Marriotts Ridge coach Mark Dubbs knew coming into his team's season-opening match against River Hill that with the talent being fairly even between the two programs, the outcome of the match might very well come down to the intagibles.
So when putting together his groups, particularly his second pairing of junior Isaac Kim and freshman Justin Allen, Dubbs was banking on his players bringing out the best in one another.
"You always are trying to find that perfect mix and I think we found something there in that second group," Dubbs said. "In Isaac we had a returner who I thought would settle the nerves of a younger guy in his first match. And then Justin brought an enthusiasm that I thought pushed our returner. Between the two of them, I thought it was a great balance."
The strategy worked to perfection, as Kim scored a match-best 25 points and Allen was right behind him with 22 to help the Mustangs pull away for a 92-80 victory in a showdown between the county's top two boys teams from a season ago.
David Stephens (23 points) and Alex Pak (22) did their part as well for Marriotts Ridge in the first group, helping offset a strong round from River Hill's top player Kevin Hickey (23 points). The county plays its regular season matches under a modified Stableford scoring system, which awards four points for a birdie, three for a par, two for a bogey and one for a double bogey.
For Kim and Allen, the chemistry was evident from the very early stages. When putts went in — and plenty of them did — the duo was particularly vocal in their encouragement of one another and shared their fair share of first bumps.
"I played a practice round with him yesterday and he was a great guy and I think he's going to be a great key to the Marriotts Ridge golf team this season," Kim said in regards to Allen. "[In terms of] the first bumping, we really just wanted to keep that hype up. We were fired up after every birdie putt and we were like 'Let's keep this going, let's send it to the next hole.'"
The duo was especially in sync during the middle of the round, playing holes four thru six in a combined 2-under par. Both players made birdies on the par 4 sixth hole.
Not coincidently, it was during that same stretch that Marriotts Ridge separated itself in the match as a team to set the tone for the victory.
"Definitely hats off to them. They came to play and it's a testament to their program," River Hill coach Matt Graves said. "There's no falling off with what they have, even after graduating some great players, they just keep reloading. You saw today, they've already separated themselves from everybody else and it's going to take having four players all playing at their best to beat them."
For it being the first match of the season, Graves was still pleased with his team's effort despite the loss. Behind Hickey, Cam Deiuliis (20 points), Will Reid (20) and Jackson Graves (17) all posted solid rounds in what equated to the first regular season match for each of the trio.
"Putting up 80 points with three newbies out there, I think will go a long way. Could we have shot better, absolutely, but we just aren't at the point yet where Marriotts Ridge is," Graves said. "I think we are capable of getting there over the next month or so, but in order to do that you have to see that level so you know what you're working toward."
In terms of Marriotts Ridge, the victory was an emphatic statement that this year's group has no plans of relinquishing its spot atop the county. The Mustangs have won four-straight county championships, to along with five straight state titles.
Having graduated three senior starters, though, there were questions as to whether this would be the year the team would take a step back. Thursday's performance against a River Hill team that went 10-1 last year showcased that there's still plenty of firepower left.
In fact, in the same opening match last year against River Hill, Marriotts Ridge scored just one point better as a team in a 93-87 win.
"It's great to beat the next greatest team and I think it gives us a great confidence booster that 'OK, we got this.' Even though we lost all those seniors we had, we still have talent," Kim said.
Marriotts Ridge 92, River Hill 80
MR (1-0): Kim 25, Stephens 23, Pak 22, Allen 22.
RH (0-1): Hickey 23, Deiuliis 20, Reid 20, Graves 17.
Mt. Hebron 62, Hammond 20
Playing at Fairway Hills, Lake Lloyd scored a match-best 24 points to lead the way for the Vikings in a comfortable win over the Golden Bears.
MH (1-0): Lloyd 24, Jung 17, Krell 12, Olds 9.
Ha (0-1): Hewitt 8, Gaffere 7, Witt 5.
Glenelg 80, Reservoir 35
Freshman Caleb Taylor starred in his first varsity match, scoring 25 points to lead the way to the comfortable victory over Reservoir at Cattail Creek. Seniors Michael Forester (21 points) and Brandon Writt (20) also chipped in with strong rounds.
G (1-0): Taylor 25, Forester 21, Writt 20, Mobley 14.
Re (0-1): Teodori 14, Panza 11, Welch 9, Barila 1.
Atholton 55, Long Reach 35
Sophomore Branden Nguyen opened his season with 24 points to lead the way to a comfortable victory for the Raiders.
A (1-0): Nguyen 24, Grimsley 12, Chong 12, Robinson 7.
LR (0-1): Lewis 13, Hussain 10, Tillman 7, Haley 5.
Oakland Mills 34, Wilde Lake 1
Adam Fairbanks fired a round of 20 points to lead the Scorpions in an opening-day victory over Wilde Lake at Willow Springs. Fairbanks' round was highlighted by three straight pars between his sixth and eighth holes. Wilde Lake had just one active player, with the team's top three players unavailable.
OM (1-0): Fairbanks 20, Carroll 9, Atkins 5.
WL (0-1): Arsenault 1.
Marriotts Ridge 33, River Hill 13
Faith McIlvain put up an opening-day round of 21 points to begin her sophomore campaign and lead the way for the Mustangs in a win over the Hawks.
MR (1-0): McIlvain 21, Dorsch 12.
RH (0-1): Lesho 5, Zhao 5, Berg 2, N/A 1.
Glenelg 23, Reservoir 10
Alex Stone and Ally Abruscatto each put up nine points to set the pace for the Gladiators in their opening-day victory. In the losing effort, Reservoir did get a strong eight-point day from freshman Jasmine Skedsvold in her first varsity match. She made a birdie on the fourth hole and a par on No. 8.
G (1-0): Stone 9, Abruscatto 9, Kunzelman 4, Ruddo 1.
Re (0-1): Skedsvold 8, Smith 2.
Wilde Lake 21, Oakland Mills 16
Sarah Spall led the way with 10 points for a Wildecats' team that grinded out a close match against the Scorpions at Willow Springs. In the loss, Oakland Mills' Kelly Claxton
WL (1-0): Spall 10, Sands 8, Patel 2, Satin 1.
OM (0-1): Claxton 10, Luthardt 4, Compson 2.
Mt. Hebron 5, Hammond 4
MH (1-0): Bodziak 3, Doan 1, Perna 1.
Ha (0-1): O'Ryan 4.
Atholton 0, Long Reach 0
A (0-0-1): N/A.