Meade’s defense handled double duty Tuesday at South River in a key Anne Arundel County boys soccer showdown.
Junior defender Ezekiel Ayilola took care of the offense, scoring a first-half goal to give the No. 6 Mustangs the lead.
Then a collective defensive effort proved the difference in the second half, as Meade handled a persistent push from the No. 10 Seahawks to close out a 1-0 win in Edgewater.
Meade improved to 10-1 overall, maintaining second place in Anne Arundel County with a 7-1 mark, while the Seahawks (7-2-2) fell to 5-2-1 in league play. No. 3 Severna Park (10-0-1, 7-0-1) stayed on top with a 3-0 win over Chesapeake-AA on Tuesday.
Ayilola, who has two goals this season, was just happy to make a big contribution at both ends to claim the big road win.
“The ball just fell down to me, I took a touch forward and shot it and was hoping it went in,” he said. “It was a good game. The last 15 minutes we had to be really defensive because they were pressuring it and I thought it was a really good effort to get the win.”
Protecting the halftime lead proved no easy assignment with the Seahawks controlling possession throughout the second half. The Mustangs successfully defended several corners and free kicks, and right back Daniel Velasquez made a game-saving play midway through.
South River senior Tommy Sheppard ran on to a through ball sent in by Isaiah Jensen on the right side and appeared to be alone with goalkeeper Shane Steele (six saves), but Velasquez was able to catch up and clear the ball away.
The Seahawks appeared to finally break through when Mike Flanagan was able to get a shot by Steele, but Flanagan was offsides, negating the goal.
Meade coach Michael Banach made sure to mention his entire back line — Evan Marx, Ayilola, Jeremy Martin, Velasquez and Steele — for their flawless play in a one-goal game.
“They had their hands full today,” he said. “[South River] does a good job of switching the ball and crossing in from the outside backs and wings, so our back four was able to shift well, and any time they needed somebody to cover for them someone was there.”
It was apparent from the start that scoring chances would be tough to come by with both teams’ attacks facing tight marking and organized defenses.
Ayilola saw an opening and made the most of a rare chance in the Mustangs’ offensive third midway through the first half.
Meade sent a free kick that stayed in the penalty area long enough for Ayilola to make a quick turn and fire a shot toward the far post from 14 yards for a 1-0 lead with 18:54 to play before the break.
The Seahawks had some long possessions in the first half with most of their success starting out wide but couldn’t make the final connection. The home team’s best chance came shortly after the Mustangs scored when midfielder Alex Calogero sent a long ball in from the right side that Flanagan, coming in from the opposite side, volleyed just wide of the net.
“The effort is there, the skill level is there and they want to win,” South River coach Jeff Vincent said. “It’s a tough county and every game is a one-goal [difference] pretty much against anybody. All we can do is learn from it. We know we have to finish and obviously we had chances that we didn’t finish. They did and that was the deciding factor.”
Goals: M — Ayilola Saves: M – Steele 6; SR – Wright 4 Half: M, 1-0