BALTIMORE — A sometimes turbulent season is over for the Sabres, but their head coach could not be prouder of the team’s resiliency.
The Saints Peter and Paul High boys’ soccer team fell, 2-0, Thursday in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference semifinals to Friends School, which is now headed to the final for a third straight year.
The Sabres finished the campaign with a 12-5-1 record, sputtering to a 5-5-1 finish after starting 7-0, having allowed only three goals during the hot streak. Things became even more difficult after standout midfielder Austin Rafter suffered a compound fracture of his right leg during a 3-0 loss Oct. 16 at Park School. It was a game Sabres head coach G.R. Cannon admitted might as well have been forfeited after the injury, due to the apparent gruesome nature of the incident, which left him and his players shaken.
Rafter had surgery and missed the rest of the season, and a relatively young team scored a 1-0, playoff win over Park School on Tuesday in the MIAA B quarterfinals, which appeared to put a lot of things into big-picture perspective.
“Overall, we did pretty well,” Cannon said via a telephone interview Thursday night. “It was next man up. You’re not going to replace a midfielder who is among the top midfielders in the country, who other coaches are saying is player of the year in the conference ... the guys did the best they could.
”It’s one of those things, and we had to do everything we could to fight and battle,” Cannon added.”
Against Friends, which will face reigning champion Concordia Prep in the B final on Sunday at CCBC-Essex, the Sabres were quickly in a 1-0 hole when the Quakers’ Christian Barnes scored on an assist by Alex Shine. The goal, at the fifth minute, started as a corner kick and ended with a header by Barnes.
The score held all the way until the 72nd minute, and by then the Sabres were already pushing the frontlines deeper for a scoring opportunity. Friends added the second goal, Shine locating Harrison Deller to put the game out of reach.
Sts. Peter & Paul was outshot 7-6, including a saved attempt following a corner shortly before the Quakers’ first goal.
“We had our chances,” Cannon said. “The goalie made a nice save. They got their chances and scored and we didn’t, and that’s what happens. There were few clean chances.”
The Sabres won both regular-season matchups by 2-0 scores, but the competitive balance of the MIAA B shook up the standings and results by the end.
“I think it’s one of the top conferences in the country,” Cannon said. “Top to bottom, everybody is playing a different way.”
The physicality and intensity was ratcheted up in the playoff loss to Friends.
“No team gave any time and space,” Cannon said. “It was a slugfest, lots of hard tackles.
“I can’t be any more proud of these kids,” Cannon added. “Character-wise, the way they handled themselves, they were a very good group of men. The way they trained, they brought it every day, and the way they conducted themselves on and off the field, it was great. It was fun to go to work everyday.
Cory Morgan finished with four saves for the Sabres, while Sam Wittman made three stops for Friends.