BALTIMORE — The Leonardtown Raiders were hoping to cap off an undefeated season on Saturday in the Class 4A state boys soccer state championship game at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex, but facing the defending state champions of Walt Whitman was going to be a challenge.
“Leonardtown is a strong program,” Raiders head coach Robert Hor said. “We have been in, I think, the toughest region year after year. For the last 10 years we have gone up against very tough squads in the region. We felt that if we could break out this year, we were a threat to win it all.”
The Vikings, of Montgomery County, were able to jump on the Raiders with two first-half goals and eventually hang on for a 3-1 win to defend their state title.
For Leonardtown, the loss is the team’s only defeat of the season.
“We got off to a slow start,” Hor said. “It is disappointing because all season long we had really started strong and put other teams back on their heels. We didn’t have that happen today.”
Leonardtown (19-1 overall) generated two corner kicks with about 31 minutes left to play in the first half but was unable to generate any goals off of those opportunities.
Walt Whitman (17-1-1) got on the scoreboard with a goal from senior Hunter Lee with about 26 minutes left until halftime, getting on top 1-0.
“I thought we played really well in the first half. Once we settled in and started moving the ball around, I just thought we were brilliant,” Vikings head coach Dave Greene said. “[Leonardtown] has a really good team. You don’t win 19 games and score 88 goals by not being good, so we had a lot of respect for them. We knew what we were going to be up against, and I thought we were prepared.”
Walt Whitman added to its advantage with about 17 minutes left in the first half on a goal from senior Aaron Gunther, making the score 2-0.
“Unfortunately, we had too many calls go against us in the first half in our defensive half which resulted in a couple of goals for them,” Hor said. “We don’t have the tallest team, so it is always dangerous for us to give up fouls. In the first half, the game was called very tight. Unfortunately, we gave up a couple of goals off of free kicks.”
After surrendering no goals in the prior two games leading into Saturday’s state final, the Raiders found themselves trailing 2-0 at halftime.
“This group was a tremendous group of young men,” Hor said. “They had each other’s backs from the beginning. When they play as a team, no one can stop them. We just fell a little bit short today.”
Kobe Harris, one of 17 Leonardtown seniors, scored the lone goal for the Raiders in the second half with about nine minutes left in the game.
“I just saw [Connor] Yager, who’s a really good striker for us, get in our attacking third,” Harris said when asked to describe the play. “I knew he was going to make something out of it, so I just tried to get in the right position in case the goalie bobbled it or [Yager] passed it to me. I ended up scoring on the play, but it definitely ended up being a bittersweet moment.”
The Raiders came up one win short of their ultimate goal, but the team defeated eight regional champions this season, captured a fourth consecutive Southern Maryland Athletic Conference crown and had 17 different players score a goal.
“We were very excited because this opportunity had never happened to Leonardtown,” Leonardtown senior Garrett Bridgwater said. “Us seniors had been dreaming about this since freshman year. Each year we thought we could get here and this year we did. We didn’t end up winning, but we still enjoyed it.”
Leonardtown won three games by one goal in the playoffs with narrow victories over Anne Arundel County powerhouses Broadneck, Severna Park and Arundel and made history this year appearing in the program’s first state title contest.
“We were able to make history that no other boys team at Leonardtown had done,” Harris said. “I was proud of us.”