Howard senior Isaiah Omole holds his hands high in the air before every corner kick. The veteran — at 6-foot-4 according to his coach — is often the tallest player on the field and uses that height to his advantage in set-piece situations.
On one corner Tuesday against Reservoir, the Lions’ Will Marsden played the ball to the back post. Right before another in the 95th-minute, Lions coach Nils Schroder instructed Marsden to just play the ball into the box.
He followed his coach’s instructions and found Omole rising above several Gators. Omole headed home the game-winner in the Lions’ 2-1 double-overtime victory over the Gators.
Omole promptly sprinted toward the corner flag and was mobbed in jubilation by his teammates and the student section amid the pouring rain, the lasting image of a tightly contested game.
“I knew I was going to get it,” Omole said. “I just had to finish it, stay confident and put it in the net. It felt great. All of us Howard Lions, we have a great community, we’re all brothers. So, it feels good. It feels great to celebrate the win with our brothers.”
Howard came out energized in its first home game of the year. The Lions took an early lead in the third minute as Ben Svoboda knocked in the rebound off the Lions’ opening corner of the game. Howard continued to dictate possession and the pace of play through the opening 30 minutes as Reservoir struggled to get going.
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“We moved the ball well, we were going through tackles,” Schroder said. “Then, we were getting the opportunities and we just weren’t finishing them. So, I liked everything except for the finishing.”
However, Reservoir quickly gained momentum. Gators goalie Matt Horton made several close saves late in the first half, keeping it a one-goal game. Soon after, Reservoir captain Clark Anglin rocketed a shot from 25 yards out, which deflected off Howard goalie AJ Church and into the back of the net.
The Gators entered halftime with renewed confidence and it carried over into their play early in the second half. Reservoir controlled the middle of the field and created more high-quality scoring opportunities. However, Howard soon turned the tide, returning to how they played earlier in the game.
“That’s what I told them at halftime, that we dominated the first 30 minutes,” Schroder said. “The five minutes after they scored the tying goal, it looked Reservoir was going to go up 2-1, so we had to play the whole way through. If we keep getting those chances, once is going to fall. I didn’t think it was going to take until the second overtime, but I think they responded well and they played the whole time.”
As the game wore on, both defense and midfield units tightened up and several players on each side battled cramping. The first overtime period was no different as corner opportunities for each side were thwarted by strong defense. A pair of Lions shots sailed over the net, but neither team came close to breaking the stalemate, setting up one final 10-minute golden goal overtime period.
Howard generated success pressing its attack out wide in the second overtime. Off that, the Lions earned a pair of corner kicks. On their seventh and last one of the night, it was Omole, wearing the pink captain’s armband, playing the hero in a matchup between two of Howard County’s top teams.
“I’m the tallest player, I’ve got the captain badge,” Omole said. “I’m supposed to be the man. It’s big for momentum to get the win.”