City's boys soccer team learned in yesterday's Class 3A, East Region semifinal matchup that higher-seeded doesn't necessarily mean higher-skilled.
The top-seeded and home-standing Knights played as hard as and with as much emotion as fourth-seeded James M. Bennett, but the Clippers of Wicomico County exhibited greater expertise en route to a 3-0 victory.
The win moved James M. Bennett into the region final against second-seeded and top-ranked Centennial, which advanced by downing No. 3 seed Poly yesterday, 7-0. The final will be played Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Howard High.
"They were just a better skilled team than we were," said City coachGeorge Sfikas. "They kept us on our heels and we couldn't get anything done offensively.
"Defensively, I didn't think they would be as good as they were, but their fullbacks did a nice job on us today and they shut Chris Cranson down real well."
The City League champion Knights took their most threatening shots in the first half but were unable to convert. Hermes Bojaxhi blasted a low liner in the ninth minute, only to see it snagged out of the air by James M. Bennett senior goalkeeper John Sturgis.
Sturgis (five saves) later stopped a hard hooking shot by Harvey Dennie.
James M. Bennett took a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute when Gary Corrigan took a pass from Brad Bayline, dribbled around City's Dwight Smith, and sent a left-footed shot past Knights senior goalkeeper MattTaylor (11 saves).
The Clippers (11-1-1) added their second goal 16 minutes into the second half when Corrigan scored on a feed from Gabe Kane.
James M. Bennett closed out the scoring less than three minutes later when Doug Rudnick followed up a shot by Corrigan.
"I'm real pleased with the way my guys played," said James M. Bennett coach Skip Ruark, who added that he hoped to play Centennial in the region final.
"We're not used to playing on a field this tight. We're used to spreading the field and using the width for our passing game and this field really took us out of that. We had to play a lot of kick-and-run with these guys and they were tough.
"I didn't think [City] had a whole lot of control, but they had a lot of speed."
* Centennial 7, Poly 0: Matt Stephenson scored three goals and Brian West two, as No. 1 Centennial (8-1-1) easily defeated Poly (6-3-1) in a Class 3A, East Region semifinal.