Trailing by a goal at the half, Mt. Hebron coach Mike McCarthy told his team that it’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.
That old adage holds some truth, and when his club traveled to River Hill Thursday afternoon, Vikings’ midfielder Thomas Stone took it to heart.
After scoring his team’s first goal in the opening two minutes of the game, the senior failed to find the back of the net for nearly the rest of the way. That is, until the second overtime period, when he finished almost exactly the way he started.
“That play was set up for me to go, and literally, it was a blur,” he said. “All I did was run, and shot as hard as I (could), and it went in.”
Stone’s running chance from his left bounced off the ground and into the top far corner, solidifying the Vikings’ 6-5 win.
“It was a great game. We knew it was going to be a tough match,” said McCarthy, whose club improves to 6-1 in county play, and 6-2 overall. “River Hill is a strong team with very good fundamentals.”
After pulling ahead for a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on goals from Stone, Shane Brookhart and Brian Demek, Mt. Hebron let its guard down in the second in a big way.
The Hawks controlled the time of possession and nearly every faceoff in the second frame, which amounted to a big 12-minute period from junior Zach Beard, who tallied two assists and two goals in the quarter.
Aaron Scott and Jimmy McEneaney also scored for River Hill, which entered intermission ahead by one, and armed with all the game’s momentum.
“(We made) a couple of mistakes in the second quarter clearing the ball, and River Hill jumped all over it and made us pay,” McCarthy said.
During halftime, the coach told his guys that their youth and inexperience were exposed at times, but the game was still theirs for the taking.
In nearly direct opposite fashion, both teams settled down on the offensive front in the second half.
Flashes of solid defensive pressure from the first two quarters turned into consistent quality play in the third and fourth, leaving chances for uncontested shots few and far between. Physicality on both ends added a few sparks as well.
“I think our team really wanted to win this game,” Stone said. “So, when we saw that it wasn’t going to be as easy as maybe the first quarter predicted it to be, we definitely stepped up our game.”
With five minutes to go in the third, the Vikings finally struck on Kyle Sutton's goal to pull even, 4-4.
For the majority of the fourth quarter, both defenses were at an impasse. River Hill’s Darius Khademi and Mt. Hebron’s Casey Dubois were nearly unstoppable in opposing nets. The game soon came down to which keeper would let one go by first.
With 15.1 seconds on the clock, the Hawks took the lead again when Tyler Sauer fired from his left for the score.
Without hesitation, Mt. Hebron took control of the ensuing faceoff, but then lost the ball and a skirmish formed near the River Hill crease.
Somehow, Kyle Sutton came up with the scoop. With just 1.5 remaining on the clock, the sophomore Viking reared back and fired at Khademi, who narrowly missed the save. The goal tied the game once again, forcing extra time, where the Vikings were ultimately successful.
Following the win, McCarthy said his guys still have much to work on, as their team identity remains in flux.