Marriotts Ridge senior Brett Gladstone made a cut to the front of the goal and found himself all alone with one man to beat. Considering the moment — in the waning minutes of double overtime and a chance to beat their rival Glenelg on its turf to advance to the 2A South regional championship game — it was a once-in-a-career opportunity.
“I better finish this,” said Gladstone on what he was thinking when he caught the pass from freshman Charlie Reynolds. “I better score this.”
The senior attackman and midfielder caught the ire of his teammates and coaches earlier in the game by going against the game plan and taking a quick shot early in a possession, but in the end he was the most celebrated Mustangs player on a day when the entire program celebrated one of its biggest wins in history.
Gladstone caught the pass, jumped and buried his turnaround shot into the bottom left corner past Gladiators goalie Robbie Noyes with 1 minute, 44 seconds left in the second overtime to lift Marriotts Ridge to a 7-6 upset victory. Gladstone immediately hopped with joy and ran with both hands on his stick raised above his head until his teammates buried him underneath a dogpile to celebrate.
The Mustangs (14-2) will host Southern of Anne Arundel County on Wednesday for a chance to win their third regional championship and first since 2011. They beat the defending state champion Bulldogs, 15-3, on the road on April 10.
“That look was there throughout the game, and I thought it would be there again,” Gladstone said, “and sure enough, it was. ... It was just unbelievable.”
Mustangs coach Tony Incontrera, who received a standing ovation from the visiting fans when he left the stadium following the win, said his team was “feeling pretty good” about themselves when they stepped onto the field for their regular-season matchup with Glenelg (14-2). They had won six straight games by six or more goals after a season-opening defeat to Howard, but the Gladiators torched Marriotts Ridge in transition and pulled away in the second half for a 13-6 win.
“It was a very humbling experience. They punched us in the mouth. They exploited the weaknesses that we have,” he said. “We really bought into the idea of stopping transition offense and not having everyone run off the field so we can get our defensive personnel on.”
As a result, Incontrera asked guys like Gladstone, Luke Ingersoll, Troy Hettinger and Matt Hendershot to become “true” two-way midfielders and play both offense and defense while also playing the wings. Marriotts Ridge is 8-0 since losing to the Gladiators on April 13.
“Having those guys buy into that idea and keeping that rotation with those guys and having a couple other guys to rotate in has really paid dividends, because we’ve taken away transition for teams,” said Incontrera.
It was a perfect fix against a team like Glenelg, last year’s 2A-3A state finalists, that thrives on the run and in transition. The quick strikes were key in its regular-season win over Marriotts Ridge, as it scored four goals in 4:03 in the third quarter, and it scored four goals in even less time early in the fourth quarter in a 9-8 win at Howard on April 19.
But the Mustangs slowed the pace on Tuesday, and did so considerably. After two quick strikes from Tyler Reiff put the Gladiators up 2-0 just three minutes into the game, their chances in transition were few and far between. Beating Marriotts Ridge goalie Colin Kelley, who made 10 stops, and its stiff defense proved a difficult task. Their six-goals scored is their second-fewest total of the season.
“I didn’t think they would be allowed to hold the ball as much as they did, and they did,” Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker said. “But that’s not up to us. They took advantage. They got us on the same thing three times and we made an adjustment but we just didn’t do it on the field.”
Marriotts Ridge scored four unanswered goals, including two by Hettinger, between the first and second quarters to take a 4-2 lead. Ryan Hopkins’ goal with 2:10 left in the half cut the Gladiators’ deficit to 4-3, and they tied the score with 8:38 left in the third quarter on a goal from Michael Doughty. But back-to-back tallies from Peter Geier, who scored a game-high three goals, between the third and fourth quarters put the Mustangs up, 6-4, with 10:29 left.
The lead wouldn’t last, though. Tyler Nalls scored with 5:43 left, and then again with 1:36 remaining to force overtime. Gladstone ended it on their first good look on goal in the extra sessions.
“We talk all the time about making that initial dodge and then look to get it going on the backside,” Incontrera said. “Charlie, being a freshman, he was just heads up. Most kids would take that shot — his hands were free — but he saw inside and Brett is a great finisher.”
Gladstone and his teammates relished the moment, but he was quick to say there is more to be done.
“It doesn’t get much better than this,” he said, “but we’ve still got a couple more games and we’re just going to keep grinding.”
Marriotts Ridge (14-2) — 7, Glenelg (14-2) —6 (2OT)
Goals: MR — Peter Geier 3, Troy Hettinger 2, Charlie Reynolds, Brett Gladstone; G — Tyler Reiff 2, Tyler Nalls 2, Ryan Hopkins, Michael Doughty
Assists: MR — Luke Ingersoll 2, Logan Frank, Reynolds; G — Justin Silk
Saves: MR — Colin Kelley 10; G — Robbie Noyes 12
Halftime: 4-3, Marriotts Ridge
3A East region, Section I final:
Centennial (11-5) — 12, Mt. Hebron (6-10) — 8
Goals: C — Jeremy Wilson 4, Ty Sams 3, Thomas Thurmond 2, Andrew Hockersmith, Peter Krawczyk, Michael Pellegrini; MH — Garrett Snyder 5, Nick Nordhausen, Mateo Brown, Joey Schwartz
Assists: C — Wilson 2, Krawczyk 2, Charlie Hockersmith 2; MH — Brown 2, Peter Karmilowicz, Simon Perna
Saves: C — Jack Schlossberg 16; MH — Cody Stockenberg 15
Halftime: 6-1, Centennial
4A North region, Section I final:
Howard (15-1) — 9, Dulaney — 8
Goals: Ho — Mark Bruner 4, Ben O’Connor 4, Jeff Bruner
Assists: Ho — M. Bruner 2, Patrick Sutch, Connor Denicola, Jordan Larsen
Saves: Ho — David Mauser 5
Halftime: 4-2, Howard