Leaves swirled in winds gusts propelling rain, sleet and snow on the turf at Ridley Athletic Complex on Saturday afternoon and into the evening.
Other than that, it must have seemed like a sunny day for Middletown.
Not so much for hard-luck Fallston, which was hoping to avenge last year’s narrow setback to the West Region champs from Frederick County.
The Knights (19-1) captured their second consecutive boys Class 2A state soccer title — despite playing a man down the final 19 minutes — by edging the No. 17 Cougars, 1-0, in challenging conditions.
The game’s only goal came on a beautiful finish of a corner kick by senior midfielder Luke Ahalt that went directly to senior defender Evan Joseph, who headed the ball just under the crossbar. It bounced down and over the goal line.
It came moments after Joseph missed on another Ahalt corner kick.
“On the first one, I just didn’t get behind it enough,” Joseph said. “On the second one, I got to it and hit it down. I was just trying to put it on target.”
Ironically, it was Ahalt who drew a red card that forced his team to play a player short for such a lengthy period.
Nonetheless, the Knights had enough left in the tank to maintain its winning margin.
“Not a whole lot changed after Luke went out,” said Middletown senior midfielder Grant Brandenburg. “We played for him and we played for ourselves.”
Fallston junior forward Reese Ripken probed for the equalizer a couple of times in the second half, cranking one shot high and another wide.
“The man down did open things up a bit,” said Ripken, who finished the season with seven goals and two assists. “But we’re not used to playing on a field this wide. Their backs were spread out, and that left a lot of open holes. We had good space to take control of, but we couldn’t fulfill that.”
In the first half, the Cougars (14-4) had chances to take the lead when senior defender Andrew Solomon’s header was nudged over the goal and and senior midfielder Jeff Otenasek missed a 20-yard shot.
“Fallston is right up there with (Class 3A state champion) Urbana,” Middletown coach Jeff Colsh said. “They’re really fast — a lot like we are. They’re a really good team.”
In a game that closely contested, it really came down to the Knights executing a set piece when it was most needed.
Fallston coach Drew Bisker summed up the game succinctly.
“Both teams had some chances, but theirs went in and ours didn’t,” he said.
Fallston senior defender Curtis Kassir said he thought the teams were evenly matched.
“I think we went blow for blow with them the whole game,” he said. “The wind played a big part. In the second half with the wind gusting in our face, I think we started to run out of gas.”
2A BOYS SOCCER STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
(at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex)
MIDDLETOWN 1, NO. 17 FALLSTON 0
FAL 0 0 — 0
MID 0 1 — 1
GOALS: MID-Evan Joseph.
ASSISTS: MID-Luke Ahalt.
SAVES: MID-Ethan Remsburg 4; FAL-Nick Mudd 2, Mason Mullaney.