For more than 65 minutes, the regular-season finale between Bel Air and C. Milton Wright had all the appearances of a scoreless tie.
It turned out to be more physical than artistic, and it took a fluke happenstance to set up Matt McFarlane goal for a 1-0 Wright victory.
The result enabled the Mustangs to tie Fallston for the Harford County championship with 6-1 records. Bel Air and North Harford finished 5-2. All three drew first-round byes in the regional tournament and will not play until next week -- Wright at Kenwood Tuesday, and Bel Air at Fallston Wednesday night.
The game's goal came with shocking suddenness. A Wright penalty gave Bel Air the ball in its defensive end, and a Bel Air player kicked it back to the goalkeeper -- normally a routine play to set up a long ball.
It didn't work that way. As keeper Ian Minnichbach came out to make the play, the ball took a bounce over his head, and McFarlane, a senior striker, got behind him in front of a wide-open net.
"I didn't see it," Bel Air coach Bill Jefferson said. "It was one of those times where you don't think anything can go wrong and you turn your head to look at something else."
Ryan Zimmerman, a Bel Air senior and three-year player at halfback, had two good scoring chances in the second half and failed to convert either one, putting the ball over the crossbar from close-in range both times.
Zimmerman and his counterpart in the middle, Wright senior Pete Troilo, played well on each other. And, as Troilo said of his opponent, "He was all over me. Occasionally, he'd slack off to go on offense, but then he'd come back. He played good defense."
* Fallston 5, North Harford 3: Joe Ercollono made a hat trick and Fallston (8-4) edged visiting North Harford (9-3), to earn a share of the county title with C.M. Wright.
Frank Bianco and Paul Kelly added single goals for the Cougars.
* Catholic 1, Mercy 0: The visiting No. 14 Cubs (9-4-4, 6-2-3) got the game's only goal from sophomore Nicole Brooks, assisted by Becky Bieneman, midway through the first half and held on to defeat the Magic (11-5-4, 7-3-3).
Mercy's goalkeeper Jen Bailey had 11 saves.