The No. 3 Mount St. Joseph soccer team scratched and clawed and defended with everything it had in Monday's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship against No. 1 and two-time defending league champion McDonogh.
All the hard work - 100 scoreless minutes' worth - got the Gaels to a familiar place, penalty kicks. And once again, senior forward David Arnold - tall, athletic and with a knack for guessing right - turned temporary goalie and ended up the hero.
Arnold turned away three McDonogh shots, and the Gaels got goals from Earl Kidwell and Joey Isaja before senior captain Zachary Modly perfectly slotted a shot to the lower right corner that gave the Gaels a 3-1 shootout win over the Eagles and their third A Conference championship.
Arnold, who made three shootout saves in the Gaels' semifinal win over Calvert Hall, guessed right three times, getting the shootout started with a brilliant fingertip save on Mamadou Kansaye's shot headed for the lower left corner.
"I know last week [I] was lucky, and I didn't think I could do it two weeks in a row, but I guess I pulled it out," Arnold said. "This team is the best I've been on ever. We're so close it's really like a brotherhood."
Mount St. Joseph closes its season with a 13-3-3 mark, while McDonogh, which was No. 1 in the country for a week at midseason, falls to 20-3.
The Gaels got a strong eight-save performance from senior goalie Brad Benzing during the 100 minutes of play. But coach Mike St. Martin decided to go with the hot hand in the penalty kicks. Benzing did not play in the Gaels' semifinal because of school-related issues.
After Arnold dived to his right to save Jeremy Kirkwood's shot, Modly took care of the rest with his poised finish as the Gaels' supporters went wild.
"It was just amazing. There was so much pressure, but I knew I had to stay composed and knew it wasn't just for me, but also for Mount St. Joe. Luckily, I stayed composed and put it in the right corner," Modly said.
After a scoreless first half, the Eagles pressed throughout the rest of regulation but couldn't find the elusive finishing touch with a determined Mount St. Joseph defense, committing extra players in back, firmly holding its ground.
Kansaye, last year's title-game hero with two goals and two assists in a 6-1 win against the Gaels, had the two best chances of the half, but both shots were turned away by Benzing. Midway through the half, Kansaye worked a give-and-go with Kirkwood, getting the return pass in stride behind the Gaels' defense, but his shot from 8 yards was deflected by Benzing. With 20 seconds left, Kansaye was again on the left side, but Benzing turned back his left-footed shot from 10 yards to send the game into overtime.
The Eagles also controlled the two 10-minute overtime periods with nothing getting through. Their best chance came in the final minute when Tyler Frederick's shot at the near post squirted past Benzing and sat in front before the senior goalie recovered.
"It's soccer. They did a great job staying organized and defending well when we were all over them. But soccer is an unfair game sometimes, and we just couldn't find that goal. We had some chances and should have buried them, we didn't. That's life and that's soccer, but I give St. Joe credit - they were organized and they defended and got to penalties. Credit to Dave [Arnold], he goes into goal and makes big saves and did what it took to win the game," McDonogh coach Steve Nichols said.
Saves: MSJ-Benzing 8; McD-Sanchez 2. Half: 0-0.