Throughout a scoreless first half during Thursday’s Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Potomac Division boys soccer clash, host La Plata had applied serious pressure to the North Point defense while proving incapable of finding the net.
But in the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Warriors finally found a way to break through when J.D. Santiago sent in a corner kick that Owen Butler headed toward teammate Blake Davis who headed the ball past North Point goalkeeper Liam Perella for the game’s only goal as La Plata prevailed 1-0 to remain undefeated in the SMAC Potomac Division.
Immediately after the game, La Plata head coach Chris Butler commended his players for their defensive effort, noting the squad has now recorded six consecutive shutouts heading into Tuesday’s SMAC Potomac Division clash with Lackey. Early in the season, the Warriors had been riddled by other opponents to the tune of 17 goals in its first four games, including a 5-4 double-overtime win over Northern.
“What I told the guys after the game the one thing that I am most proud of is their team defense,” Butler said. “We got a goal and that’s great, but what impressed me the most was our team defense. North Point has a lot of skill, a lot of fast, talented players. For our team defense to keep them from scoring was really what impressed me the most.”
North Point head coach Cameron Ballard commended both teams for their performance on Thursday, noting that whichever team scored first was going to own the upper hand through the remainder of the contest.
That sentiment played out in the second half as La Plata took a far more defensive stance once Davis gave the hosts a 1-0 lead.
“Once they scored, they were able to drop five, six players back and that certainly made things tougher for us,’ Ballard said. “But, we knew this game was going to be very close. We knew if they got a second goal, then it would be over. So, we stayed on the attack the last 20 minutes, but we just could not find a way to get the tying goal.”
Both teams arrived undefeated in SMAC Potomac Division play and were still inseparable on the scoreboard through the first 40 minutes of the contest. La Plata, however, had created far more chances with Santiago delivering corners that were either cleared by North Point defenders or resulted in point-blank shots wide of the target.
At the outset of the second half, the Warriors again controlled play and again it was Santiago who accepted the duties on the corner kicks. His first try from the right corner sailed through the box, but his second resulted in a rare double-header of sorts as Owen Butler headed the ball left to Davis who headed the ball past Perella.
“J.D. sent the corner into the middle and Owen kept it in play on a header and Blake scored on a header,” Butler said. “You just don’t see that very often. But after that, what really impressed me the most was our team defense, especially against their guys up top.”
La Plata (8-3-1, 5-0 SMAC Potomac) is next scheduled to host Huntingtown at 6 p.m. Thursday, while North Point (5-4, 3-1) is slated to be at Westlake at 5 p.m. Thursday.
“In these close games it usually comes down the which team can control the midfield,” Ballard said. “We were a little slow at first, but this field is not as quick as ours. It probably took us a whole half to make the adjustment, but this was a very good game against a very good team. They got a goal and we didn’t.”