It’s all about composure. Self discipline is easier when your opponent isn’t applying much pressure, but when it comes to playoff time, an athlete is tested to see how just how much mojo they can muster.
And when the physicality of the game is taken to the next level, all bets are off. No more mister nice guy.
Saturday, fourth-seeded Patuxent faced ninth-seeded Southern of Anne Arundel County in the Class 2A South Region boys soccer semifinals, a team it faced in the championship round a year ago and defeated 3-2 in overtime.
With 19 shots on goal, the Panthers gave Southern a run for their money and captured a 3-1 victory to advance to the championship game, which was held Tuesday at second-seeded Gwynn Park of Prince George’s County, a contest that ended too late for inclusion in this edition.
If Patuxent defeats Gwynn Park, it will travel to Bel Air High School this weekend for the 2A state semifinals.
“We’ve been doing so well moving the ball in these last two games,” Patuxent head coach Brett Hansen said. “They hung in there.”
Both teams battled for the first 18 minutes until Hansen made a change. He subbed in Dacian Sapp, who put the Panthers on the board in the 22nd minute.
“We had a shot there come across and the keeper grabbed a hold of it, but it slipped out of his hands and I just placed it by him,” Sapp said. “We just got fired up ever since that. This win is very important. From what we’ve seen, this is the toughest team that we knew we were going to have to play and we gave it to them hard. We’ll be hyped up and excited for Gwynn Park.”
Eric Brauner and Nick Carlson teamed up for the Panthers’ second goal with less than 10 minutes to go in the first half after working to get past Southern’s very strong midfield.
“They were definitely on our skill level individually,” Brauner said. “We had to come out stronger in the first half because we had the wind against us and lost it a little bit in the second half, but we just kept a strong defense. We’ve been training for the past two weeks without any games, so we just need to keep our muscles warm.”
After taking the 2-0 halftime lead, Patuxent struggled to maintain possession and gave up an early corner. Patuxent’s Andrew Kalinowski stepped things up a notch on defense, helping Patuxent goalie Michael Frawley (7 saves).
“We came out excited up 2-0 and we had the wind with us [in the second half] and then I don’t know what happened, they just got off their game,” Hansen said of his team losing some composure at the start of the second half.
Hansen shares one of his starters with head football coach Steve Crounse. Kicker Eric Chaconas had a rough Friday night against Leonardtown, suffering a 31-28 loss, but was on the winning side for the soccer team less than 24 hours later.
“He came back big today,” Hansen said of Chaconas. “To come back and play the way he did today was huge.”
Chaconas came up big for the Panthers soon after with a clear just as Southern was pressuring the ball.
“It was a tough night last night losing to someone that most people would have expected us to win against,” Chaconas said, “but this is a really big pick me up. I just wanted to get this one for the team and get us back to states. This was huge, great for the guys. They were a physical team. They wanted it just as much as we did, we were just lucky enough to come out with the win.”
With nearly 15 minutes remaining, Eric Elder gave the hosts some breathing room with a goal and the 3-1 lead and eventual victory.