When Fallston and C. Milton Wright put their unbeaten girls soccer records on the line tomorrow night in Bel Air, it will mark the first time since the inception of high school polls for the metropolitan area that Harford County has had a meeting of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in any sport.
When top-rated Fallston (9-0, 4-0) and Wright (9-0, 4-0) collide, it will mark the beginning of a round-robin among the top four teams (all unbeaten in the county) in the girls and the boys county leagues.
In another girls game tomorrow night, Bel Air (7-2, 4-0) will be at North Harford (5-2, 4-0). Wednesday, North Harford is at Wright and Bel Air at Fallston, and Oct. 23, Fallston is at North Harford and Wright at Bel Air to conclude the regular season.
For the boys, Tuesday night, it's Wright (5-2-1, 4-0) at Fallston (5-3, 3-0) and North Harford (4-2-1, 3-0) at Bel Air (6-2, 3-0); Thursday, Fallston is at Bel Air and Wright at North Harford; and on Oct. 23, North Harford is at Fallston and Bel Air at Wright.
L In the latest boys poll, Wright is No. 7 and Bel Air, No. 9.
"Really, the polls don't make any difference," Fallston girls coach Nancy Ferguson said. "It's a natural rivalry, the players have played with and against each other on other teams, and the two teams always seem to have good games."
The home side has won the last two. Two years ago, on a rainy night, Becky Gerhart, then a sophomore, scored in overtime to give Wright a victory. Last year, Fallston, on its way to an undefeated season and the state Class 1A-2A championship, rallied for two second-half goals and a 2-1 victory.
Each side has dominant position players. For Wright, it is goalkeeper Erin Updegrove (two goals allowed), sweeper Miranda James, midfielder Erin Lesh (six goals) and forward Becky Gerhart (13 goals). For Fallston, it is goalkeeper Emily Weibel (one goal allowed), sweeper Jenny Cook, midfielder Cindy Wolf (seven goals) and the scoring combination of forwards Beth Blasi (12 goals) and Courtney Benner (14 goals).
Whereas Ferguson has guided Fallston's fortunes since 1987, Peter Griffiths is in his first year as head coach at Wright. However, he and former head coach Ken Dawson had been working together for the previous 10 years.
"We had a great deal of experience returning, and our five new players, including three freshmen [one starts], have injected energy and played complementary roles," said Griffiths. "Our seniors have been through a lot and I think they are more focused than in the past.
"Erin Lesh has become our leader in the middle, and the team has confidence in her. The result has been more aggressive, confident play."
In past years, this game has come nearer the end of the season and usually decided the county title. Now, with two tough games to follow, both coaches are trying to play down its significance, saying it is simply the next one on the schedule, albeit one they need to win to stay on track.