Clear Spring cruised into the Class 1A boys soccer state semifinal with a 14-1 record and having outscored its opponents 63-6.
In contrast, Sparrows Point (9-8-1) had given up five goals in a game twice during the regular season, and didn’t have a winning record until it defeated Reginald Lewis in the Class 1A North Regional finals.
So, in a tough, grueling game played in miserable conditions, the more tested team won. That was Sparrows Point.
After the two squads ended regulation and two overtime periods tied 1-1, the Pointers won the penalty kick shootout 3-1 to advance to Friday’s Class 1A state championship game.
Sparrows Point will play Patterson Mill (11-7) at 7 p.m. at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Conference.
It’s the first appearance in the state championship game for Sparrows Point since the Pointers were co-champions with Pocomoke in 2006.
Zack Lambert, a freshman, sealed Sparrows Point’s win in the penalty kick shootout against Clear Spring.
The Pointers led 2-1 in the fourth round, with the Blazers having already missed their fourth attempt. So a successful conversion by Lambert would give Sparrows Point a two-goal lead with only one round remaining.
“I subbed [Zach] on with a few minutes left in the second overtime,” said Pointer coach Joe Lambert, who is Zach’s father (only players on the field at the end of the second overtime can participate in the penalty kick shootout). “He is good at them, very calm, usually sends the keeper the wrong way.”
As the Clear Spring goalkeeper dove to his left, Zach stuck a hard ground shot inside the right post.
“He was leaning to his left, so i shot low and right,” Zach said.
The Blazers made their first attempt, and Givoni Herring quickly tied the score. Sparrows Point goalkeeper Nathan Schoene dove to his left and knocked away the shot by Jaret Lazich, Clear Spring’s leading scorer, in the second round, and Ben Hester converted to give the Pointers a 2-1 lead.
Both teams missed on their third attempt, Clear Spring’s shot hitting the post and the Sparrows Point shot going high.
On their fourth attempt the Blazer’s shot went wide, setting up Zach Lambert to clinch the win.
In addition to its impressive record, Clear Spring also brought a large and loud contingent of fans from Washington County to see the school’s first state semifinal appearance since 2006.
The Blazers were led by Lazich, who had 31 goals and six assists entering the game. He left the game with 31 goals and seven assists.
“We knew about hm coming into the game,” Joe Lambert said. “We didn’t do anything about him at first, but after he made a run past our defenders, Nathan Wynne marked him for most of the first half and I had one of our center backs sit a little deeper.
“We let him go for the second half, and he served the ball on the goal they scored. After that, we marked him again.”
The Blazers also had a noticeable height advantage over the Pointer players.
“We were concerned about their height on set pieces, but they didn’t do much on those,” Sparrows Point assistant coach Conrad Snyder said. “We play fairly well when we keep it on the carpet.”
On corner kicks, Lambert had Givoni Herring come back and help out while pushing one of the smaller Pointer players up top.
“We were definitely concerned about their height,” Lambert said. “Quite a few of the guys on our team are pretty short.”
Sparrows Point took a 1-0 lead with 24 minutes remaining in the first half. Herring took a shot from about 20 yards out that was knocked away by Blazer keeper Holden Rohm.
But Rohm couldn’t corral the rebound, and John Herget scored on a follow-up shot.
The wind was a factor in the game. Sparrows Point had the wind in the first half, but could only get the one goal past Rohm.
Both teams struggled to get the ball out of their own ends while going against the wind.
Clear Spring tied the game with 25 minutes remaining in regulation. Lazich, on the right side, lofted a pass to Dalton Myers in front of the goal.
Myers lept and shot the ball in mid-air, into the upper left corner beyond the reach of a diving Schoenke.
The Blazers, with the wind at their backs, had several other chances in the second half. But Schoenke (14 saves) and the Pointer defense kept the game tied.
“After we struggled getting the ball out of our end in the second half, we were hoping to end the game in the first overtime while we had the wind with us,” Lambert said.
But neither team was able to take advantage of the wind in overtime, sending the game to penalty kicks.
Clear Spring had beaten Mountain Ridge in penalty kicks during the Class 1A West Region championship game, but the experience turned out to not help the Blazers.
Now, the Pointers will be part of state final Sparrows Point-Patterson Mill girls/boys soccer doubleheader.
Patterson Mill lost to Patapsco 3-1 during the regular season, while Sparrows Point lost to the Patriots 4-1.
“Patterson Mill is another big, physical team,” Lambert said. “They are good in the air, not a possession type team, more direct. I expect another battle like it was [against Clear Spring].”
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