Stephen Hurst was just one win away from the ideal debut as Century boys soccer coach.
After a loss in the regular-season finale to Baltimore County foe Towson, Hurst and his team shook off a rare scoreless game and went on an impressive run in the Class 2A playoffs.
“Our overtime losses and tough moments really fueled us as we went on this playoff run,” he said. “We saw that in how they handled adversity.”
On their road to the state final, the Knights allowed less than two goals per game in victories against Walkersville, Williamsport, Winters Mill and Hereford. Ultimately the Knights were taken down, falling 3-1 to Montgomery County’s Damascus on Thursday night at Loyola Maryland’s Ridley Athletic Complex.
“It was just one of those games where if one or two things go our way, we’re talking about a different ballgame,” Hurst said.
Coming into the matchup, everyone in attendance knew that if you wanted to stop the Knights, the No. 1 objective was to contain Century junior Nick McGhin. He was one of the hottest goal scorers in the state with 11 goals in the past four games — including three hat tricks.
The junior was one of 15 Knights to score a goal this season and added to his impressive total with a laser in the second half of the championship game to keep Century from being shut out.
“It was electric just being out there and just looking at the crowd,” he said. “I feel like we shouldn’t even need to hang our heads more than a day because we played our hearts out.”
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McGhin’s goal was a bright spot in what was a frustrating night for the Century offense. With the focus on No. 22, Hurst and his team were challenged by a defensive style they weren’t used to seeing throughout the year.
“They would hold four or five guys back on the back line and countered when we were able to push the ball the way we like,” Hurst said. “We tried to make some adjustments, use our depth and keep a lot of energy out there on the field.”
Depth and energy were two crucial aspects of Hurst’s team this year and the catalyst for the team’s dominant playoff run. Despite the heartbreaking loss, Hurst and McGhin remained confident in the future of the program knowing the strides they made and the potential of this team moving forward.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted, but the season was fun,” Hurst said. “We grew from the Century boys soccer team to close to the [year as the] Century young men’s soccer team.”
Along with McGhin, team captain Jackson Barioto is also among those expected to return next season for the Knights. Joining the pair will be Ryan Bauer, who finished the season as the team’s assist leader.
Adding that to a talented pool of JV players and a coach heading into Year 2, Thursday might not have been Century’s night, but it was proof that all the pieces are in place for a return to the state title game in 2024.
“A lot of us are going to use this,” McGhin said. “This is more experience for us to get better and work hard to never feel this way again.”