With the new open-playoff format this year in high school soccer, every team will have an automatic bid to the postseason. For some coaches, that has drained every bit of importance from the regular season.
For Chesapeake coach Earl Eckhardt, however, dreams of an Anne Arundel County championship provide all the incentive he needs.
Last night at Broadneck, his Cougars gave their coach an indication they share that dream.
Trailing 3-2, midfielder Keith Hare scored with 40 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, then teammate Ryan Frommelt scored 2:50 into the first sudden-death overtime to give No. 10 Chesapeake a stunning 4-3 win over the 13th-ranked Bruins.
Eckhardt said the victory was one of the sweetest of his career.
"That's one of the most exciting endings we've ever had," said Eckhardt, whose Cougars (5-1) trailed 1-0 after a lethargic first half. "The kids came together and decided they had to play more inspired soccer. This is a big step for us."
A pair of goals by Sean Ward and another by Dan Gerbasi put Broadneck (3-2-1) up 3-2 with just over 10 minutes left.
Chesapeake, however, stormed back in the final minutes, and Hare finally tied the game at 3 after taking a long throw-in by Saul Pollack with under a minute to play. Then, 2:50 into the overtime, Frommelt scored off a corner kick by Shawn Shannon.
"We had so many opportunities, and we just knew if we kept pushing that one would go in," said Frommelt, who also scored in the second half. "It was a spur-of-the-moment play. I was standing behind [Chesapeake striker] Rich Kuhn in front of the goal. When the ball came down, he let it go right through his legs and it was there for me."
Broadneck seemed to have things well in hand in the first half, taking a 1-0 lead just over 10 minutes into the game. Gerbasi took a throw-in from Brad Limbacher 10 yards from the goal and sent a grounder into the lower right corner of the net.
The action heated up in the second half. Dziuban started things off for Chesapeake with an unassisted goal with 19:30 left. Ward scored twice in the next 10 minutes, before Frommelt answered for Chesapeake to set up the finish.