Oakland Mills midfielder Kevin Gardner came about as close as possible to never scoring a goal during his four-year varsity career.
But with 1 minute, 22 seconds left in the second 10-minute sudden-death overtime, he scored to give No. 4 Oakland Mills a 2-1 victory over defending champion Middletown and the state Class 2A championship. It was Oakland Mills' state-record eighth state title and the first since 1990.
The game at Old Mill's Bob Golliday Memorial Field appeared certain to end in a tie until Oakland Mills striker Zuri Barnes, whose speed had created problems for Middletown the entire game, dribbled down the left sideline and dropped a pass back to a trailing Gardner near the center of the field.
Gardner, unguarded, took his time and drilled a right-footed shot into the right corner.
"I've been unlucky all season hitting crossbars and posts," Gardner said. "I was thinking I wanted to place it and not hit it too hard. My teammates have been telling me that I'd score the winning goal in the state championship game since the playoffs began.
"This is better than scoring five or six goals during the regular season. Scoring the winning goal in the state championship game is something to dream about."
Barnes said: "It was just like magic -- a great way for him to end his senior year. When people ask him how many career goals he scored he'll say just one -- the one that won the state
Gardner has been the steadiest Oakland Mills midfielder all season and is one of the few Scorpions midfielders who have played an entire game.
He's also versatile enough to fill in yesterday for sweeper Dan Stoutenborough, who missed 10 minutes with a bloody nose.
Oakland Mills (15-2) scored first in the fast-paced, physical game.
Stoutenborough hit in a loose-ball goal off his right knee after two Oakland Mills headers failed to find the net in the 35th minute. The goal was from inside the 6-yard line.
Middletown (15-1-1) scored the tying goal 45 seconds into the second half off a quick counter-attack.
Matt DeOrsey (22 goals, 11 assists) kicked in a loose ball after Mike Silverman had broken through the defense and had his shot blocked by Oakland Mills goalkeeper Kyle Stephens. It was only the third goal scored on Stephens this season -- and only the third goal Oakland Mills had allowed in the second half of games. They outscored opponents 31-3 in the second half.
"It crossed my mind that this was going to be a tie game, but we really wanted to win it because a tie is unfinished," Gardner said.
Only moments before the winning goal, during an injury timeout, Oakland Mills coach Don Shea had instructed Barnes to slow down and drop the ball back -- advice Barnes followed perfectly.
"This game was the hardest I ever worked," said Barnes, who was often triple-teamed.
Matt Sutton, the player whose injury gave Oakland Mills a chance to catch its breath before the winning goal, also was physically wiped out and wore an ice pack on his thigh.
"Just give me my trophy and pour me into the bus," Sutton said.