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Boys Soccer: Playing for school, Panthers advance to state final

With the possibility of its school being closed before this time next year, the North Carroll boys soccer team remains with one goal on its mind — bringing a state championship back to Hampstead.

The Panthers are now in position to do just that.

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NC beat Patterson Mill 3-2 in a Class 1A state semifinal on Saturday afternoon at Northeast High School, advancing to its second state final in three seasons.

"We're strong enough and we're mature enough that we can take the community, the school, the pain from possibly having a closure, and put that on our back and we can play with it," Panthers coach Andrew Harrell said. "If we're going to close next year, we want to go out and give the community and our school and ourselves something that we'll always be remembered for."

The Panthers (13-3) are the school's last fall sports team still in the postseason. But they found themselves in an early hole against the Huskies.

Patterson Mill's Cameron Neumann corraled a loose ball on the left side of the box and sneaked it between the left post and NC goalie Cameron Keith for a 1-0 lead with 15 minutes, 25 seconds to go in the first half.

But before halftime, the Panthers responded and avoided being down at the break. Austin Cooper took a shot from just outside the left side of the box, but Huskies goalie Chris Giba made a diving one-handed save.

However, NC sophomore Mason Castanzo was on the other side of the box, hauled in the rebound, and booted it into the left side of the net to tie it at 1-1.

"It was definitely stressful that whole half and to put one away minutes before halftime definitely gives us advantage the next half," Cooper said. "If we would've been down at the half, we definitely would've had to come back from more."

In the second half, North Carroll did a better job of finishing its scoring opportunities. Cooper gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead with 20:53 to go, receiving a pass from Cameron Ament in the left side of the box and putting it past Giba.

With 9:29 remaining, NC pushed its lead to 3-1 when Michael Ros scored on a header off a throw-in by Drew Schlossenberg.

"We finally calmed down, got our legs underneath of us and really played our possession ball and were able to get opportunities," Harrell said. "We played very, very well as a team in the second half."

Patterson Mill (11-5) made one last push when Larsen Green scored with 2:13 to go, and the Huskies possessed the ball again soon after. But the NC defense thwarted one last opportunity, Cameron Keith made a save with less than two minutes to go, and the Panthers held on.

North Carroll may be playing its final season. In the most recent school closing plan suggested by Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Guthrie, proposed at the Board of Education meeting earlier this week, North Carroll was one of three schools being closed.

Cooper said the Panthers' postseason run is "100 percent" all for their school.

NC has one last team standing between it and a state championship. The Panthers will play Crisfield at Loyola University on either Thursday, Friday, or Saturday next week.

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North Carroll won the first state title in program history in 2013. Now, it'll look to add one more.

"It was a tough road and [Patterson Mill] was an amazing team, it was back-and-forth, back-and-forth, it was emotional, but we stuck as a team," Schlossenberg said. "We're fighting for our school and we've got to show the county that we're a good school and we have good teams."

Goals: NC-Mason Castanzo, Austin Cooper, Michael Ros; PM-Cameron Neumann, Larsen Green.

Assists: NC-Cameron Ament, Drew Schlossenberg; PM-none.

Saves: NC-6 (Cameron Keith); PM-9 (Chris Giba).

Halftime: Tied, 1-1.

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