The last time Hammond boys soccer won a playoff game, the current seniors were in sixth grade. It was 2013 when the Golden Bears beat McDonough on the road, 3-0, but they have since lost five straight playoff openers.
The streak came to an end Wednesday, as Hammond came from behind to beat visiting Atholton, 2-1, to advance to the second round of the 3A East, Region II playoffs. It will play at River Hill Friday night.
“That was a little bit expected,” Golden Bears coach David Reamer said. “I thought we were the better team.”
Hammond (6-9) played the Raiders (2-10-3) just five days ago and won, 1-0, on a lone first-half goal by Kevin Hernandez. There were no secrets when the two teams squared off Wednesday. Both teams expected another physical, low-scoring game that would be decided by one goal.
This time, however, the Raiders struck first. Sophomore Josh Martins put away a ball that Golden Bears goalkeeper Brandon Eschman (nine saves) simply dropped near the top of the box in the 4th minute.
“I asked my players at halftime, how many times has he messed up this year? They said this is the first,” Reamer said. “It happens, so you just have to keep going from there, which they did. … That was the key thing.”
Hammond dominated possession throughout the first half and felt it was just a matter of time until it evened the score. It eventually came in the 31st minute, when junior Brandon Sindjui got past two defenders at full speed and sent a perfect pass to leading goal-scorer Isaac Owusu, who took two touches and put a shot off the outside of his right foot into the far side of goal past Atholton goalkeeper Nick DeSousa (six saves).
The winning goal came down an unfortunate bounce against Atholton. A defender was called for a handball in the box in the 54th minute, and junior center back Jake Skintges hammered the penalty kick into the ride of goal to give Hammond a 2-1 lead.
It was Skintges’ first goal of the season.
“Any time you have a center back taking a PK, it’s always a little bit edgy,” Reamer said. “I think that’s the first one he’s taken. They wanted to share the wealth a little bit.”
The Golden Bears had a chance to all but end the game three minutes later, but Hernandez sent a penalty kick over the goal.
“We couldn’t score goals. We had a problem scoring goals and really the county has gotten better,” said Raiders coach Zuri Barnes. “I am surprised how good Hammond is. … We just weren’t able to put things together. I think today was one of our better games but we still weren’t able to get there. We left a lot in a lot of games.”