Considering the history between Marriotts Ridge and Oakland Mills, including a game earlier this season that came down to the final minute of regulation, Scorpions' coach Don Shea fully expected penalty kicks to be in the equation when the two teams met in the second round of the 2A West playoffs Tuesday.
So, with that in mind, Shea spent significant portions of all the team's recent practices running through all the scenarios that could play out should a shootout arise.
The preparation paid off.
After playing to a 1-1 draw through regulation and two overtime periods, Oakland Mills (9-6) made each of its first four penalty kicks and got a pair of saves from goalie Trevor Flores en route to earning the thrilling victory.
The team now advances into a region semifinal match-up against Century on Friday.
"We know it's the nature of the beast, especially when we play those guys, we know that it's going to be close. I fully expected PKs," Shea said. "I mean ask those guys, that's basically all we've been doing the last week and a half. We've don a (ton) of them. We know who's going when and who's going where. We made sure we were ready."
As for making the deciding stops, Flores (7 saves) said he simply drew upon his preparation and strategy with the game on the line.
"Yesterday we had practice and stayed probably an hour, hour and a half extra just doing PKs. That was big and definitely came up big today," Flores said. "My coach, coach Shea, has always told me to never guess on PKs. Just react and never guess."
While the game ended with a flurry, both teams took awhile to find the scoreboard during regulation.
On the way to a scoreless first half, it was actually Marriotts Ridge (7-8-1) that controlled a better part of the play and generated a bevy of offensive opportunities. Mustangs' coach Kevin Flynn said his squad had cleaned up a lot since losing 3-2 to the Scorpions during the regular season.
"We've been looking forward to this game for a long time and did a lot of long-term preparation on the things that we felt we needed to do to be successful against them," Flynn said. "They are so hard to play against, because you know what they are going to do and it's still hard to stop. That said, I was really proud of the effort my kids came out with and the fight they showed the whole game. We played very well."
While the game was tied, Shea said the first half was not what he was looking for.
"They definitely got us out of our substitutions … I probably only used three or four guys off the bench," Shea said. "I didn't like the tempo of the first half in any way shape or form."
In the second half, though, things began to even out and Oakland Mills ended up striking first. On a play that started with a save by Marriotts Ridge goalie Jonathan Dryja (8 saves) and deflected to the left wing, Michael Ahumada ended up playing a perfect cross to Hymad N'Diaye for the goal with 26:37 left in the second half.
That lead held up until 15:01 remained in regulation and a handball in the box resulted in Marriotts Ridge being awarded a penalty kick. Simon Klementsen stepped up and converted to knot the game at 1-1.
Neither team managed to produce anything too dangerous over the next 35 combined minutes of regulation and overtime, sending the game to the penalty shootout.
Oakland Mills had honors, going first, and never blinked on the way to converting each of its first four attempts. Michael Ahumada, Jefferson Fuentes, Ken Johnson and Hymad N'Diaye were responsible for the Scorpions' conversions.
On the other side, Marriotts Ridge made its first two shots courtesy of Klementsen and Yaw Owusu-Boaitey.
But, from there, it was Flores that stepped up and saved the day for Oakland Mills. He stopped the Mustangs' third attempt on a shot right at him, then dove to his left to stop the fourth shot and set off a wild celebration on the field.
Flores said the team is on a mission.
"As I've said, it's just the mentality of the team (this season). We want a state championship and that's what we're going to get," he said. "To beat a great team like Marriotts Ridge just feels great."
Howard 2, Sherwood 1 PKs (5-4)
The Lions got their goal during regulation by Jordan Evans off an assist from Caine McKinney. Brendan Hartlove made four saves leading up to penalty kicks.
In penalty kicks, Howard converted all of its chances and Andrei Shiller scored the game-winner. Hartlove made one save in the shootout.
Howard will host Springbrook in the regional semifinals.
Centennial 3, Reservoir 0
Michael Merkey, Shawn Atmar and Ammar Narmouq scored the goals as the Eagles posted the shutout victory. Centennial will play Mt. Hebron on Thursday.
Goals: C – Merkey, Atmar, Narmouq.
Assists: C – Narmouq, Drutch, Breedlove.
Mt. Hebron 2, Long Reach 0
The Vikings got goals from Pat Palin in the first half and Michael Yacynych in the second on the way to the shutout victory. Mt. Hebron will host Centennial on Thursday in the region semifinals.
Atholton 3, Stephen Decatur 1