Marriotts Ridge attackman Tommy Ruddo had no idea what he was doing.
He ran across the field and dodged his teammates’ tackle attempts, and by the time they finally eagerly brought him to the ground he was in the end zone more than 90 yards from the goal he just scored on.
It was a worthy celebration considering the circumstances: Friday night, home crowd, your most heated rival on the other side. Ruddo’s first taste of the latest installment of the Glenelg versus Marriotts Ridge rivalry was decided by his final shot, a goal 1 minute, 11 seconds into overtime to lift the Mustangs to a 7-6 victory, a score reminiscent of last year’s 2A South region, Section I final that sparked their run to their first state championship.
“It was honestly, just, like, I didn’t even know what I was doing. I was just so happy,” said Ruddo, a first-year varsity starter who finished with a game-high three goals. “Coming out here for the first time against this team, it was a really cool experience and obviously I’ve been waiting for this game for a while. I’ve been working toward this since the summer and it obviously paid off.”
Both coaches said afterward this was simply round one. In the grand scheme of things it’s ultimately a regular season game in early April, and though it’s far from a foregone conclusion, it’s likely their next meeting will determine who goes home and who advances to the regional championship game. But on Friday night, the Mustangs (3-0 county, 4-1 overall) delivered the first punch and took one small step closer to making sure their next potential meeting is back on their tuft in Marriottsville.
“Obviously we’ll have to take care of some business because there are some other good teams in our section, but the past few years that’s what it’s come down to: that Monday game in the section final against Glenelg, and it’s always an overtime game,” Marriotts Ridge coach Tony Incontrera said. “It’s a great win for us and we’re not going to take that away, but we’re not going to pretend it means more than it does.”
For Ruddo and his inexperienced yet growing offense, however, this was an important game. The Mustangs entered the campaign with just one offensive player who saw meaningful varsity minutes in 2018 but Incontrera saw the unit “come into their own” against the Gladiators.
But the key on this night was the stellar Marriotts Ridge defense and its ability to limit the high-scoring Glenelg (2-1, 3-3) offense in transition. Senior goalie Colin Kelley was stellar throughout and finished with seven saves, several of which were from point-blank range or with his team down a man.
“They have such athletic midfielders that we just wanted to make sure they don’t get behind us,” Incontrera said. “Trying to limit those guys who have done so well for them the last three years — Michael Doughty, Eric Gruber, Tyler Reiff, Ryan Hopkins — those guys are such great players. They still did damage but we wanted to limit their opportunities the best we could. You have to respect their athleticism.”
Neither team led by more than one goal at any point. Glenelg answered each of Marriotts Ridge’s first goals with one its own through two and a half quarters and then took its first lead with 35 seconds left in the third quarter on a strike by Kyle Dry. The Mustangs reclaimed the advantage with back-to-back goals from Jack Ault and Charlie Reynolds just 11 seconds apart, but the momentum was halted when Reiff tied the score at five less than 90 seconds later.
The Mustangs also answered every challenge. Quinn Kelley’s goal with 7:00 to play put them in front, 6-5, and the score held for more than six minutes. Glenelg showed its resiliency in a big way late in the game when Reiff seemingly tied the game with 1:47 remaining, but the goal was waved off as the referees awarded Gladiators coach Josh Hatmaker a timeout he called a second earlier.
“I had a bad timeout,” Hatmaker said. “Our kids picked me up. ... I was proud of them for that because that’s a tough thing to come back from. I felt terrible about it but I’m damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
Hopkins lifted the collective group and tied the game with 50 seconds remaining, but that would be Glenelg’s last offensive possession. Andrew Luciano turned the tide and won the ensuing faceoff for the Mustangs, who were a man down due to a one-minute penalty, and they held the possession through regulation and started overtime with the ball. Ruddo ended it soon after.
For Glenelg, which lost its third straight game after starting the season 3-0, the difference in Hatmaker’s eyes was turnovers.
“It killed us. You can’t do that. With a defense like this — I know that’s the strength of their team — but a lot of our turnovers were unforced,” he said. “We’ll go back and watch the film but it’s one of those things where it’s a fine line. Our programs are so very close. ... We have to do a better job with the ball.”