In a fast paced boys’ soccer showdown Monday evening, it was the Bel Air High who were able to one-up No. 2 Perry Hall, 2-1.
“The boys played very well defensively in a very physical game,” Cats’ head coach Dominic Rose said. “We kept our composure the whole game, counter attacked very well and I thought the boys really stepped up to the challenge today.”
As the Gators controlled the possession of the ball for a majority of the game, it was two well fought goals that helped the Bobcats jump out to a 2-0 lead, and terrific defensive stands that allowed the squad to hold on for the upset.
Bel Air senior captain Matt Billé put the first Bobcat points on the board in the 24th minute, lacing a through ball from fellow senior captain Tyler Szekalski, and senior teammate Shalon Calhoune headed a deep second-half throw in from senior Herb Hand to post the 2-0 lead with 28 minutes left in the game.
“The ball just got played over the top,” Billé said, walking through the play. “I anticipated the ball and just put it in the back of the net. “Everybody on the team played excellent. It was a team effort from the back line to the front.”
The back line had its work cut out for it following the second Bobcat score, facing and defending an assault of flip-throw-ins from Gator senior Timmy Brooks and the Perry Hall offensive pressure to hold on for the win.
“If I count my throw-ins as corner kicks, we are close to 20,” Gator coach Danny Skelton said, “and that is any coach’s dream, to have that many set pieces, and we have to capitalize on those situations.”
In the 78th minute, Brooks brought the Perry Hall crowd to its feet with a perfectly placed goal to cut the deficit to one, but the heart and skill shown by Bel Air keeper senior Conner Kregecz kept the lead safe.
Kregecz left his feet twice in final seven minutes of the game to keep the game from becoming a tie, including a save where he leaped to the crossbar and punched the ball over the net to knock it away.
“The defense just played great,” Kregecz said. “The big throws, we were concerned, we knew they had two good strikers up top, and we stepped up to the challenge today.”
When the acrobatic Brooks is not found on the pitch making his half-field throw-ins seem simple, the nationally ranked gymnast can be found in competing for a college future in the gym.
“He is a nationally ranked gymnast, it is his number one sport and he is scouted by all the top D-I schools in the country,” Skelton said of Brooks. “It was shock to me when he came out and showed he was a great soccer player, and the next thing you know he is doing these flip throws and I am saying, ‘holy mackerel.’
“He is a great kid, and, as a defender, he is someone who will just fight, fight, fight and battle.”
The Bel Air boys accomplished a goal that was set nearly one year ago.
Following a 1-1 tie with the Perry Hall Gators late in the 2009 season, the Bobcats had the 2010 rematch circled in red, and delivered a win.
“We have had a goal since the beginning of last year, and on of those goals was to come back and beat them this year,” Rose explained. “We feel like we have bounced back from a poor performance on Saturday and now we feel like this is the team we have built from last year.”
Bel Air, who came off a loss to No. 15 Calvert Hall College in the Bobcats’ weekend tournament, will try to roll their most recent win into North East, Thursday, while the Gators will try to rebound from the loss when they play Delaney, Saturday.
“This needs to light a fire under us,” Skelton said as chants of “ole” came from the departing Bel Air buses. “That right there will be motivation to win a state championship.”
Bel Air 2, Perry Hall 1
BA 1 1 – 2
PH 0 1 – 1
Goals: BA- Billé, Calhoune; PH-Brooks
Assists: BA- Szekalski, Hand
Saves: BA- Kregecz 6; PH-Kroll 3