McDonogh junior forward Vincent Petrera has been a reliable source of offense for the Eagles all season.
When the lights were brightest Sunday, with the No. 2 Eagles looking to capture an unprecedented third straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title, he was more than that. He was downright sensational.
After setting the tone with two-first half goals, Petrera provided the eventual game-winner in the opening minute of the second half as McDonogh made history with a 3-2 win over No. 1 Archbishop Curley at CCBC-Essex.
In avenging a 3-0 regular season loss to the Friars, McDonogh finished with a 15-4-1 mark, capturing the program’s 11th league championship.
For Petrera, who finished the season with 17 goals and 12 assists — both team highs — and seven game-winning goals, the overall team performance superseded his fine individual performance.
“I think our team really worked as hard as we could every training session [this week] and we came out with the mentality that we‘re just going to work hard and ultimately led us to the win,” he said.
As for making the difference on offense?
“It’s a good feeling,” he said before asking if he could go join the team for the celebration photo.
Petrera extended the lead to 3-1 just 50 seconds into the second half, collecting a ball from Joel Brown.
For some teams, the goal would have been devastating, but the Friars (16-3-1) didn’t buckle.
Dylan Sloan scored his second goal of the game with 32:28 left to cut the lead to 3-2 and the Friars pushed hard, particularly in the final 10 minutes, but the Eagles held firm. Junior midfielder Richie Nichols, who is usually the offensive catalyst for the Eagles, keyed the defensive front with several clears in the final anxious moments.
McDonogh coach Brandon Quaranta talked about the possibility of making history at the start of the season, and now it’s done.
“To be honest, I didn’t think it would happen,” he said. “The league is so competitive, and to be able to even make a final three years in a row is quite an accomplishment. But to win three of those games, I can’t really put words to it. We talked about it — we made it part of our goal this season, to do something that has never been done in the best high school soccer league in the country, in my opinion. We’re proud of it because we appreciate how good this league is.”
All Curley coach Barry Stitz asked from his group was to play all-out so that there would be no regrets. He got it, although the Friars’ frustration of bringing home the program’s fourth league championship continues. This was the fourth appearance they made in the title game since their last championship in 2006.
“It’s hard to find words there. I’m really proud of them — it’s a great group of kids first and foremost, and they just battled tonight,” he said.
“We’ve been behind a couple times throughout the year and came back, and this was one more instance of it tonight. Especially when we gave up the goal early in the second half and went down 3-1. I told them a lot of teams that would have ended up a 5- or 6-1 game with both benches being emptied. But they battled back, it was 3-2 and we had a couple chances to tie it up and grab the momentum back. It was a great effort — really good high school game and atmosphere.”
Both teams came ready to play, and no player more than Petrera.
In the game’s eighth minute, he collected a ball on the right side and, on a tough angle, powered a shot past goalie Chris Denholm at the near post to give the Eagles a 1-0 advantage.
The Friars were quick to respond five minutes later when Sloan was in front to clean up a shot by Jalen Anderson that banged off the crossbar to even the score at 1.
More fine work from Petrera closed out the scoring with his second goal of the game — another solid strike from the right side — with 16:51 left until the break. The Eagles had two more quality sequences — with Mason Christian and Brown both getting in dangerous spots — but they were unable to add to their lead before the half.
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Goals: M — Petrera 3; C — Sloan 2 Assists: C — Anderson; M — Christian, Brown Saves: M — Smith 4; C — Denholm 3 Half: M, 2-1