Before Patterson Mill played Loch Raven for the Class 1A boys soccer state championship on Saturday afternoon, senior Andrew Papageorgopoulos had a message for his team.
“This year before the game I told everybody to feel how it felt last year on the other side, against River Hill, when we were on the losing end and I just wanted everybody to remember how that feels and no one wanted to feel that,” he said.
Instead, they felt elation and relief after the Huskies (14-3) blanked Loch Raven, 3-0, to win the school’s first state boys soccer title in history.
Loch Raven (12-7-1) was seeking its fifth state championship in its 14th appearance.
Patterson Mill was making its fourth trip overall and fourth straight trip.
The Huskies controlled time of possession and threatened, but didn’t break the ice until Zach Hebb converted Eric Neutzing’s cross with a diving header for a 1-0 lead with 14:24 left in the half.
“I passed it out to Eric Neutzing and he crossed it in and I honestly don’t remember diving, it was just like my first instinct, I just dove and as soon as I got up everybody was screaming and yelling and I looked at the goal and the ball was in the net and I was like, ‘Did I do that?’” Hebb said.
Patterson Mill coach Wes Rich has seen Hebb’s acrobatic scores before, but was glad to see it on the grandest stage at Loyola University Maryland.
“I’ve coached Zach, even before high school, and he’s scored some crazy goals,” Rich said. “He’s just got a knack for the goal and as he showed, he’s willing to run through balls and run through defenders and do whatever it takes to get the ball on frame and he did it at the most critical point in the game and that really gave us momentum. It was huge.”
A hand ball nullified another goal later in the half for the Huskies, but Papageorgopoulos made it 2-0 with a low left-footed turf creeper to the left of Loch Raven goalie Brendan Hegberg (four saves) with 2:11 left in the first half.
Loch Raven didn’t have a shot on goal in the game and only had a few shots toward the goal.
“They were playing stopper, sweeper and it’s pretty hard when we don’t get a lot of possessions to break down a defense like that, so I feel like if we would have held the possession more, we would have gotten a lot more opportunities and they were a little bit more physical,” said Loch Raven junior Reice Thuerrauch, who led the Raiders with 13 goals this season.
The Loch Raven defense of center back Cal Hagen and wingbacks Antonio Coppola and Darwin Pineda did a fine job blocking shots and cramming space, but they wore down against a Patterson Mill squad that had eight corner kicks compared to Loch Raven’s four.
“They came out strong and they had some skill players in the middle and their defenders were marking tight and not giving up any space for our forwards to be creative,” Rich said. “That was a tough, tough game.”
The hustle and toughness took a serious blow for the Raiders with 18:19 left in the second half when Hebb assisted Christian Shertzer for his fourth goal of the season and the Huskies took an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
“Zach was just working hard and he was able to get it past the defenders and he just took the ball, made a great cross and I was able to judge the ball and get up and head it into the goal and it hit the post and luckily it bounced in,” Shertzer said.
Michal Gradus (20 goals, 11 assists) kept the pressure on the Loch Raven defense in the second half, while the Raiders got a pair of corner kicks from Chris Simaku and tough midfield play from Noah Long, but they couldn’t get on the board.
Despite the loss, the 12 seniors on the Raiders made a memorable run.
“I’m proud of the team. This has been my family for four years now and we worked hard every day and all our hard work got us to this big stage,” Hagen said. “We needed a little more there, but I think no matter what the result was, I’m always going to be happy playing with this team for four years of my life.”
Loch Raven coach Matt Radebaugh, in his seventh season, praised his seniors.
“We are losing 12 seniors and Chris and Cal were the backbone of our team for three or almost four years, so losing them is going to be tough to replace, but we do have a good group of guys back sooner then later.”
Patterson Mill loses 13 seniors, but their contributions will not be lost on Rich.
“This was like a dream season, the wins are great, but just in terms of having fun, everybody got along, we had no drama, we had no issues, it was just like the best run,” Rich said. “A lot of that has to do with the senior class this year, so it’s going to be sad to see them go, but it was fun season.”