Fallston seniors Rob D'Angelo and Dan Bowers remember what it felt like after last year's state semifinal soccer loss to Wilde Lake. The eventual champion won, 7-5, on penalty kicks in a shootout after tying, 1-1, through two overtimes.
"Dan and Coach [Len] Petrey and I were the only ones on the bus riding Boys soccer
back from Hagerstown," D'Angelo recalled this week. "We replayed the game and then talked about the year to come.
"That was the hardest loss I've ever taken. We had it in regulation, and we led in the shootout. The year before we had lost in the final to Atholton, 3-0. Coming into this season, our long-range goal was the state championship, and now we have a chance to play for it."
Fallston (13-1-1), ranked behind only Calvert Hall and Centennial in The Sun's latest poll, will meet Easton (15-0) for the Class 1A title tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 at Old Mill High in Anne Arundel County.
"We'll go in concerned about playing our game, trying to be sure Easton doesn't take us away from what we want to do," said Bowers. "If they have a superstar, we'll find it out in the first 10 minutes. That will determine the tempo.
"They scouted us when we played [Francis Scott] Key last week, but we didn't play very well. I don't think we showed them a lot." Fallston defeated Key, 2-0, in the semifinals.
A year ago, Fallston was strong up the middle with sweeper Chris Eatough, midfielder Joe Poling, and strikers Tom Gould and Shane Dougherty.
"That team, we had better balance up front with Gould and Dougherty getting 20 goals apiece. This time, we rely on one up front and are more balanced in back," Petrey said.
That balance comes from seniors D'Angelo, Bowers and Jim Penski, and improved junior Steve Schissler playing in front of senior goalkeeper Jason Hunsinger.
"The backs are pulling more of the load, and I think their maturity has helped overall," Petrey said.
One player has carried the scoring load. Dougherty has 32 goals and 10 assists, including at least one goal in each of his team's 15 games. Junior Fred Sheckells has complemented him with a team-high 11 assists. For three playoff games, the Cougars have outscored their opponents, 20-1, and Dougherty has nine of the goals.
"The rest of us can play, but it is Shane who has pulled us through," Bowers said.
Although D'Angelo has said he doesn't get nervous before soccer games -- in contrast, "I really get nervous before baseball games" -- he is well aware of the tension that will be in the air tomorrow afternoon.
"You can feel it -- the game, the fans, the whole thing -- and this will be the last high school game for the seniors. We want to make it a good one," he said.