Marriotts Ridge senior Brad Martinelli collected the 2A state championship trophy, turned toward his teammates and raised it upwards toward the night sky.
He’d lived that moment before, winning state titles each of his first three years in high school, but you could tell as Martinelli celebrated with the Mustangs on the field at UMBC following a 4-0 victory over Queen Anne’s Nov. 17 that this one was particularly special.
After all, for the first time in program history, this one was perfect.
“This is definitely a better feeling than all of the last three, because it’s my senior year,” said Martinelli, a captain for the undefeated Mustangs. “It feels great to be able to accomplish this and set a record for the school with the first perfect season.”
Dominating possession from the opening whistle, Marriotts Ridge (16-0) scored three times in the first half and never looked back en route to the decisive victory over a Queen Anne’s (16-1-1) team making its first finals appearance.
Connor Delaney and Sam Willsey each scored twice, taking the pressure off the defense and Mustang goalie Ryan Miller (3 saves), who recorded his 10th shutout of the year.
With its fourth consecutive state championship, Marriotts Ridge becomes just the fourth boys soccer team in Maryland history to accomplish the feat. The Mustangs join Pocomoke (2005-2008), River Hill (2002-2005) and Wilde Lake (1981-1984) in that elite group.
“Every state title is hard, you don’t take any of them for granted,” Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn said. “The last three (championships) were games that could have gone either way and I know that I could easily be sitting in here as a three-time runner-up getting my first (title) now. I know the work that the kids put in and I know the work that I put in … it’s very rewarding.”
It was obvious from the opening whistle that the Mustangs were going to be all business in their hunt for that fourth straight crown and first undefeated season.
Holding the ball in the attacking third for nearly the entire opening 20 minutes, Marriotts Ridge was rewarded 19:57 in when Sam Willsey headed home a corner kick by Jonathan Muth.
Less than three minutes later, the Mustangs struck again. Delaney was the finisher this time, heading in the ball after Nick Applegate deflected it to him off a Martinelli free kick.
“We usually make generally the same runs all the time and (Martinelli and Muth) were able to give us unbelievable balls that were there to finish” off free kicks and corners, Delaney said. “A lot of credit goes to them for our success.”
Delaney continued the team’s proficiency on set pieces with 5:08 left before intermission, converting another corner kick by Muth. The three goals marked the first time the Lions had surrendered multiple goals in a game, let alone a half.
“We talked all week about not giving up set pieces and sure enough they got their set pieces and they took advantage of them,” Queen Anne’s coach Randy Capshaw said.
While Marriotts Ridge was clicking, Queen Anne’s managed just one shot on goal in the first 40 minutes. The Mustangs’ Miller easily scooped up the attempt, which came with 17 minutes remaining in the half.
The Lions generated a few more shots in the second half, but ultimately couldn’t find the back of the net.
“We had some chances in the second half, I thought we possessed the ball fairly well the first five to ten minutes of the half,” Capshaw said. “But that team is deep, that team is talented and they earned everything they got.”
Marriotts Ridge, meanwhile, wasn’t quite done. On another corner kick, this one by Martinelli, Willsey again rose above a crowd in front to head the ball into the left corner with 15:39 left.
The four-goal margin of victory goes down as the largest in the 2A classification since River Hill won the title with a 5-1 win in 1997.
“We executed all the things that were in our game plan and the credit really goes to the boys,” Flynn said. “They’ve come out with a target on their back all year and didn’t let down at all.”