For all intents and purposes, this year's Class 2A championship game between No. 5 Marriotts Ridge and No. 7 Fallston was won and lost in a span of just over two minutes.
Marriotts Ridge's Nick Applegate handled the first part of the equation, placing a perfect shot just under the crossbar a little more than two minutes after halftime to stake the Mustangs to a 1-0 advantage. Then, two minutes and 18 seconds later, Fallston's comeback hopes were dealt a serious blow when defender Zack Esser was issued a red card for a dangerous tackle from behind.
With the Cougars playing down a man the rest of the way, Marriotts Ridge was able to make that goal stand up and capture the program's third-straight state championship, 1-0, Saturday at UMBC Stadium.
"I didn't tell the boys this, but we haven't won a game where we've given up the first goal all year. But we've won every game we've scored first," Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn said. "So, getting the early goal [in the second half] was a big deal."
Two of Marriotts Ridge's titles have now come against Fallston (13-6-1), which lost to the Mustangs in the championship game in 2009, also by a 1-0 margin. While that game was decided in overtime, Marriotts Ridge (14-4-1) handled its business this time during regulation.
Applegate's deciding goal came on a shot from just outside the box that looped over Fallston goalie Robbie Kansler (9 saves). It was his seventh goal of the season.
The Marriotts Ridge defense did the rest, earning its 11th shutout of the year.