The top-ranked River Hill boys soccer team struggled to find its rhythm at Oakland Mills yesterday, but the Hawks finally fended off a determined challenge by the No. 2 Scorpions in overtime, 1-0.
Adom Crew's 12-yard put-back volley in the 84th minute ended a contest filled with whitewater moments demanding quick decision-making, crisis management and physical stamina.
And until Crew's shot, lionhearted Oakland Mills (4-1 overall, 1-1 league) held the edge in most of those categories against the highly skilled and more experienced Hawks (4-0, 2-0), ranked No. 9 in the nation by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll.
"Oakland Mills controlled the tempo and not many teams can do that against us," River Hill coach Bill Stara said. "But if you don't clear it, bad things eventually happen to you. If you give Adom enough opportunities he's going to bang it sooner or later."
Crew (five goals, one assist), a two-time All-Metro striker, shanked a shot into the side of the net at the back post off a corner kick late in the second half and otherwise was held in check by Oakland Mills.
His winning shot developed off a Clif Jackson corner kick that Oakland Mills goalkeeper Chris Ebeling deflected out. Ebeling then made a diving deflection at the 10-yard line of Brent Endler's hard shot from the 18-yard line before Crew zeroed in on the loose ball and ended the game.
"They kept pushing us in and pinned us most of the second half," Crew said. "They played well."
River Hill, which failed to hold the ball up top in the first half by using just two forwards, went to a third forward to start the second half hoping for better scoring opportunities.
But with just four midfielders instead of their customary five, the Hawks then had trouble getting out of their end as Oakland Mills midfielders Trevor Shea and Steve Blakely took control.
River Hill midfielder DeForest McDuff kicked Victor Berndt's shot off the line at the far post early in the second half following a Grund throw-in.
Oakland Mills players, coaches and fans were incredulous when River Hill's Kyle O'Brien hand-spiked Brian Grund's hard shot into the ground in the 60th minute and no penalty kick was awarded.
The Scorpions, playing the second half without last year's leading scorer, second-team All-Metro forward Jeremy Catlin, who sprained his ankle late in the first half, were frustrated by River Hill's Elliott Marquis-led defense several more times off corner kicks and long throw-ins.
"I was worried about long throws, but we did well," Hawks goalkeeper Mike DiBella said. "We didn't feel threatened by [Kyle] Farmer even though he's a great player, because we have Elliott in back [sweeper] and not many people get past him standing up."
River Hill reverted to five midfielders midway through the second half, and created several good chances in the final 10 minutes of regulation time.
Ebeling (nine saves) made a diving stop off a 25-yard laser by Jason Gotis. And Gotis couldn't quite get enough foot on a pass from Crew at the 4-yard line in the 80th minute. Ebeling saved that one from his knees.
"I thought their goalkeeper had a real good day and this was definitely too close for comfort," said a sweat-soaked Gotis. "It was hard work. I knew they'd come to play and we were just lucky enough to get a goal."
DiBella said: "This game was everything I expected and more."
River Hill midfielder Todd Tedrow echoed DiBella's sentiments, and said: "With the amount of heart they [Oakland Mills] played with they could have beaten the No. 1 team in the nation."
Pub Date: 10/02/99