Things had come relatively easy to the No. 2 Archbishop Curley soccer team in the season's first week, as the Friars scored 16 goals in four wins.
Against Howard County power River Hill yesterday at McDonogh, however, the defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champion Friars were forced to find another way to win.
With the help of 80 strong minutes from sophomore sweeper Oumar Ballo and a dynamic late-game flash from fellow sophomore Bash Kamara, the Friars were able to walk off with a hard-fought 1-0 win over the No. 5 Hawks.
Kamara collected a ball sent into the penalty area by junior Chris Weaver, shielded it from a defender to get enough room on the outside to send a left-footed shot from 8 yards that made its way past River Hill goalie Pat Hudson and a defender to land inside the far post.
The goal came with 13:50 to play and after the Hawks, who were playing their season opener, had enjoyed the better of the play.
"It was a good game. Both teams fought hard and at the end we came out victorious," said Kamara, who has seven goals on the season. "It was a hard go - we were fighting back and forth since the game started. Finally, Chris Weaver played one over the top, I judged it right, beat him [the goalie] one-on-one and just slid it to the far post."
Graduating 12 players from last year's championship team hasn't seemed to faze the Friars, who have showed the same penchant for scoring goals as last year and now seem to have found a way to win when the scoring is tougher.
The Hawks controlled the ball at midfield for most of the 80 minutes and missed an early chance when Ricky Cantore's quick turnaround from 6 yards was blocked by Curley goalie Jon Connolly. They also couldn't put away any of the 10 corner kicks they earned.
"We had the run of the play and the early chance, but the kid made a beautiful save," River Hill second-year coach Matt Shagogue said. "I'm pleased with the way we played, but not with the result. But that's a good team - Curley's a very good team."
Shagogue also said that the major stumbling block for his Hawks was Ballo, who was a continual disruption in the Hawks' final third of the field.
As for the Friars' 5-0 start, Ballo has been impressed with what he's seen.
"It's coming together pretty well," he said. "Our team chemistry has improved, everybody is working for each other, everybody is talking to each other, so everybody is happy together and wants to play with each other. So, if you have that, you have a good team."