Against the wind in the first overtime of Saturday’s 2A state semifinal game against Oakland Mills, Hereford senior Patrick Fisher knew that scoring chances were going to be at a premium.
So, the first time the ball made its way into the Bulls’ offensive third of the field, Fisher was determined to make it count.
As the ball was bouncing around in the box, Fisher kept pushing toward goal and was rewarded as Oakland Mills’ clearing attempt hit him and deflected into the net with 2:05 left in overtime for the deciding score in a 2-1 Hereford victory.
“I was just in the box and couldn’t really get a shot off, so I just kept going and eventually got my (body) on it … it got a lucky bounce and went in,” said Fisher, whose golden goal was his team-leading 13th goal of the season. “I had the feeling the whole way, though, that it was going to be the one.”
The win advances Hereford into the state championship game next week against South Carroll or Fallston. It’s the first title-game appearance for the Bulls since 2009.
Getting to the championship took Hereford (13-2-3) battling through a slow start on a chilly day at Bel Air High School, as Oakland Mills (12-5-1) took the wind in the first half and controlled the majority of play. The Scorpions outshot the Bulls 7-3 in the opening 40 minutes and had several quality chances, including an attempt in the final minute of the half by Hans Kouame that ricocheted off the crossbar.
The score, however, stayed 0-0.
“The wind was a gigantic factor … it was a question all day of who got the wind,” Oakland Mills coach Don Shea said. “We took it (in the first half) and didn’t do much with it.”
Just 31 seconds into the second half, though, the Scorpions finally got something to go their way as a Hereford clearing attempt rolled off the defenders foot and into the far side of the net.
But, as it turned out, the goal served as more of wake-up call for Hereford than it did a momentum builder for Oakland Mills.
Just three minutes after falling behind, Hereford tied things up on a header by Jason Ashwood off a cross from Matt Groff.
“We came in playing way too cautiously, but I think that own-goal just got them fired up,” Hereford coach Mike Lacko said. “I heard them saying right then that there was no way in the world that we were losing this game.”
For a senior-laden team, there was extra sense of urgency according to Fisher.
“Our starting 11 are all seniors, so we knew this could be our last game and we weren’t about to let that happen,” he said.
Hereford controlled things for the final 35 minutes of regulation, forcing Oakland Mills goalie Duncan Rheingans-Yoo to make several acrobatic saves to just keep things tied 1-1. Rheingans-Yoo finished with 10 saves, including eight in the second half.
“At some point it’s just determination that you’re going to do whatever you can to make sure the ball doesn’t go in the goal and that’s what I was riding,” Rheingans-Yoo said.
Ultimately, though, Hereford’s offense simply wasn’t going to be denied. It just took until overtime to produce the deciding tally.
“Hats off to (Hereford), 100 percent way more determination, drive, desire … all the ‘Ds’,” Shea said. “We always say it takes P-R-I-D-E, five games, to win a state championship and we missed entirely on the ‘D’ today.”