At halftime of last night's Baltimore County title game, Kenwood trailed Patapsco by a goal and had registered just three shots fewer than the No. 8 Patriots.
It was progress over an earlier four-goal defeat, when the Division II champion Bluebirds faced a two-goal halftime deficit. And coach Carroll Hess was within striking distance of an upset at chilly Catonsville High.
But three minutes into the second half, reality and top-scorer Dino Pusinksy's second goal from 20 yards, came crashing in on the Bluebirds (7-6) as Patapsco administered its sixth shutout of the year, 3-0.
"This was sweet, and we earned it by beating the best teams in the county all year long," said Patapsco coach Dave Ingle, who watched Heath Adkins (13 goals, three assists) score off an assist from Mike Brown with 18 minutes left.
Keeper Mike Griffith (11 saves) turned back an offense of Shaun Addicks, Jason Blackburn and Jamie Fraley, getting the usual support from defenders Jeff Fisher, John Sobczak, Joshua Campbell and Wayne Brooks.
"This proves we've got a great defense," said Brooks, who has marked the opposing team's top scorer point-less nine times. "We give up less than a goal a game, but county coaches didn't put any of our defenders on their All-County team."
But Patapsco (10-2-1) had been out-shot, 6-1, in the first half until taking a 1-0 lead on Pusinsky's goal in the game's 19th minute off a give-and-go pass from Adkins just beyond midfield. Pusinsky touched it past a defender, and later softly over the head of sliding keeper Rob Hudnet (15 saves), who had committed to the top of the penalty area.
Overall, however, Hudnet, a sophomore, made several key stops -- including Pusinsky's breakaway attempt as Patapsco closed the first half by out- shooting the Bluebirds, 9-1.
"We played with much better pressure this time," Hess said. "It's a strong performance heading into the state playoffs."
* Carver A&T; 8, Woodlawn 2: Andy Oram had a hat trick and Josh Brooks made 11 saves as the host Wildcats (10-1) rolled over the Warriors (8-3) to win the Baltimore County Division III championship.