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Heitzmann goal lifts River Hill boys soccer past C. Milton Wright in 3A state semifinals

All season, even as the wins have piled up during an undefeated regular season, there has been an air of unfinished business surrounding the River Hill boys soccer team.

The nice thing is that now, after the teams 1-0 victory over C. Milton Wright on Saturday in the 3A state semifinals at CCBC-Essex, the Hawks will get their shot at tying up some of those loose ends.

Mike Heitzmann provided the scoring on a free kick early in the second half and the teams defense did the rest, as River Hill (17-0-1) avenged its loss to Urbana in the state semifinals a year ago and earned a spot in next weeks championship game against either Urbana or Huntingtown.

Ever since the beginning of the season, theres always been that feeling of unfinished business working for something bigger, said Heitzmann, whose game-winning goal was his team-leading 12th  score of the season. After we beat (Mt.) Hebron in PKs on Monday, we all knew how huge this game today was because this is where we lost last year. And this year, we have bigger goals one more step to go.

The shutout was the 13th this fall for the Hawks defense and came against a C. Milton Wright team (14-3-2) that had been held scoreless just once all fall prior to Saturday.

Mustangs coach Brian Tully said that penetrating River Hills backline, particularly Jay Bucci and Ben Peters in the middle, was difficult all afternoon, but especially once the Hawks grabbed the lead.

They play a very organized defensive system and all game it was tough to break them down and get their guys out of position, Tully said. Yeah, I think they werent having to push as much forward after the goal, but that intensity and toughness is something they had throughout.

While River Hill ultimately ended up winning and earning a chance to play for the programs first state championship since 2007 at the end of next week , the majority of its semifinal game was an even battle.

There was not much in the way of offensive chances during a scoreless first half, leaving River Hill coach Matt Shagogue talking to his team during the break about the importance of getting on the board quickly after intermission — pointing out last years 1-0 loss to Urbana where the game was decided in the final seconds.

We were talking as we were going into the second half about how we really needed one, however we could get it. Because of the lack of real genuine chances, you start really thinking one goal is going to be it, Shagogue said. We obviously have experience being on the other end of that.

Heitzmann ended up answering the call in the 44th minute, less than four minutes out of halftime. Setting up for a direct kick roughly seven yards outside the box, the junior forward proceeded to curl the ball around the right side of the C. Milton Wright defensive wall and bend it back into the left side of the net for a 1-0 River Hill lead.

I got it in a good place, good position on the field, and I hadnt scored in awhile so I knew I was due for a goal. I just buckled up and hit it, Heitzmann said.

The Mustangs fought all the way to the closing whistle, but the final stages of the game turned into a battle of the midfields and not many scoring chances for either side. In the end, River Hill was able to make the one goal stand up.

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I thought it was a fairly even game and I thought we worked extremely hard. The real difference probably was execution, Tully said. They executed in a critical moment on a great free kick from Heitzmann and in key spots we just didn't execute well enough to get opportunities to get one back.

Heading into next weeks championship game, Shagogue is hoping his guys can simply keep the good vibes going.

I just keep telling them that every win feels better, said Shagogue, who doesn't have a player on his roster who has played in a state title game. They felt good after Atholton, exceptional after Reservoir and then felt even better after Mt. Hebron. This one should feel even better than that. Thats kind of the motivation, knowing that with every game were that much closer.

Now, after today, were really almost there.

River Hill 1, C. Milton Wright 0

Goal: RH - Heitzmann.
Saves: RH - Potts 4; CMW - Miller 3.
Half: 0-0.

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