After a two-year hiatus, Marriotts Ridge is once again the county champion.
In a battle of the county’s last two unbeaten teams Thursday, the Mustangs got a goal from Jeff Kammerer in the 26th minute of the first half and then held on the rest of the way for a 1-0 victory over Centennial.
With the win, Marriotts Ridge (11-0, 12-0) finishes the regular season undefeated for the first time since 2008, which was the first of back-to-back county championship seasons for the program.
“It’s a tough county to win and there are a lot of good teams every year that don’t win the county, so this is a big one,” Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn said. “It takes tremendous consistency throughout the year … no days off. The guys deserve a lot of credit.”
Centennial (9-1-1, 11-1-1), playing on senior night, certainly made Marriotts Ridge earn that unblemished record. For the first 20 minutes, the Eagles’ energy forced the Mustangs into a midfield-oriented game.
But, with 13:54 left before halftime, Marriotts Ridge got behind the defense and didn’t let the opportunity go to waste. Amir Najib slotted a pass ahead to Kammerer, who outraced two Centennial defenders and slipped the ball under Eagle goalie Jackson Bicknell (7 saves).
“I saw the goalie coming out and the two defenders near me, so I just tried to get a quick touch to get it on goal,” Kammerer said. “The ball luckily went into the bottom left corner.”
The goal was a big boost for the Mustangs, who had fallen behind in each of its previous two games, and equally as demoralizing for Centennial.
“The goal played a big role to me because we were riding emotion that whole first half and then that deflated us a little bit,” Centennial coach Jim Zehe said. “You start wondering are we going to have any success having to play through them in the second half once they got that lead?”
Things didn’t really turn around for the Eagles before halftime, but after intermission the team began working through its midfielders to create more scoring opportunities.
Marriotts Ridge goalie Ryan Miller was forced to make three of his four saves on the game in the second half, including a diving stop to his left in the 49th minute that stopped a scoring chance by Max Dwyer.
“I think in the first half we were in too much of a hurry to play forward, so our forwards were getting way too isolated … our entire midfield was constantly trailing the play,” Zehe said. “I think that as we started going forward as a group more in the second half, getting that build up, we generated a few more dangerous chances.”
Unfortunately for the Eagles, none of those chances ultimately ended up resulting in goals.
As the clock ran out on a Centennial comeback and the final whistle blew, Marriotts Ridge’s players stormed the field and celebrated.
“Compared to freshman year, this one feels a lot better,” said Brad Martinelli, who is the only member of this year’s squad that was also on the 2009 team. “That year, I was coming off the bench playing only 20 minutes a game … my role this season is obviously a lot bigger.
“Being senior year, it’s definitely special.”
Marriotts Ridge 1, Centennial 0
Goal: MR – Kammerer.
Assist: MR – Najib.
Saves: MR – Miller 4; C – Bicknell 7.