River Hill’s Mike Heitzmann wasn’t about to let the Hawks become just another footnote in the latest Marriotts Ridge comeback story.
After watching the visiting Mustangs score twice in the final eight minutes of regulation to force overtime on Jeff Kammerer goals Tuesday evening, River Hill found itself in danger of a late-game collapse akin to the one that befell Reservoir exactly one week earlier.
But, unlike that game Sept. 24 that Reservoir went on to lose 3-2 against Marriotts Ridge, Heitzmann and the Hawks dug down and found an answer. Making a run to the far post on a corner kick by Alec Smith with 2:21 left in the first overtime, Heitzmann deflected home the deciding goal in a 3-2 River Hill victory.
“Right before overtime that was our speech, we weren’t going to be the team that they came back on again … no chance we were going to let that happen,” Hetizmann said. “It was great work by our team not getting down and not quitting when they had all the momentum.”
Jake Turney, who had accounted for the Hawks second goal of the game four minutes into the second half off a long throw from Luke Turney, echoed the sentiment that this was a game River Hill (5-1, 8-1) couldn’t lose.
“Marriotts Ridge is a great team that knows how to win and they did what they know how to do … they worked, they persevered and found a way to tie the game,” Turney said. “But as I told the guys in the huddle after regular time ended, we’re at home and we don’t lose at home. If we want a shot at the county title, this was a game we had to have.
“I think everyone understood how much this one meant.”
Heitzmann’s goal, which sent the Hawks’ bench spilling onto the field, helped hand Marriotts Ridge (5-1, 8-1) its first loss since the 2011 season — a defeat that also came at the hands of River Hill.
Tuesday’s game saw Marriotts Ridge spend the majority of the evening playing on its heels, falling behind 1-0 in the 24th minute when River Hill’s Addison Testoff kicked home a rebound off the hands of Marriotts Ridge goalie Jon Dryja (8 saves).
Then, following Turney’s score almost immediately after intermission, the Mustangs found themselves in a 2-0 hole for the second time in the last three games.
“The fight wasn’t there in the first half, or really in the first 10 minutes of the second half, for whatever reason,” Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn said. “It’s clearly in them, they’ve proven that, but we can’t keep coming out flat and hoping for a miracle comeback.”
Thanks to Kammerer, though, the “miracle comeback” almost happened. With just less than eight minutes left in regulation, Kammerer took a pass from Khalil Anderson and fired a hard shot that deflected off a River Hill defender and into the net. Then, with less than a minute left in stoppage time, he again scored on a ball that deflected off a Hawks’ player to tie the game at 2-2.
Despite the momentum shift, though, the atmosphere on the River Hill sideline between periods was positive.
“I think there was naturally a little bit of shellshock, but no one had that feeling that it was over,” River Hill coach Matt Shagogue said. “Who cares how we got there, we were in overtime. We had ourselves a show and it was time for us to step up.”
And, after a few minutes of back-and-forth play, Hetizmann took center stage. The goal, which deflected off his body and into the net, was the sophomore’s fifth of the season.
Flynn, who was happy with his team’s late push, tried to keep things in perspective afterward.
“Sometimes losses can be good if you learn a lesson and can make adjustments from it,” Flynn said. “It’s just been awhile, so it hurts a little bit.”
On the other side, the mood was nothing but positive for a River Hill team that now finds itself in a tie for first atop the county standings.
“Hopefully we can talk 6-8 weeks down the road and say this was a turning point … but for now I think (at the very least) this is something the kids will never forget,” Shagogue said.
River Hill 3, Marriotts Ridge 2 OT