Easton forward Issac Brooks' 13th goal proved to be his luckiest yesterday, as it lifted the top-seeded Warriors of Talbot County to a 1-0 victory over ninth-ranked Wilde Lake at Old Mill High School for the Class 1A boys soccer state title.
Brooks, the Warriors' senior co-captain, broke the scoreless deadlock with 28 minutes remaining.
Easton junior forward and leading scorer Brad Hastings (23 goals) fed Brooks a perfect lead pass. Brooks, one-on-one with Wilde Lake junior goalie John Beakes (three saves), booted a low kick just out of the reach of the diving Wildecats keeper.
"When Brad got the ball he looked at me, I looked at him and we made eye contact," said Brooks. "I knew the ball was coming to me. I just had to compose myself and put it in the back of the net."
Easton (15-1), last year's Class 1A runner-up to Fallston and the 1989 state 1A champion, turned the offensive tables on a streaky Wildecats team. Fourth-seeded Wilde Lake (9-5-2), rebounding from a 5-4-1 start, had won seven games this season by one goal.
"I really expected this to be a back-and-forth offensive battle," said Easton coach Tim Thurber, whose Warriors scored 95 goals this season to Wilde Lake's 30.
"Wilde Lake showed a real gutty performance in the first half playing against the wind, but when we scored I thought that picked our level up and provided a shift in the momentum. We just decided to ignore the wind in the second half and keep the ball down."
The loss cost the Wildecats the chance to join Bowie and Oakland Mills as the only teams with seven state boys soccer titles.
Wilde Lake (state champions in 1991, 1981-84, 1976), however, advanced beyond preseason expectations because they had finished 2-8-1 a year ago.
Wilde Lake also received clutch play in the postseason from Beakes in place of injured senior goalie David Rutstein (sprained thumb).
Wilde Lake coach David Nesbitt said his team scored a moral victory in the first half as it battled a high-scoring Warriors attack and a stiff breeze to keep the game scoreless.
"I thought we dominated in both halves. We had the most shots on goal. It was one of those things where we just didn't finish," Nesbitt said. "In the first 10 minutes of the second half, we got three excellent shots on goal. I give their keeper all the credit in the world."
With the wind at their backs in the second half, the Wildecats' offense turned more aggressive.
Trailing 1-0, Wilde Lake senior forward Kwesi Ewool-Robotham blasted a direct kick out of the range of Easton junior goalie Chad Hutchison (four saves). However, Warriors junior fullback Mike Endzel deflected the shot with his head.
"He really had his head in the right spot at the right time," said Thurber. "He saved a goal."
With 4:15 left in the contest, Wildecats senior forward Brian Jefferson found himself in a one-on-one situation with Hutchison, but Jefferson's attempt sailed high over the crossbar.
Easton, having won nine straight games since a 3-0 loss to Queen Anne's, denied Wilde Lake leading scorer Jeffrey Curtis (10 goals) any shots on goal in the game's final minutes.