HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Marriotts Ridge coach Tony Incontrera made sure to mention all five of his long-pole defenders after the Mustangs’ season opening win against visiting Howard on Friday night. It was only fitting after the unit’s dominant performance in front of All-County goalie Colin Kelley.
“Ricky Fedorchak, Andrew Page, Quinn Kelley, Patrick Greene and Ben Ward. All five of our poles played really well,” Incontrera said. “Short sticks did a good job of taking them off of their straight-line dodges. That was the game plan: to make our poles a presence out there. ... And Colin Kelley, he made a bunch of saves he had no business making.”
The defending 2A state champions kicked off their season with a defensive effort to remember, as the Mustangs defeated Howard, 5-1, to avenge last year’s season opening defeat.
Kelley, who made 11 saves and seven in the first half, said his team simply played great team defense all game.
“All credit to my defense. They really made it easy for me,” he said. “This is huge to come out, first game of the year, looking like this.”
Charlie Reynolds, Jake Levey, Tommy Ruddo, Matt Hendershot and John Miller each scored for Marriotts Ridge, which scored five unanswered goals, including four in the second half.
Lions coach Jimmy Creighton said that while his team committed too many mistakes and had too many turnovers, the credit goes to Marriotts Ridge’s back end.
“Their defense is really good. They pressured us and put us in some bad spots, we turned the ball over in some bad spots,” he said. “I don’t know if we had a real possession in the third quarter, which obviously allowed them to go on a little run there and get a two-goal cushion going into the fourth. Credit to their poles and their goalie. They played really well.”
That the Mustangs’ defense was the difference came as no surprise. Incontrera knew what he had in place there; the vast majority of the players on that end of the field celebrated their state championship win over Hereford in May.
“It’s still March 22 but I think we are who we thought we were,” he said. “I think moving forward we need to continue to progress and improve on offense.”
However, Marriotts Ridge would’ve been shutout in the first half if it weren’t for a goal from Reynolds less than a minute after Howard’s Henry Frazier IV found the back of the net early in the second quarter. The defense did its job but the midfield and attack struggled to get shots past Lions goalie Matt Hubbard (12 saves) until they started to find some rhythm in the third quarter.
Levey’s goal on an assist from Ruddo sparked the run and gave the Mustangs a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Less than three minutes later, Ruddo scored unassisted, and Henershot’s tally early in the fourth gave them enough separation to slow things down and run down the clock. Miller scored on an open net inside the final minute.
“The big thing for us was getting the ball across the midfield line,” Incontrera said. “We told our guys at halftime to just hit your short passes and work the ball up the field or take your space and not hit that long pass. Every time we made that long pass we threw the ball away. I think once we got that cleaned up and got the clearing cleaned up we started getting more extended possessions.”
Creighton, meanwhile, said he learned that his team’s defense and goalie is also really good. The offense is young and inexperienced, he said, but he’s confident it will improve throughout the season.
“I think our offense will come along just fine. We just have to work through some things,” Creighton said. “We’ve got some younger guys down there and some inexperience down there. I think it’d a good sign if we can play with a team like this for four quarters. We have to take that and build off that and try to fix some of the offensive stuff.”
Marriotts Ridge (1-0 Howard County, 1-0 overall) — 5, Howard (0-1, 0-1) — 1
Goals: MR — Charlie Reynolds 1, Jake Levey 1, Tommy Ruddo 1, Matt Hendershot 1, John Miller 1; Ho — Henry Frazier IV 1
Assists: MR — Ruddo 1, Jack Ault 1; Ho — None
Saves: MR — Colin Kelley 11; Ho — Matt Hubbard 12
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Halftime: 1-1, tie