A one-goal game is one of the things Severna Park coach Ryan Parisi loves about soccer. It’s the essence of his favorite sport, the finest result of any.
But on a cold Saturday night at Loyola Maryland’s Ridley Athletic Complex, that narrow outcome left his No. 3 Falcons team in tears after a 1-0 defeat to top-seeded Bowie in the Class 4A state championship game.
A 1-0 score has been the fortune and folly of Severna Park’s state championship runs for 10 years now. It’s by that score the Falcons won their third and most recent title in 2013. It’s by that score they fell in 2017.
“It’s a cruel game. The ball doesn’t always bounce the way you want it to,” Parisi said. “1-0 is the game of soccer. …They all hurt the same.”
At the beginning of the season, Parisi had not known whether this group would rise to the challenge. Looking back now, there’s not one thing he’d like to change.
“For me, it’s the journey. Our journey started on Aug. 12, and it’s been 99 days together — we maximized our time,” Parisi said. “As a coach, I’m just trying to get as much time with the team as possible.
“Sure, we didn’t win the last game. But we made a lot of great things throughout the entire year.”
The Falcons (17-3) finished a fourth seed in the region, having to battle through an extra game on the road few others did. That conquest through to the end, and the culture it built, is what junior Andrew Campbell will remember. Not this loss.
“We started off rough in the season and we really came together towards the end,” Campbell said. “That’s what came to the most of our success — being close.”
To this Falcons squad, a close game is no stranger. They’d just claimed the state semifinal over Montgomery Blair, 2-1, a week ago. This was their sixth one-goal finish this season. Just not a happy one.
Perhaps Severna Park hadn’t known what this meant to Bowie (16-2), which remembers losing to the Falcons in the 2016 state semifinals. The Bulldogs lost to another Anne Arundel County squad (Arundel) in 2019. Players had also lost multiple family members throughout the fall, one as recently as a few days ago.
“It’s been a year of redemption,” longtime Bowie coach Frantz Deetjen said. “It’s been a difficult time. We’ve lost a lot of loved ones. Players have been through a lot to get here. We’re proud. Truly proud.”
Deetjen monitored Severna Park during its game against Montgomery Blair last week and saw just as dangerous a midfield on Saturday as he did then.
“I talked to my boys over the week and said, ‘This is going to be the two best midfields I’ve seen,’” the coach said. “They played very aggressive, very fast. But our team, we are disciplined defensively. That took them a while to figure out what they could do to start having some more opportunities. One our midfield gets the ball, they look for our speed, quickness and wit — we were able to capitalize.”
Bowie’s shots came uncommonly and wide. Otherwise, Severna Park could pilfer a Bulldog forward of the ball no problem — for the first half, anyway.
Making anything of those stolen goods was the issue. Chief among their troublesome guards were Bowie midfielder Kaden Green and defender Ethan Beauman-Ansah. Only junior forward Jeffrey Chukwu neared most dangerously to breaking down Bowie’s defense for a goal, luring keeper Ronaldo Sosa into his first save midway through the half.
Trust; it had been what Bowie’s defense worked on all season. The Bulldogs had posted five clean sheets during these playoffs already.
“This center back here, he’s always yelling at me,” Green said of Beauman-Ansah. “Telling us to drop, telling us to push up. We have amazing back four — two freshmen, a senior and a junior — pretty young back line, but they had the skill-set to keep up with the best team in the 4A.”
Closer still did the Falcons come a minute out from halftime. The ball bounced from Bowie head to Falcon, threateningly close to going into the net. Severna Park junior Andrew Campbell nearly put it home. Instead, Green pounced, clearing the ball from the box and forcing a scoreless tieat halftime.
Bowie entered the second half with renewed hunger. “Carpe Diem,” the players said.
“They had the ball more in dangerous spots,” Green said, “but the chances we had kind of came to life.”
Shortly into the frame, the Bulldogs swarmed around keeper Peter Saunders, just not quickly enough to shake the Falcons defenders piling in around them.
So, the Bulldogs mused: speed would be the key. Timing was of the essence, as Severna Park proved just how swiftly it could file in and mark would-be goal-scorers.
Bowie senior Kareem Davis took on the task. The forward tore from his white-clad guards on a breakaway 20 yards out, launching an arcing shot over Saunders’ shoulders for the icebreaker just before a single Severna Park defender could mark him.
Davis rushed to his fans, arms-crossed and proud, as Bowie held the momentum, 1-0, with 37 minutes and change to hold it.
“Defense was trying our best. They just had more energy than us,” Saunders said.
The Bowie senior should not have been here if not for medical magic and sheer will. He missed half the season after suffering a sports hernia. He also could not use his left foot to shoot at all. Luckily, he just needed his right. Years of his older brother tormenting him for winning the last Bowie title when little Kareem had done nothing yet had created the hero the Bulldogs required.
“Everyone being there for me, recovering, winning games so I could make it to the playoffs, that was it,” Davis said. “Shane [Lopez-Haddia] won the ball off a failed clearance. I checked in off my defender. He played me on my left foot, I opened up, took one more touch, took a peek up, saw the goalie was off his line, took a quick shot — and it was over.”
Saunders (three saves) would not be caught unawares again.
The next time a shot on goal pounded his way in the 62nd minute, the Severna Park keeper wrenched it fiercely from the air and hugged it tight. And then, he gave it to senior Brad Dulin, who gave it to Campbell.
The Falcons midfielder raced down the Loyola turf. He crashed into Sosa feet from the box, but the goalie came up with the ball. Campbell lay on the ice-cold ground face down on the spot he’d planned to send his best chance yet.
“I got one-on-one on the goalie,” Campbell said. “Just mishit it. He had a good save.”
The senior’s next stop came close in the 75th minute, a piercing strike that seemed on a path to the net but took a wrong turn north at the end. It went sailing behind the net, and with it, Severna Park’s second-to-last chance.
Its final one truly cemented the end. Time dipped below a minute remaining. Senior midfielder Braden van den Berg arced the free kick toward Sosa. It just didn’t make it there.
This had been one more step than last year’s squad, which suffered heartbreak in the state semifinal. This was the Falcons’ 14th state final appearance.
“Experience matters,” Parisi said. “I think culture within the locker room is passed down. The guys we have lead by example, passing down to the guys coming in, striving to perform for them.”