Tomas Potts

River Hill goalie Tomas Potts, seen in this file photo from earlier this season, made five saves against Oakland Mills Tuesday while helping his team to a 2-1 victory. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda / September 17, 2013)

It’s still early in the season, but River Hill coach Matt Shagogue isn’t shy about admitting how much Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over Oakland Mills means.

“We talked coming in about how, in a lot of ways, this was indeed a must win,” Shagogue said. “You simply can’t start 0-2 in the county, not when you’ve already lost to Reservoir who you have to assume isn’t going to lose more than once or twice.

“We knew this was going to be a tough game, it always is with Oakland Mills, but it was one we needed to get.”

River Hill struck twice on set pieces in the first half, getting a free-kick goal from Alec Smith and a converted penalty kick from Zach Riso, and made the corresponding lead stand up the rest of the way for the one-goal victory at home.

The Scorpions, who had struck first on a breakaway goal from Hans Kouame in the 13th minute to temporarily take the lead, had plenty of chances to even the score in the second half. The best of the opportunities were a pair of penalty kicks — one apiece from Andrew Vincent and Javier Avetrani — that failed to find the net.

Vincent’s attempt with 37:27 left in the second half hit the crossbar, while Avetrani’s strike 16 minutes later was punched over the net by River Hill goalie Tomas Potts (5 saves).

“You don’t win too many games when you miss two penalty kicks,” Oakland Mills coach Don Shea said afterward.

River Hill played the last eight minutes of the game down a man after Potts was issued a red card, but managed to stay the course and secure the win that evens its county record at 1-1. Oakland Mills is now 1-1 as well.

In the early stages, River Hill seemed poised to grab a quick lead with a trio of shots in the opening five minutes. Jake Turney had his attempt toward the upper corner glance off the post.

With the Hawks unable to capitalize, however, it was the Scorpions that jumped out in front. Hymad N’diaye played a ball ahead to Kouame, who dribbled his way down field and finished.

“It was a wake up call for all of us,” Potts said. “Not just for me, not just for our defense, but our whole team. We kind of decided we weren’t going to let them score again. This was our game.”

Just two minutes after Oakland Mills had grabbed the lead, River Hill squared things back up when Smith’s free kick went through the wall of Scorpions’ defenders and into the net.

Then later, with 3:52 remaining before halftime, Riso converted a penalty kick past Oakland Mills goalie Duncan Rheingans-Yoo (5 saves) into the right corner of the net for the lead.

Less than three minutes out of the intermission, Oakland Mills got its own penalty kick chance after a foul in the box. Vincent’s attempt was just a foot too high.

Then, with 21:55 left on the clock, the Scorpions got another golden opportunity and this time it was Potts that stood tall.

“I was thinking about what coach told me … come off my line a little bit, intimidate them a little so that when they step to the line they hopefully will mess up,” Potts said. “The first one, that worked. The second one, I just read his hips and was able to get my hands on it.”

River Hill 2, Oakland Mills 1

Goals: RH – Riso, Smith. OM – Kouame.

Assists: N/A.

Saves: RH – Potts 5; OM – Rheingans-Yoo 5.