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Arundel withstands Annapolis' charge, wins region title, 9-7

THE BALTIMORE SUN

For No. 12 Annapolis, dominating the early and late portions of last night's Class 3A-4A South Region final wasn't enough.

It's what Arundel did in between that determined a winner. The second-seeded Wildcats shut out top-seeded Annapolis in the second and third quarters, then withstood a furious rally to win, 9-7, and advance to Saturday's state tournament at UMBC.

Arundel scored nine unanswered goals to lead, 9-2, with 9:39 left in the game.

Annapolis, the defending 3A-4A state champions, then scored five times in a span of 5:48 and had a shot hit the top post with around two minutes left.

The Panthers (12-4), winners of eight in a row before last night, including an 8-6 decision over Arundel on April 19, didn't convert a man-advantage opportunity with 2:04 left. Josh Morgan (three goals) fired a shot that Wildcats senior Tom Newberry stopped for his 14th save.

"It was like a hurricane and we just held on for dear life," said Arundel coach Clint Gosnell, whose team won three championships back when it was a district format, the last coming in 1988.

Senior Mark Jenkins had three goals and one assist for Arundel (14-2). Jimmy Polucha added two goals and one assist, and Neil Weisshaar, Ryan Farr, Ron Sroka and Keith Sharp each scored once. Gavin McIntire had three assists.

Senior Mike Haertel controlled 16 of 19 faceoffs.

"I changed my clamp style so it's quicker, and I was getting fast breaks every time," he said. "We controlled the ball, and we controlled the game."

Eric Morgan led Annapolis with three goals and three assists. His twin brother, Josh, scored three times, and Geoff Mears had one goal and one assist.

Annapolis raced out to a 2-0 lead on first-quarter goals by Eric and Josh Morgan, but Arundel scored three times to go ahead at halftime.

Farr scored with 28 seconds left in the first quarter, then passed to Polucha for the tying goal. Polucha fed Sroka, who began the year on the junior varsity, and the ensuing goal with 7:33 left before halftime gave Arundel a 3-2 lead.

The Wildcats scored five goals in the third quarter, beginning when McIntire passed to Weisshaar as he was rolling behind the net at 1:41. Polucha scored on an over-the-shoulder shot for a 7-2 lead with 6:18 left in the quarter, and Jenkins passed to Sharp for a goal with 3:29 remaining.

When Jenkins opened the fourth quarter with a goal, it appeared the Panthers were finished.

But junior keeper Tobin Poole, who replaced Ryan Van Riper after halftime, made some big saves, and Eric Morgan began the comeback with 8:54 left when he converted a pass from Mears with Arundel two men down.

The Wildcats didn't score during a three-man advantage, managing only two shots, and goals by Josh Morgan (two), Eric Morgan and Mears soon followed. Two of those goals came after Arundel penalties.

"I told them at the end of the third quarter that Annapolis is known as the comeback kids, and they almost did it," Gosnell said. "They've got kids with a lot of heart and desire."

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