As River Hill’s players hoisted the 3A state championship and posed for pictures on the field at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex following the team’s 2-0 victory over Huntingtown Thursday, Hawks coach Matt Shagogue encouraged his players to soak in the moment.
None of the members of this year’s River Hill team had ever experienced a state championship and for Shagogue it had been seven years, back to when he was a second-year head coach in 2007, that he had guided a team to a title.
So after an undefeated season (18-0-1) that helped avenge last year’s loss to Urbana in the state semifinals, Shagogue wanted his guys to take every second they could to celebrate.
“As we walked back over to get our stuff, I said ‘take as much time as you want, make them kick you off the field because this is what you’ve waited all year for.’ For some of them, it’s been (waiting) all their lives,” Shagogue said. “(You have to) enjoy every minute of it because you don't know if this will be the last game you play or anything like that … it’s really hard to win one of these.”
River Hill got scores from Gabriel Quintero and Robert Dass, marking the first time all year Huntingtown (18-1) had allowed more than one goal, and the Hawk’s defense did the rest on the way to securing its 13th shutout of the season.
“(That is) a tremendous team, great effort, well coached and a lot of good players and we just didn't get it done tonight,” Huntingtown coach Charlie Russell said. “But that’s no fault to these guys efforts and everything they’ve done this year.”
The game, played in a light rain and intermittent periods of snow flurries, was an even battle at the onset. River Hill got a pair of quality chances from Addison Testoff that just missed in the opening 14 minutes, while Huntingtown had what appeared to be a goal off a free kick waived off in the 16th minute because of an offside call.
That left the game still scoreless in the waning minutes of the first half and allowed Quintero to play the early role of hero. Streaking down the middle of the field, Quintero received a cross from Mike Heitzmann and finished past Huntingtown goalie Reis Richardson (2 saves) for a 1-0 Hawks’ lead with 5:16 left before halftime.
“It just kind of came to me and the first thing that came to my mind was just hit the living crap out of it,” Quintero said. “It went in and I just couldn’t believe it.”
Huntingtown seemed to regroup quickly after the goal and had several quality opportunities before intermission and in the first 15 minutes immediately following the break. But with every chance, River Hill goalie Tomas Potts (4 saves) and his backline in front of him had an answer.
The Hurricanes had scored 82 goals coming into the contest but found space to operate at a premium all evening.
“They were pretty good with movements, following each other and communicating,” said Phil Brown, who led Huntingtown on the season with 17 goals. “It’s kind of rare to come across a defense that organized when you’re playing in the SMAC, so we kind of had to adapt to it. It’s not that easy.”
River Hill got itself some insurance in the 65th minute, as Mike Faderin got free on a breakaway and was fouled by Richardson in the box. Dass then stepped up for the penalty kick and buried it into the upper left corner to make it 2-0.
“There’s not going to be a goal if Mike Faderin doesn't put in that work,” said Dass. “It’s like, I’m the one that finished that ball, but it could have been anybody and it’s really just a team effort out there.”
Shagogue added that the second goal was the big one.
“Rob does not take enough credit, that’s a lot of pressure on him and anyone really,” Shagogue said. “But I think the second goal made a huge difference because we defend really well. We had the wind in the second half, we had weathered a few of their real big presses … so the second one was really, really big.”
The state championship marks the ninth all-time for the River Hill boys soccer program.
And Potts said afterward that there was no shortage of motivation on the way to this year’s crown as the team tried to put their own state banner up on the wall in the River Hill gym.
“Last year we lost in the state semis and that was a heartbreaker … at that game, I remember looking at the seniors and seeing tears in their eyes and never wanting to see that again,” Potts said. “I mean, I love the seniors this year so I knew that we had to win this year and this was the year we were going to win it without a doubt.
“Looking at Ben Peters and Jay Bucci who have been my backs for two or three years now and just thinking about them and how much they deserved it as well as how much everyone else on the team deserved it (too). I knew that I had to step up my game all season to get us to the state finals and win.”
River Hill 2, Huntingtown 0
Goals: RH – Quintero, Dass.
Assist: RH – Heitzmann.
Saves: RH – Potts 4; Hu – Richardson 2.
Half: 1-0 RH.