When the Laurel boys’ soccer team defeated Pallotti, 7-1, on Sept. 25, it concluded a stretch where they had won six of seven games, while outscoring its opponents, 37-6.
Exactly a month later, and since that win over the Panthers, the 11-2 Spartans have won five of six games, but the margin of the victories have been much closer.
“As the season went on, the games have become really, really close,” said Laurel coach Daryl Ferguson, whose squad has outscored its foes, 10-6 since the Pallotti win.
On Oct. 25, the top-seeded Spartans began play in the second round of the Class 4A South Region I bracket with a 2-1 overtime victory over Northwestern.
Laurel got a first-half penalty-kick goal from senior Kwame Duncan and they won it on a goal by senior Aboyede Olubo in the extra session.
“It was a punch clearance from the goalkeeper and it fell to Aboyede and he put it in the net,” Ferguson said.
The win advanced the Spartans to the Region I championship game on Tuesday, Oct. 29 against Bladensburg. The game will be played at 3:30 p.m. at Flowers High School.
The winner of that game, along with the other seven regional winners, will be re-seeded based on record and play on Friday, Nov. 1 or Saturday, Nov. 2 and those four winners advance to the state tournament’s final four.
Bladensburg eliminated the Spartans, 2-0, last year in the regional semifinals.
During the regular season this year, the Spartans defeated Bladensburg, 2-0.
Laurel got goals from Duncan and Sidiky Ba in the final 12 minutes of that victory on Oct. 3.
That came on the heels of a thrilling 3-2 win over Eleanor Roosevelt.
Laurel trailed 1-0 early, but rallied to take a halftime lead on goals by Carlos Reyes Medrano and Duncan.
Roosevelt scored on a PK and Eduardo Chavarria Najera assisted Duncan for the game-winning goal.
Senior goalie Joel Velasquez had 12 saves for the winners.
Following a 2-0 loss to Bowie, the Spartans only loss of the second half, Laurel rebounded with a 1-0 double-overtime win over Northwestern on Oct. 7.
Thang Tuang’s corner kick was deposited into the net by Ishaq Wade with five minutes remaining.
Tuang (nine goals, eight assists) and Duncan (11 goals, three assists) are the team’s top scorers.
“Between him (Tuang) and Kwame (Duncan) they draw a lot of attention,” Ferguson said.
Tuang, one of 12 seniors on the roster, celebrated a senior day regular season-ending 2-1 triumph over High Point with a goal and assist. He assisted senior Oscar Ayala for the other goal.
Ayala is one of the key defenders, along with junior Ike Ezunaga and senior Nang Muang.
Eduardo Chavarria-Najera also plays defense, but his versatility allows Ferguson to move him around.
“I’ve been playing him more in the midfield the past couple of games,” he said.
Senior goalie Velasquez and junior keeper Kevin Calderon each had four saves on senior day.
While Tuang and Duncan have done a bulk of the scoring, the Spartans have also got contributions from Wade (five goals), Medrano (four goals, three assists), Olubo and Ba (four goals each).
The contributions throughout the lineup have been a welcome sight for Ferguson, who didn’t know what to expect before the season.
“I actually wasn’t sure how the season was going to turn out,” Ferguson said. “There were some players who weren’t able to play based on grades, there were some players that transferred out, so my thoughts coming into the season were ‘I’m not sure how it was going to turn out,’ but it actually turned out pretty well.”
Laurel girls eliminated
The third-seeded Laurel girls defeated Duval, 2-1, in the first round of the Class 4A South Region I bracket, but the Spartans (8-6) were eliminated in the second round by Bladensburg, 3-2.