Wilde Lake coach Dave Nesbitt disliked starting striker Brian Jefferson's play so much that he benched the senior for the last 20 minutes of the first half.
Given some time to think, Jefferson responded with a spectacular second half, scoring two goals and leading No. 15 Wilde Lake (5-4-1, 2-2-1) to a 2-1 victory over No. 14 Oakland Mills (5-3, 2-3) yesterday.
"He wasn't playing to my expectations," Nesbitt said. "With his speed he has to create crossing situations or go to goal, and he wasn't doing either. Plus, he wasn't playing defense. So I thought he might as well stand on the sidelines with me. He was much more focused in the second half. He got the message."
The visiting Wildecats fell behind early when Oakland Mills' Brent Mascott scored five minutes into the game on a penalty kick.
The shot developed after Ted Lawler dribbled past three Wilde Lake defenders down the right side and was tackled in the penalty box. Mascott's volley bounced along the ground inside the left post and grazed the arm of Wilde Lake goalkeeper David Rutstein.
Jefferson tied the game in the 62nd minute by volleying in a rebound from six yards away following a direct kick by Gavin Philipp.
With six minutes left to play, Jefferson took Gianpaulo Einaudi's cross, settled it off his chest and kicked it in from close range PTC near the right post. Einaudi made a nice dribbling move through Oakland Mills defenders to create room to send the cross, which went from left to right.
For Jefferson, who was given a back-slapping hero's welcome by his teammates, it was his seventh goal to go with two assists. He also scored two goals in Wednesday's 4-3 loss to Hammond.
For Wilde Lake, the victory kept alive its Class 1A playoff hopes with just two more games to play. The Wildecats must win at least one more.
"We won on heart more than anything," Jefferson said. "We knew we had to win to go to states, and we wanted it more than Oakland Mills."
Giordano Phillipioni, a sophomore striker who filled in when Jefferson was benched, praised Jefferson's effort.
"This was his best game. He was getting held a lot, but showed a lot of hustle. And after he scored the first goal he wanted another one," he said.
Junior Jeff Curtis played well at sweeper for Wilde Lake, as the Wildecats fended off a half-dozen good scoring opportunities by Oakland Mills in the first half when the Scorpions had the wind at their backs.
The wind played a significant factor in the game.
Once Wilde Lake had the wind at its back in the second half, it pinned back Oakland Mills' defense. The Scorpions had only three shots in the second half.
"We knew we needed to get a second goal while we had the wind," Shea said.
"Once Wilde Lake had the wind it made some nice curling passes that gave us trouble."
Oakland Mills has three games remaining and is in a close playoff battle with Lackey, Atholton, Glenelg and Hammond in the Class 2A South Region.
Oakland Mills coach Don Shea was unhappy with the play of his seniors. "We just didn't get the senior leadership that we needed," he said.
A year ago, the Scorpions beat Wilde Lake, 3-0.