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Boys soccer

Coach's goalie hunch key for Gaels in state title game

The Mount St. Joseph boys soccer team is the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champion, thanks in part to gutsy defense, poise and a key decision by coach Mike St. Martin that enabled the No. 3 Gaels to get past No. 1 McDonogh on penalty kicks Monday.

St. Martin watched senior goalie Brad Benzing make eight saves - a number of them brilliant - during 100 minutes of scoreless play. But when it came to who would be in goal for the deciding shootout, St. Martin went to his unconventional source, David Arnold.

With Benzing sidelined in the semifinals against Calvert Hall, St. Martin had turned to Arnold - 6 feet 5 with uncanny athleticism - during the shootout, and he responded with three saves despite not having played in goal since he was 11 years old.

With Benzing back and playing well Monday, the decision was much tougher.

"My assistant coaches and I started talking about it, throwing Brad out there, but I just felt the hot hand was Dave," St. Martin said. "He's a lot taller, more imposing and he's just phenomenal. He's just a brilliant kid who knows which way to go - I don't know how he does it."

Arnold, who was humble and a bit stunned after the game, started a post-game interview by saying: "I don't know what Coach was thinking ... " and finishing with: "Credit Coach St. Martin - he made all the right moves."

The Gaels finished the season 13-3-3, losing just one game in regulation. They beat McDonogh (20-3) during the regular season when the Eagles were undefeated and No. 1 in the country, and beat them a second time to spoil their bid for a third straight conference title.

- Glenn Graham


Poggi staying at Gilman

After the Gilman football team upset McDonogh on Saturday, one online media outlet reported that Greyhounds coach Biff Poggi might not be back on the sideline next fall. But when asked about the report Monday, Poggi said he had no plans to leave.

"I've got another son who's pretty good. He played as a freshman, so I'm not going anywhere," Poggi said of his younger son, Henry Poggi, who played on the varsity along with brother Jim Poggi, a senior.

Biff Poggi said he was asked Saturday about Jim moving on to play for Iowa next year but said he didn't mean to give the impression that he was moving along, too.

"I said I'm really interested in him getting settled, and I want to get out to see him as much as I can, and I think [the reporter] might have taken that to mean that I wouldn't be here, but you can do both."

The coach, whose team earned its ninth MIAA A Conference championship since 1998 with the 37-24 win over McDonogh, said he expects to stick with the team at least through Henry's final three years.

"Then I may go off gracefully into that sunset," Poggi said with a laugh, "but who knows?"

- Katherine Dunn


5 aim for perfect seasons

As the regional playoffs begin this weekend, four local teams have a shot at finishing perfect state-championship seasons. One other is aiming for a perfect private-school championship season.

Top-ranked Arundel, No. 2 River Hill, No. 5 Joppatowne and No. 8 Boys' Latin are 10-0, while Forest Park is 9-0.

Arundel hosts Annapolis at 7 p.m. Friday. The Wildcats, behind state record setters Billy Cosh and R.J. Harris, are looking for their first state title since 1975 after reaching the Class 4A semifinals last fall.

River Hill, which won the past two state Class 2A titles, is now in Class 3A and will welcome James M. Bennett from Salisbury at 7 p.m. Friday.

Joppatowne won the Class 1A crown in 2003 and will host Bohemia Manor, the 1A champ in 2002, at 7 p.m. Friday.

Forest Park is also in Class 1A and is looking for its first playoff victory when it meets Carver, another team that has never won a playoff game, at 7 p.m. Friday at Poly.

For Boys' Latin, however, it's the championship game. At 1 p.m. Saturday at Mount St. Joseph, the Lakers will play No. 14 Archbishop Spalding for the MIAA B Conference title.

- Katherine Dunn

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