Mt. Hebron went 27 days between victories, losing six straight games and four by three goals or less. That streak ended against Reservoir on Tuesday, the same night its rival, Marriotts Ridge, won the county championship outright for the first time in program history with an 12-11 overtime win at River Hill.
They looked to be trending in opposite directions on paper — the Mustangs had won five of their last six and led the league by two games; the Vikings were three games under .500.
But when Marriotts Ridge and Mt. Hebron — two schools located six miles apart on the same stretch of Route 99 — suit up and take the field, the numbers go out the window.
"This was just another chance for our inexperienced kids to prove themselves against the county champions," said Vikings coach Mike McCarthy.
Friday night marked a turning point for Mt. Hebron, as it played its best game of the season and held off the Mustangs for a 7-5 victory that spoiled their senior night and attempt for an undefeated county season.
"We didn't doubt them at all. When you go through that streak and you're so close, you're so close, you wonder what the kids are thinking," McCarthy said. "Between our coaching staff, we knew that we had it. It was just maturity and they matured. ... It was only a matter of time until it clicked."
Freshmen Mateo Brown and Garrett Snyder led the way. Brown scored or assisted on all four Viking goals in the third quarter, including helpers on goals from Danny Herlihy and Simon Perna (two goals) off turnovers in the first 2 minutes, 26 seconds that broke a 2-2 tie. Snyder scored the first goal of the game and assisted on the last.
Marriotts Ridge (6-1 county, 9-5 overall) cut the deficit to one three times in the final 18 minutes but Mt. Hebron (4-3, 6-8) answered each time with a goal to seal its fifth straight win over its rival.
"We've just been building confidence," Brown said. "You can see our games, we've had so many close losses and have been really close. Coach has been saying to us that we need to get over that hump and that's what we did today."
Five goals is a season low for the Mustangs, who were co-county champions in 2009 but had never finished undefeated in county play. Mustangs coach Tony Incontrera said the loss "definitely" puts a damper on their county title.
"We talked about it before the game that the county championship wouldn't mean as much if we didn't go through it undefeated," he said. "We came out flat. We had opportunities but we didn't take care of the ball on offense.
"I don't feel like the emotions were high enough on our side. I feel like we didn't play with enough energy and they obviously came out with the energy and played with passion. ... We didn't match their emotion, and in a game like this typically scouts and records go out the window. But that only happens if you come out with the energy that you need to play with."
Mt. Hebron controlled the time of possession and Karson Porter won nine of 16 face-offs overall and seven of 10 in the second half. But McCarthy was most impressed with how well his team cleared the ball against a team like Marriotts Ridge that forces turnovers with its consistent pressure and slides, which in turn made things tough on the Mustangs offensively.
"We didn't give them any easy ones," McCarthy said. "They had to earn them. The ones they got I thought we were pretty close to being there and making the play."
Cody Stockenberg, the Vikings' on-and-off again starting goalie, made several huge stops down the stretch and finished with 13 saves. On the other side, however, goalie Colin Kelley made 18 saves and kept Marriotts Ridge in the game.
"If there's any other goalie in the county besides Colin Kelley, that might be a 10-goal game He played out of his mind tonight," Incontrera said. "He made all the saves he should make and some saves he had no business making. Their goalie played incredible as well and obviously has gotten a lot better as the year has gone on."
The two teams will open up the 3A/2A South regional playoffs on Wednesday.
Goals: OM — Toby Baldwin 3, Nick Miller 2, Billy Quesenberry, Evan Riss*, Jonald Semprit, Zyon Turner; WL — Kevin Comeaux 2, Jackson Pittman 2, Jonathan Fontana, Peter Robinson, Andrew Tiffey, Andrew VanTassel
Goals: G — Chase Collier 3, Matt Retzbach 2, Justin Silk 2, Garrett Hesen 2, Ryan Hopkins, Michael Doughty, Ethan Forrest, Tyler Nalls, Johnny Chaisson, Eric Gruber; Re — Talon Campbell 3, Patrick Raymond, Jake Carson
Assists: G — M. Doughty 5, Tyler Reiff 2, Hesen 2, Hopkins, Forrest; Re — Alex Ahn