Sep. 8—CUMBERLAND — It's an overused cliché when a coach or commentator says: "There were no losers out there today."
Sometimes it's true, and Tuesday was one of those times.
Bishop Walsh showed flashes of greatness, dominating possession and the scoreboard before halftime, and Fort Hill changed its tactics, fought and clawed to force an unlikely overtime period.
When it was all said and done, both teams left with plenty to be happy about and plenty to improve upon.
But the Spartans were the only team to leave with a win, as Leo Soares snuck a shot with 2:29 left in the second overtime just around the Fort Hill centre back and keeper to give Bishop Walsh a 4-3 victory at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
"These guys really do have a never-die mentality," Bishop Walsh head coach Ryan Dunn said. "I always say in soccer, there's another chance. They should be proud of how hard they played late into the game. The fact that we were able to play our game for the most part that late on is a good thing.
"Obviously it wasn't the performance we were looking for. Again, we played well in stints. We're not where we want to be yet. The goal is consistency at this point and putting 80 minutes together."
Trailing 3-1 at halftime, Fort Hill played inspired soccer to force overtime.
The Sentinels moved junior Kolton Whorton to serve as a sweeper along their backline, which caused a bevy of problems for a Bishop Walsh side that had its way with Fort Hill before the break.
The contest seemed destined for a tie, but with less than three minutes left, Soares would have none of that. With his game-winning strike, the Spartans remained unbeaten for another day, upping their record to 3-0-1.
It wasn't always pretty, but city games rarely are.
"We knew it was always going to be a physical game," Dunn said. "They put up a good fight."
After more than 60 scoreless minutes, Fort Hill's resolve eventually manufactured a goal. Freshman Liam Hamilton cut the Sentinels' deficit to 3-2 with a score from the top of the box, and Bishop Walsh looked uncharacteristically loose with the ball.
The goal appeared to be a wake-up call for Bishop Walsh, as the Spartans began playing better team soccer. Minutes later, midfielder Matt Russo connected on a through ball to striker Cam Hein, who had two first-half goals, but the senior was dispossessed just prior to breaking through.
With 22 minutes left, Chris Manherz shot a cross into the box, and a Fort Hill defender nearly scored an own goal. Fortunately for the Sentinels, the mistimed clearance clipped off the crossbar.
The Spartans' near-misses gave Fort Hill new life, and the Sentinels made the most of it. With 8:34 left, Hamilton heaved a long throw-in into the box, and the ball bounced to Will Boyer in an open pocket.
Boyer slotted a shot just inside the right crossbar for the equalizer, as the logjam of players in the box on both sides seemed to have shielded the Bishop Walsh keeper from seeing the ball.
Overtime seemed unfathomable at halftime, but Fort Hill never lost hope.
"A few mistakes gave up some easy goals, but I was really happy with their fight," Fort Hill head coach Zack Steckman said. "They have a pretty good team over there. In the first half, they were picking us apart a little bit.
"Their possession was very good, and we were just getting caught out defensively. That's why we made that adjustment back there, and it slowed them down. It got them into our rhythm and our game."
Fort Hill, playing in its first match of the season, got off to a blistering start. In the first minute, Hamilton sent a long throw-in across the face of the goal to a streaking Jacob Bone, who redirected the service past the keeper for an early lead.
From that point, it was all Bishop Walsh until halftime.
The Spartans found an equalizer less than three minutes after the Sentinels' goal when Caio Zuben sent a free kick under the Fort hill wall and through the net from 25 yards out at the 36:13 mark.
Bishop Walsh earned a penalty with 32:21 left in the half, but Camden Zapf saved the potential go-ahead PK by Manherz and deflected his put-back try to keep the score level.
Despite the junior keeper's heroics, Haris Sadiq sent a picturesque through ball to Hein, who gave Bishop Walsh a 2-1 lead with 28:41 left. Hein made it 3-1 at the half scoring off another great ball, this time assisted by Russo, with 20:38 left.
Fort Hill would mount a comeback in the second half, but Bishop Walsh found the goal it needed to escape South Cumberland with a win.
The Spartans' city game on Thursday against Allegany has been postponed until Oct. 1 and their next game is Monday at Southern at 6 p.m.
Following the victory on Tuesday night, Bishop Walsh knows exactly what it has to clean up to beat the defending region champs.
"We know we have to work on finishing," Dunn said. "We took enough shots, just not enough on goal. I think that part will come."
Fort Hill (0-1) hosts a tournament at Greenway Avenue Stadium on Saturday, and it will have two shots to garner its first win of the season against Calvary (3-3) at 9 a.m. and Smithsburg at 12:15.
"I really couldn't have asked for anything more out of the first game," Steckman said. "I know there were nerves, we're a young team, but we fought, and we fought hard. That's promising going forward."
Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.