The run is over. Oakland Mills’ John Caldwell ended Marriotts Ridge’s bid for a state-record fifth consecutive boys soccer state championship on Thursday night, scoring into the left side of the net in the fourth minute of overtime to lift the visiting Scorpions to a 3-2 victory in the 2A South semifinals.
“Best moment of my life, nothing comes even close,” said Caldwell, while fighting off tears of joy. “It’s honestly all a blur … the ball coming to me, it going in, turning around and seeing everyone running at me.
“This is what you live for, moments like this. We believed we could do this and, man, we really did it.”
The victory marks the first time anyone on this current Oakland Mills squad has ever beaten Marriotts Ridge, with the Scorpions having lost most recently, 1-0, to the Mustangs during the regular season.
And for the majority of the game Thursday, it looked as though this game was going to follow a similar script to all the rest.
Marriotts Ridge never trailed during regulation, holding leads of 1-0 and 2-1. The second of those Mustang leads, courtesy of a header from Amir Najib off a long throw from Noah Wartzack, came with less than a minute to go in regulation.
But through it all, Oakland Mills coach Don Shea kept imploring his team to stay the course.
“We just said keep playing, no matter what keep playing,” Shea said. “We told them beforehand that you know they're going to score, but you can not let them knock you out after they score. How we answered after their goals was going to determine who won this game.”
Sure enough, Oakland Mills managed a counter-punch for every Marriotts Ridge punch.
After Najib’s goal that, at the time, had seemingly won the game, Oakland Mills’ Garrett Sinclair came back less than 30 seconds later and headed home the equalizer off a free kick just before time expired.
Then in overtime, on a play that developed from the right side, Oakland Mills’ Hymad N’Diaye was able to redirect a ball to a wide-open Caldwell on the far post.
“I don’t know what it was, but we all just had a feeling that this was our night,” Caldwell said. “The way they kept missing, kept hitting posts … we kept hanging around. It was like we were destined to win.”
Marriotts Ridge had controlled the run of play for the majority of regulation, hitting four posts and narrowly missing on several other quality chances.
It wasn’t until there were three minutes left in the first half that Marriotts Ridge finally broke through, as Jeff Kammerer fired home his 21st goal of the season off a rebound. And even then, the Mustangs were unable to build any momentum off the score following intermission.
“We had our chances to put them away and we didn’t, which is a shame because I thought we played great. I thought the boys played like the champions that they are,” Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn said. “We just needed to finish one more of those early chances, but that’s soccer sometimes.
“Hats off to Oakland Mills, they didn’t give up. We had them on their heels for most of the game, but they stuck in there and got the goals they needed to at the end.”
Andrew Vincent was responsible for the goal that tied the game the first time, scoring with 6:07 left in regulation to knot things at 1-1.
Then in stoppage time, Najib and Sinclair traded blows to force the extra period and set Caldwell up to be the hero.
Oakland Mills now advances to the regional final to face the winner of Gwynn Park and Southern, who square off in the other region semifinal on Friday at 3 p.m.
“This a great win for us, but I can’t tell you how much this means because the story hasn’t been told completely yet,” Shea said. “We’ve been down this path before … so we know we haven’t won anything yet.”
Oakland Mills last won the state title in 2002, capping off a string of what was four state titles in a span of five years.
Oakland Mills 3, Marriotts Ridge 2
Goals: OM – Vincent, Sinclair, Caldwell; MR – Kammerer, Najib.
Assists: OM – N’Diaye; MR – Wartzack.
Saves: OM – Rheingans-Yoo 10; MR – Dryja 3.
Half: 1-0 MR.