from Denning and Oakley tied the game at halftime.

A scoreless second half saw opportunities for both teams but neither could convert. Shots landed in front of goal, deflected off of keepers but none fell in the back of the net — forcing extra time.

Liberty coach Dave Abarbanel said he was still proud of his team’s performance despite the loss and added there were plenty of positives to take away.


“It was a tough game,” he said. “Nothing negative towards them, they were great. They deserved to win the game … It was a little unfortunate on our end but it happens, it’s part of the game.”

Singh finished with 10 saves for Liberty.

Winters Mill faces a tough county schedule ahead, but the win gives the Falcons a certain air of confidence.

“It means another step towards our goals,” Lenz said.

Goals: WM-Justus Denning, own goal 2; L-Seiler Oakley 2.

Assists: WM-Chase Burker; L-Luke Rivard, Anthony Goad.

Saves: WM-13 (Josh Kappes); L-10 (Anjan Singh).

Halftime: Tied, 2-2.

JV result: Liberty, 4-0.