Coming off a tough 2-0 home loss to Broadneck, the Severna Park boys soccer team needed a result against undefeated Arundel on September 26 to avoid an unwanted separation from the top tier of region contenders.
The Wildcats twice pushed the Falcons to the brink of such a slide, but Severna Park fought back to earn a 2-2 tie.
Down 1-0 and 2-1, Severna Park got a first-half penalty conversion from Gordie Bernlohr and a late second-half own goal off a Zach Plummer corner kick before turning the momentum and almost swiping a win through two overtimes.
“I thought the guys played well, showed a lot of competitive desire,” said Severna Park coach Ryan Parisi. “Some solid, really good individual talented players on Arundel, well-coached. I think if we had finished a couple chances, the game is a different story, but we showed great desire to fight back going down twice in a game against a good team.”
The game was fast and physical, befitting a rivalry that has grown in intensity in recent seasons — Arundel, after all, was the team that knocked Severna Park out of last year’s region playoffs with a 1-0 win in the second round. In the first meeting of the teams since then, Wildcat midfielder/forward Spencer Hanks opened the scoring 21 minutes into the game when teammate Niko Espartero sent a cross into the box, which clattered through a scrum of defenders before Hanks was there to poke it in for a 1-0 lead.
Immediately Severna Park responded. On the restart from midfield, the ball went to the right wing, where Jay Pierce whipped a cross into the box. The ball was inadvertently batted down with the arm of an Arundel player, leading to a Severna Park penalty. Bernlohr calmly thumped the penalty into the net to tie the game at 1-1 less than a minute after Severna Park went down.
Arundel (6-0-1) played with a dangerously high back line, pushing up the field for a score in the second half, but their efforts paid off with a highlight connection. Defender Andrew Versis booted a curling long ball from the right sideline at midfield around and through the Severna Park defense into the stride of Hanks in the middle of the field. Running at full speed, Arundel’s senior controlled the ball, took one touch and smashed a low strike to the far post, leaving no chance for Severna Park goalkeeper Ben McLay and giving his team a 2-1 lead.
Over the next 15 minutes, Severna Park began to wear away Arundel’s defense, winning 50-50 balls in the midfield on the strength of relentless challenges by Kevin Breitinger, Owen Barrett, Evan Blamphin, Bennett Jefferds and Elliot Skopp. The defensive corps of Plummer, Jack Muldoon, Michael O’Callaghan and Daniel Key contained Arundel well, and speedy freshman forward Ben Groseclose threatened up top.
The Falcons got the break they needed in the 61st minute when Plummer took a corner, and his blistering inswinger to the near post ricocheted into the net to tie the game at 2-2.
Severna Park had the better of play the rest of the way. Distance shots by Bernlohr and Breitinger tested Arundel goalie Evan Slaney, who finished with eight saves.
In overtime, a blast by Pierce from open play was on target but right at Slaney for a comfortable save. In the second overtime, Blamphin drew a foul outside the box, and Bernlohr’s dipping free kick was goal-bound before Slaney dived for a two-handed catch.
McLay made a save at the other end — he finished with five saves for Severna Park — to cap 100 minutes of play with a draw.
Arundel, which plays Broadneck in the final week of the season, didn’t lament missed opportunities to put the game away.
“I thought our team pulled together and had a solid team performance against a good opponent in Severna Park,” said Arundel coach Mike McCarron. “We had a few of our regular guys go down injured and had to call on guys that hadn’t seen a lot of time, and they stepped in and played a fantastic match. So the result I’m not unhappy with given what we went through for this match.”
Blamphin, Severna Park’s co-captain, said avoiding another home loss was a victory within the tie.
“It was definitely a good fight,” Blamphin said. “We had a tough loss against Broadneck earlier, bounced back against Annapolis [a 1-0 home win on September 24 on a goal by Skopp], and we just have to keep it going. We’re just trying to keep the intensity high, and we didn’t want to lose again on our home field. When those two goals went in, it was intense, and we wanted to get them back. We were bummed we couldn’t get that final goal, but it was a good fight.”
Skopp, a senior captain, said the Falcons, now 4-2-1 overall, have improved greatly since mid-August and are looking to excel at the right time later this fall.
“We’ve definitely been improving throughout the season, and that’s not going to stop,” Skopp said. “We have a lot of potential that we can still reach. I’m excited to see where we’re going to take the season.”