ROCKVILLE — The Paint Branch Panthers held the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Barons to a 1-1 draw Saturday afternoon in boys varsity soccer at Thomas S. Wootton High School.
“Paint Branch came to play well … we played well,” B-CC coach Gui Melendez said after the game. “It was a tough game.”
Playing at the home team under the pouring rain, the Barons (1-1-0) began the first half by pressing forward but failed to score. The Panthers (1-1-0) took the lead 14 minutes into the second half through a penalty kick before having two players sent off for bookable offenses. The Barons leveled the score with a late goal five minutes before the final whistle
“Our boys fought today … real hard today,” said Paint Branch coach Noah Walker. “We went one man down defended like warriors, we went two men down defended like warriors … the boys held up the ball.”
Coming into the season as the reigning 4A State Champions, the Barons started the match looking for an early lead with senior forward Nathan Messer continuously finding space down the right flank to deliver crosses to junior forward Cooper Clendenin.
The Panthers responded in the first half by mounting attacks of their own with senior midfielder Brandon Muma providing a pass for senior striker Bradley Muma who volleyed his effort just over the crossbar.
Looking to score, the Barons continued pressing forward but the Panthers’ backline remained focused and organized, forcing the home team to shoot from a distance.
The Panthers eventually scored a goal after a foul in the B-CC penalty box brought down Bradley Muma. Muma scored from the spot after sending the ball just past B-CC senior goalkeeper and captain Bennett Schwartz.
As the rain began to subside, the reigning champions pressed forward with senior forward Evan Scarupa junior midfielder Luca Merotto sending their long-range efforts wide of the Panthers’ goal.
Midway through the second half, Brandon Muma received a red card after fouling Messer just outside the Panthers’ penalty box.
With a one-player advantage, the Barons pressed forward for an equalizer with Merotto forcing Panthers goalkeeper David Burgess into action.
“The goalie in the other team, props to him, he played amazing,” Schwartz said of his counterpart after the game.
The reigning champions equalized with six minutes remaining when Clendenin latched on to a rebound to send the ball past Burgess from close range.
With the score at 1-1, both teams looked for but failed to make the breakthrough in extra time. Panthers senior striker Ivan Yao thought he scored but the referee disallowed the goal after a foul on Schwartz.
Towards the end of the first half of extra time, the referee sent off a second Paint Branch player for a bookable offense, reducing the Panthers to nine players.
“With two men down we still fought hard,” said Paint Branch senior defender and captain Varen Gupta. “My teammates we’ve been working every day this whole summer … and this showed it right here.”