Mount Hebron’s Will Rice got halfway to the sideline and couldn’t go any further.
The Vikings senior, seconds after watching time expire on a 3-1 loss to Watkins Mill in the 3A state championship Thursday at UMBC Stadium, had the emotions of an entire season hit him all at once.
A title game that No. 8 Mount Hebron once led 1-0 had somehow slipped away.
“It just hits you, that was my shot ... and to think we had it for a second, the game was ours and we were up,” Rice said. “To let it slip and feel it slip through your fingers, I don’t know quite how to describe it.”
In the end, Watkins Mill simply was not to be denied in its bid for the program’s first state championship.
“We kept talking about how this story had to be written the right way … how let’s put the ending on this story,” Watkins Mills coach Jeff Heckert said. “This team just knows how to win. We haven’t lost since Sept. 30 because, like they did tonight, they fight for each other.”
After falling behind 1-0, Watkins Mill (15-2) indeed showed plenty of fight. Scoring twice before the end of the first half and adding another early in the second, the Wolverines put the game out of reach.
The three goals tied the most surrendered by Mount Hebron (11-4-3) all season.
“You really have to credit Watkins Mill,” Vikings coach Mike Linsenmeyer said. “They came out with a great game plan, and they had couple of just great plays that resulted in goals.”
Mount Hebron got the scoring started in the 11th minute when Rice put his foot on a loose ball in front of the goal and slipped it home. The play, which started with a shot off the cross bar and finished with a mad scramble in front of Wolverine goalie Alba Rolando (7 saves), staked the Vikings to a 1-0 advantage.
But just five minutes after Rice’s tally, Watkins Mill pulled back even on an unassisted goal from Obed Agyei. It was the Wolverines’ first shot of the game.
Twelve minutes later, on Watkins Mill’s third shot, Sergio Mosquera made it 2-1. Off a free kick, Mosquera took a feed from Patrick Pato and redirected the ball into the left corner.
“I’m very proud that we were able to focus and realize there was a lot of game left,” Heckert said. “Obed hit that amazing shot that got us right back into the game and I felt after we got that one we started to keep the ball a little bit and started to create a lot of chances.”
Watkins Mill got itself a little more insurance seven minutes into the second half. Taking a feed from Ariel Rodriguez, Oscar Carcamo headed in his seventh goal of the season to up the lead to two.
Mount Hebron began pushing up down the stretch, including switching Staedeli out of goal and into a forward position for the final 20 minutes, but the Vikings couldn’t generate another goal before time ran out.