There was no need to question the championship experience of the Chapelgate Christian boys soccer team. The Yellowjackets advanced to the MIAA C Conference final each of the last five years and many players from this season’s senior class have been along for the championship ride.
However, Chapelgate dropped its last two appearances in the final so the 15-member senior class, playing in its last high school game ever, wanted to go out on top and bring home the championship plaque.
Senior forward Mike Becker tallied a goal and an assist as four different players scored to lift the Yellowjackets to a 4-1 victory over Mount Carmel in the MIAA C Conference final at Archbishop Spalding on Monday.
Chapelgate finished the year with a 15-1 record, secured its sixth conference title and first since 2006.
“It’s important to get the monkey off our back,” said Yellowjackets coach Jason Bennett, whose team fell in the finals to Baltimore Lutheran the last two seasons. “These seniors have been fighting hard for that for the last couple of years. They came out focused today and got the job done.”
Chapelgate and Mount Carmel (16-5) split their two-game series during the regular season as both contests were decided by one goal. Those results, coupled with the Yellowjackets’ performance the last two years in the championship, struck a chord with Becker and his teammates.
“Well, we won it freshman year and it was fun to win it then,” Becker said.
“But the past two years, we had the lead in both (championships) and they came back on us. Playing Mount Carmel this year in the league, they beat us once at their field so we knew they could do it. We had to come out strong and finish it.”
Senior forwards Sam Orlando and Zach Shaffelburg each netted first-half goals to give Chapelgate a 2-0 advantage, but it was Mount Carmel senior defender Robbie O’Neil who scored to cut the lead in half three minutes before the intermission.
“We just had to keep our composure and stay focsued,” said Shaffelburg, who received a pass from Becker, pulled a move to free himself and rifled a left-footed shot past Cougars’ goalie Mike Krannebitter in the 30th minute.
“When it went back down to a one-goal lead, it can be dangerous. Especially when there’s a big crowd out. We just had to stay calm and play our game. We played through it.”
Orlando scored after he shook off multiple defenders and sent a low shot through the Mount Carmel penalty box from the left flank. He beat Krannebitter on the play and Cougar defender Jon Kosinski couldn’t clear it.
The tally came 10 minutes into the game and put the Yellowjackets on the scoreboard.
“I was face down in the dirt so I couldn’t tell if it went in,” said Orlando, who used his size to possess the ball in the midfield and made several dangerous runs. “When I looked up, it was in. Scoring first was a big lift.”
Junior midfielder Bobby Sanzone, who scored for the Cougars in their 1-0 overtime win over Baltimore Lutheran in the conference semifinals last week, was able to pull Chapelgate goalkeeper Steve Handy off his line after he served a ball during a penalty restart from just over 18 yards out. The ball trickled out of the goal mouth but O’Neil was there to finish on the exposed net.
“To bounce back there and cut the lead to one goal is a testament to this team,” said Mount Carmel coach, Andrew Grazzermiller, whose team made its first championship appearance since Granzzermiller helped lead the Cougars to back-to-back titles as a player in 1999 and 2000.
“We had many opportunities to break through and tie the game but it just didn’t fall our way.”
In the 21st minute, junior forward Reed Brazil had a left-footed blast from 20 yards out that just missed the mark for the Cougars. Mount Carmel also had a two-minute span in the second half when it was awarded three corner kicks but the Yellowjacket defense held tight.
“The last few games, we’ve been working with our sweepers and stoppers on pushing up with the offense,” said Bennett, whose team surrendered just six goals this season. “The support they’ve been giving the offense has just been unbelievable.”
Clinging to a one-goal lead, Becker and his teammates knew they would have to strike early in the second half in order to take control of the game. Both teams had opportunities but Chapelgate capitalized when senior defender Josh Rufolo sent a cross-field through ball from 30 yards out to Becker, who re-directed the ball past Krannebitter in the 57th minute.
“That was a beautiful play,” Bennett said. “What (Becker) has offered us up front has been phenomenal. His speed has increased so he’s been able to beat his defenders and his one-touch shooting has been great.”
Said Becker: “(Rufolo) hit the exact same ball in the semifinals. I just got to the right spot and one-timed it in.”
The dagger came when Chapelgate junior midfielder Taylor Crampton came off the bench and finished a cross with his left foot with 12 minutes remaining.
Chapelgate Christian 4, Mount Carmel 1
Goals: CC-Orlando, Becker, Crampton, Shaffelburg; MC-O’Neil.
Assists: CC-Rufolo, Becker.
Saves: CC – Handy n/a; MC-Krannebitter n/a.
Half: Chapelgate Christian, 2-1.