On top of the typical mementos that go along with senior day, Marriotts Ridge earned itself an extra special keepsake Saturday — a share of this year’s Howard County boys soccer championship.
Taking advantage of two first-half goals, the Mustangs used that cushion to hold on the rest of the way for a 2-1 victory over visiting Centennial that improved the team to 10-1 in league play and tied them with River Hill for the top spot in the final county standings.
For a group that had graduated the majority of its starters from last year’s undefeated squad, Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn credited his team for really coming into its own as the season progressed.
“I said back in August that I wasn’t sure that we had a team capable of winning a county title … I just wasn’t sure we would have the consistency,” Flynn said. “But our backs gelled together, and our offense, especially when Khalil (Anderson) came back, really attacked well. Everything just kind of came together for us.”
River Hill, which defeated Wilde Lake, 2-0, on Friday night to earn its piece of the title, has shown its share of growth as the season went on as well. After losing its first county game to Reservoir, the Hawks rolled off 10 consecutive county victories.
“Between our defense, which has allowed just six goals in 14 games, and our offense which is finishing … all together the chemistry has been great,” said River Hill coach Matt Shagogue, who was leading the team when it last won a county title in 2007.
“This (county title) means a lot … the kids are really excited. You’re getting phone calls and messages of congratulations from people — people who you didn't even know where following you. For our seniors, especially, who have come close, this is something very special.”
Marriotts Ridge wasted little time getting the upper hand Saturday in its game against the Eagles, scoring three minutes in off a corner kick by Sam Mavronicolas that deflected into the net off a Centennial defender.
Then, later in the half, the Mustangs upped the lead to 2-0 on a free kick by Jeff Kammerer that found the right corner.
But Centennial battled back, striking less than two minutes after halftime. After a foul in the box, the Eagles’ Heston Priestley converted a penalty kick into the left side of the net to make it 2-1.
Centennial kept pushing, controlling the majority of the run of play in the final 40 minutes and generating several quality chances in the box. But Marriotts Ridge’s defense didn’t break and allowed the team to secure the victory.
“We rolled the dice by taking the wind in the first half and we got two goals, but it seemed like it picked up in the second half and we just had trouble getting it out of our end,” Flynn said. “They were throwing a lot of numbers up there and had some good chances. But I’m proud of the guys, they held tight.”
River Hill got a first-half goal from Alec Smith and an insurance tally from Mike Heitzmann down the stretch to get the result it needed against Wilde Lake. But the Wildecats, which finish the regular season with just one county win, certainly kept the game competitive until the final whistle.
River Hill had a missed penalty kick that could have created a little more breathing room.
“I thought Wilde Lake played really well and they made it a lot closer than we wanted, but that’s the difference with this group compared to in the past — they find ways to win,” Shagogue said. “All season, no matter what the situation, they’ve done a great job of persevering.”
Both teams will now turn their attention to the state playoffs. The draw is scheduled for Monday and games are slated to being next Friday.
Marriotts Ridge is in the 2A Classification, while River Hill is in 3A.