DOVER — Saint Mark’s boys soccer team had found it difficult to penetrate the Caravel defense in front of goalkeeper Alejandro Marte all afternoon at Dover High School, site of the DIAA Division II championship on Nov. 19. Yet, well after halftime, the Spartans found themselves trailing by only a goal.
That one came in the 30th minute, when Caravel’s Zayd Akhtar beat Spartans goalkeeper Ryan Betts. Akhtar deked his way into open space and fired a shot to the right of Betts.
The Buccaneers, however, scored three times in a five-minute span midway through the second half and defeated Saint Mark’s, 4-0, for the Division II championship. It was the Bucs’ second consecutive title and sixth overall.
The Spartans were in the championship game for the first time since 2011. The program has won 11 championships, the last in 2001.
The Spartans’ keeper had made several saves throughout the first half, including one on a corner kick, another on a diving stop, and one more off a Bucs header from in close. After Caravel scored, Betts made a diving stop on a short free kick, and in the closing seconds of the first half, he stoned Zain Akhtar.
On offense, Saint Mark’s forced Buccaneers goalkeeper Alejandro Marte to make a diving stop on Michael Smyth, and other shots just missed the mark or were from longer distances and corralled by Marte.
The Spartans nearly equalized in the 53rd minute. Brendan Walsh took a free kick from 55 yards, and it was headed inches wide by a teammate. Caravel took advantage a few minutes later. Zayd Akhtar was able to gain possession along the left sideline and sent the ball toward the net. Michael Cooke got loose about 15 yards from the net, turned and fired a shot into the upper reaches to make it 2-0.
The Buccaneers, feeling the momentum firmly in their favor, struck again in the 59th. Zain Akhtar got loose along the left sideline. He dribbled in and sent a shot in. The barrage continued two minutes after that. This time, Miles Hood took the ball through the 18-yard box directly in front of the net, and while moving to his left, sent a left-footed seed just inside the left post.
Trailing by four, the Spartans became even more aggressive on offense, but they struggled to get through the Bucs’ defense. They were relegated to shooting from distance, giving the Bucs opportunities to knock the ball out of harm’s way before the shots could reach Marte.
The Buccaneers had an 11-9 shot advantage, and three corner kicks to one for the Spartans. Marte had nine saves. Caravel finished the season 16-3, with their only losses coming to Division I powers Salesianum and Caesar Rodney.
Betts saved seven shots for the Sprtans. They went 14-4 this year, with their three regular-season defeats against the top three seeds in the Division I tournament: Salesianum, Delcastle and Wilmington Charter.
All photos by Don Blake.