All season, the undefeated Loyola Blakefield soccer team successfully fended off every challenge.
Thursday’s test against surging Archbishop Curley in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinals was different.
With high stakes, the No. 1 Dons pieced together their finest work early in double overtime.
Cole Hendricks made a clean tackle to win a ball around midfield and quickly passed it to Chase Llewellyn on the right side of the field. Just as quickly, Llewellyn sent a pass to the near post for John Peterson to provide the most important finish of the team’s season.
Peterson’s goal with 8:04 to play in the second 10-minute overtime sent the Dons to the championship game with a 3-2 win over the No. 10 Friars.
Loyola Blakefield (18-0) will take aim at the program’s first perfect season when it meets No. 6 McDonogh — a 2-1 winner over No. 9 Gilman in Thursday’s other semifinal — in Sunday’s championship game at Anne Arundel Community College at 5:30 p.m.
For the Dons, the semifinal win proved to be an ideal primer for Sunday’s title game. Coming off five straight shutouts wins, they twice took one-goal leads, only to watch the Friars (11-9-1) tie the game.
“I think that was the MIAA at its finest,” Loyola coach Lee Tschantret said. “I think the level of intensity, the level of tactical acumen from the players and coaching staffs — that was a great game that could have easily gone either way.”
Like every other game this season, things went the Dons’ way, with Peterson scoring after both teams had chances in overtime.
“It was a great feeling,” said Peterson, who also had two assists. “Chase won the ball on the sideline, beat his man and just cut it back for me. I beat my defender and was able to slide it home.”
Curley, which already tested the playoff waters with an 8-3 win over Calvert Hall in Monday’s quarterfinals, had the better of the early play, but weren’t able to take a lead.
The Dons settled in and would twice enjoy two one-goal leads with Julian Schmugge scoring both goals, his second coming with 33:07 left in the second half.
Despite the big home crowd and a tidy defense that came into the game with 13 shutouts, the Dons weren’t able to close out the win in regulation, with the Friars’ final push resulting in a tying goal from Dylan Sloan with 6:52 left to play.
After the loss, Curley coach Barry Stitz told his Friars that they played their best game of the season, and his final order was to leave the field together with their heads high.
“Something happened with about 20 minutes to go in the second half that they just took it to another level and that’s the most gratifying thing as a coach,” Stitz said. “Do I want to win? Yes. But to see that from the guys and see them grow individually as a player, that’s the time to do it.”
The Dons will try to complete the perfect season against defending champion McDonogh in Sunday’s final. They needed overtime to beat the Eagles, 3-2, on Oct. 9 before claiming a 5-0 home win on Oct. 22.
“It’s a little bit of pressure now, but we’ve handled it all season, so I think we’ll be alright,” Peterson said.
No. 6 McDonogh 2, No. 9 Gilman 1: The defending league champions got first-half goals from Andrew Privett and Richie Nichols and held off a second-half surge from the visiting Greyhounds to advance to their fourth title game in five years.
After Gilman’s Logan Paff scored with 20 minutes left to cut the lead to 2-1, the Eagles had to handle several set pieces from the Greyhounds to secure the win. McDonogh senior goalie Kieran Baskett finished with four saves.
The Eagles take a 12-4-4 mark into Sunday’s title game, while Gilman finished the season 14-6-2. In 2014, Loyola spoiled McDonogh’s bid for a perfect season with a 2-0 upset win in the title game.
MIAA A semifinals
1 Loyola 3, 10 Curley 2 (2OT)
Goals: C – Sloan, Woodward; L – Schmugge 2, Peterson Assists: C – Harry ; L – Peterson 2, Llewellyn Saves: C – Caulkins 6; L – Milmoe 4 Half: 1-1
6 McDonogh 2, 9 Gilman 1
Goals: G — Paff; M — Privett, Nichols Assists: M — Nichols Saves: G — Farley 6; M — Baskett 4 Half: M, 2-0