Marriotts Ridge is developing into quite the finisher. For the second time in the last two weeks, the Mustangs found themselves tied at six entering the fourth quarter against a county foe. And for the second time, they dominated down the stretch to earn a 9-6 victory.
Sean Harrison (three goals), Tyler Kerr (two) and Bryan Sullivan each found the net in the final quarter Friday, providing all the offense Marriotts Ridge needed to earn a pivotal win over Howard on the road.
"A big fourth quarter is nothing new to us and, you know, we want it … we want that win," Harrison said. "We treat it like it's 0-0 and play hard. It starts with defense and then it's up to the offense to put the ball in."
Harrison's formula played out like clockwork against the Lions. In the first minute of the fourth quarter, Marriotts Ridge (6-1, 7-2) got a huge kick save from goalie Mack Schwarz (7 saves) to keep the game tied at six.
The Mustangs quickly advanced the ball up field and watched Harrison finish his third goal of the night.
"We had a great look down here that would have put us up 7-6 and their goalie made a big save. Then they turned around and scored," Howard coach Jimmy Creighton said. "In a game like this, that was a big swing."
Seven seconds later, after a face-off victory, Marriotts Ridge's Tyler Kerr kept things going with his own unassisted tally to quickly put Howard (6-1, 7-3) in a two-goal hole.
"That was a huge momentum shifter and it seemed like we just couldn't get it back after that," said Howard senior Dan Kaplan, who had assisted on Howard's goal as time expired in the third quarter that had tied the game.
Sullivan scored to make it 9-6 with 4:55 left in regulation and that was more than enough for a Mustang defense that surrendered just one goal over the final 31 minutes.
"The defense is what got us to that point where we had a shot," Marriotts Ridge coach Dan Sageman said. "Mack made some huge saves and it was a really team effort back there."
Midway through the second quarter, Howard was actually the one in control. Kaplan (two goals, two assists), Brock Wendt, Nick Striebich and Ryan Mills combined to help the Lions score four unanswered goals and take a 5-3 lead with seven minutes left before halftime.
"For awhile there it was like we were playing make-it take-it," Kaplan said. "Frank (Preston) was doing a really good job winning face-offs and getting us possession. Then the offense was moving well and putting the ball in the back of the net."
But Marriotts Ridge stayed the course.
Peter Bradley (two goals) scored with six minutes remaining in the second quarter to make it 5-4 going into halftime. Then the Mustangs scored the first two goals out of the break.
"We kept telling them, 'don't panic. Don't panic on defense, don't panic on offense.' If we kept doing our stuff, things would work themselves out," Sageman said.
Marriotts Ridge keeps itself alive in the race for the county title with the win, remaining a game behind Glenelg (7-0, 9-1). Howard remains alive as well, in a second-place tie with Marriotts Ridge, and still has a meeting on tap with the county-leading Gladiators next week.
"It's on to the next one. This is tough pill to swallow here, losing to this team now for the third time in the last two years, but we have to move forward," Creighton said. "We still have a shot to do some good things this year."
Marriotts Ridge 9, Howard 6
Goals: MR - Harrison 3, Bradley 2, Kerr 2, Hebner, Sullivan; Ho - Kaplan 2, Striebich 2, Mills, Wendt.
Assists: MR - Bennett, Williams; Ho - Kaplan 2.