It took overcoming a deficit for the first time this season, but Marriotts Ridge stayed undefeated with a 2-1 victory over River Hill Thursday.
Streaking down the right side in the 65th minute, Mustangs’ senior Amir Najib finished off a feed from Brad Martinelli to break open a tie game and provide what ended up being the deciding goal in Marriotts Ridge’s 10th win of the year.
“I made a run and the ball Brad played me was perfect … I saw the far post open and tried to curl it in there,” Najib said. “I couldn’t have really hit it much better and luckily it went in.”
With the victory, Marriotts Ridge (9-0, 10-0) remains tied for first in the county with Centennial (8-0, 9-0) heading into the final week of the regular season. River Hill, meanwhile, falls to 5-2-2 in league play and 6-3-2 overall.
Neither team managed much offensively at the onset Thursday, with play early on being mostly confined to the middle of the field. However when the Hawks finally got that first real scoring chance, 21 minutes in, they didn’t waste it.
Freshman Mike Heitzmann tracked down a lead pass from David Hessler, collected himself and finished into the right corner to put River Hill up 1-0. It was the first time this fall Marriotts Ridge has been forced to play from behind.
“We were the last team to beat them, so the goal was to get up on them and maybe they would start panicking,” River Hill coach Matt Shagogue said. “And we accomplished our goals, we got up, we negated their long throws … the boys played hard.”
Like a veteran team, though, the Mustangs responded. With 10 minutes left before halftime, Martinelli was pulled down in the box and then calmly finished off the ensuing penalty kick to tie the game at 1-1.
“I think their goal woke us up and I don’t know why it took that, but we started playing a little bit faster and getting forward a little more,” Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn said. “Brad had a great individual effort to get the penalty kick and then a good finish.”
The score stayed tied until Najib’s tally 15 minutes into the second half, a hard strike over River Hill goalie Tomas Potts (5 saves) into the upper left corner of the net after a give-and-go with Martinelli.
After losing a 1-0 decision to River Hill last season, Najib says getting the winner this time around was extra special.
“Last year one my best friends on their team, (Zach Riso), scored the game-winning goal, so it feels nice to switch it around this year,” he said. “Any time you lose to a team, there’s nothing more you want than to beat them the next time you play them and we came out and did that.”
Marriotts Ridge 2, River Hill 1
Goals: MR – Martinelli, Najib; RH – Heitzmann.
Assists: MR – Martinelli; RH – Hessler.
Saves: MR – Miller 1; RH – Potts 5.