After a grueling two-day stretch against a pair of quality teams, Bel Air High’s boys soccer team has earned some well deserved rest.
After playing to a scoreless tie at undefeated South River Monday, the Bobcats scored twice in the first half and the defense held on for a 2-1 victory over visiting and 15th-ranked North Harford in an UCBAC Chesapeake contest Tuesday in Harford County.
“They’re just buying in,” Bel Air assistant coach Zach Memmo said of the team’s defensive effort. “A whole lot of hard work. They’re exhausted. They just played 100 minutes yesterday against South River – probably one of the best teams in the state right now. They’re dead [tired] so they couldn’t really transition a lot but they converted their chances and were able to play smart and control the tempo.”
The Bobcats’ first goal came at the 30-minute mark of the first half. Senior midfielder Matt Weidman gained possession after a free kick just outside of the Hawks’ box and a cross in front of the goal. Junior forward Jordan Kozak put the ball in the net to give Bel Air (3-1-2 overall, 1-0 UCBAC Chesapeake) a 1-0 advantage.
“We knew we had to bring the energy, especially since we were tired from yesterday,” Weidman said. “We had to start quick.”
Weidman was in the center of the action a few minutes later as he netted what proved to be the game-winning goal. The Bobcats’ defense turned away a Hawks’ scoring chance and turned it into immediately offense with a long pass up the field.
After a battle for possession in the North Harford end, Weidman came away with the ball and split a pair of defenders. The senior attacker saw his opening and beat Hawks’ goaltender Michael Lawry with a shot just inside the front post for a 2-0 advantage.
“I got the ball and looked up and saw I had a lot of space,” Weidman said of the winning goal. “I just dribbled through [the defenders] and was one-on-one with the goalie so I shot it and it went through.”
It didn’t take long for North Harford (5-1, 1-1 UCBAC Chesapeake) to respond. As the clock ticked near 15 minutes left in the first half, the Hawks had a flourish of offensive opportunities. It all started with a corner kick as North Harford peppered Bel Air goaltender Ethan Crosby with a couple of shots.
One hard shot from just in front of the box deflected off a sliding Crosby and found the foot of junior Ben Wardle. The midfielder put the ball home into the open net and halved the Hawks’ deficit at 2-1.
The Hawks continued to aggressively attack throughout the remainder of the game but were unable to find the equalizer.
North Harford coach Erik Lane lamented his team sluggish start, saying that brief lapse cost his team against a quality opponent.
“We were asleep in the first seven minutes,” Lane said. “We had a ball that came over from the left side to the right. It was just a ball that floated and we were all [caught] ball watching for that moment, enough for that one guy to get in. That’s all it takes to change the tone of the game.”
The game acted as an early season barometer for each team as both coaches know the schedule only gets tougher from here as the UCBAC season gets underway.
“It’s good to face talent like this,” Lane said. “We know that if want to go deep in the postseason, it’s going to take playing at this level. These guys are going to have to suck it up and play like men the rest of the season.”
BEL AIR 2, NO. 15 NORTH HARFORD 1
GOALS: North Harford - Ben Wardle; Bel Air - Jordan Kozak, Matt Weidman
ASSISTS: Bel Air - Matt Weidman
SAVES: North Harford - Michael Lawry; Bel Air - Ethan Crosby 3
HALFTIME: Bel Air, 2-1