It seemed only fitting that at the end of a game where Centennial’s Jon Bossom had literally saved his team’s season on numerous occasions, it would be the junior goalie that got an opportunity to be the hero.
And, with the scoreless 3A East regional semifinal game against Mt. Hebron being decided by penalty kicks, he seized the moment.
Bossom made a pair of diving stops — one to his right and one to his left — and the Centennial shooters made all four of their attempts, sealing an Eagles’ victory and the program’s second regional championship game appearance in the last three years.
“That’s why we put him out there, we have a lot of faith in him. And tonight, in particular, we put a lot on his shoulders and he showed over and over again that he could carry the weight,” Centennial coach Justin Thomas said. “He’s a real player and for him to do what he did out here tonight, there are no words.”
Bossom said that he had gained confidence during regulation, where he had made 12 saves. But during penalty kicks, he tried to just trust his instincts.
“I tried to read as much as possible, looking at their hips and when they kept it open, and I guess I got lucky that my reads were correct,” he said. “This feels amazing, I’ve never felt anything like it in my life.”
Centennial (10-4-1) advances to face J.M. Bennett, which defeated Chesapeake 2-0 in its semifinal contest, on the road Tuesday.
On the other side, Mt. Hebron saw its season come to an end in heart-breaking fashion. The Vikings had controlled the run of play for a large portion of regulation and had several point-blank shots on goal.
Bossom, however, continually thwarted each Vikings’ chance. He punched four balls just over the crossbar, picked several others out of the air and even stopped a ball right in front of the goal line while lying on his back.
“It was just hard luck and definitely give some credit to Centennial and their goalie, but I couldn’t ask any more of our kids because they did everything right to create the chances and the shots just didn’t go in,” Mt. Hebron coach Mike Linsenmeyer said. “Nine times out of 10, you see maybe three of those chances find the net. Tonight, none of them did.”
While Mt. Hebron had more shots, Centennial generated chances as well during regulation. The Eagles were the aggressors early in the first half and forced Vikings’ goalie Sohraab Sidhu to make three saves in the opening 15 minutes.
But, as would turn out to be a theme, neither team managed to finish anything through regulation and two overtime periods. Thomas said it was a classic Centennial and Mt. Hebron playoff game, noting the game two years ago that the Eagles won in penalty kicks and the contest last fall that Mt. Hebron won by a goal.
“It’s an amazing rivalry and everyone knows that in order to get to the next level, we have to get through them and they have to get through us,” Thomas said. “Tonight was just another chapter.”
In penalty kicks, Centennial’s Matt Merkey started things with a conversion into the middle of the net. Vincent Broccolino then answered by making Mt. Hebron’s first shot as well.
But after Cristian Garcia made the Eagles’ second try, Bossom delivered a game-changing moment. Lunging to his right, he punched the Vikings’ second kick wide of the goal post.
Hamzah Elhabashy kept the momentum going by making Centennial’s third kick. Then Bossom delivered again by making his second straight penalty kick save. That left the game in the hands of Michael Pellegrini, who calmly buried a shot that set off a wild celebration on the field.
“They were very calm and I think it had a lot to do with three of those four kickers being seniors. They were cool as cucumbers,” Thomas said. “As a coach, my heart was going a million miles a second, but they seemed unfazed.”
River Hill 0, Oakland Mills 0 (7-6 RH in PKs)
The 150th win in River Hill coach Matt Shagogue’s career came in thrilling fashion.
After playing to a scoreless tie through regulation and two overtimes against visiting Oakland Mills in the 2A region semifinals, the Hawks prevailed in penalty kicks by a 7-6 score.
River Hill goalie Patrick Sherlock ended up making a pair of saves in the shootout, including the clinching stop that sent the Hawks’ players spilling onto the field to celebrate.
“I’ve won two state championships [as a coach] and I think [on the way to] both of them, at some point, you get into these moments. And they are defining moments,” Shagogue said. “I think the kids were prepared … you just feel badly it has to end that way for either team. We were just fortunate enough to win.
“But it feels pretty special.”
River Hill advances to play Calvert, a 3-2 winner over La Plata in overtime, at home on Tuesday, Nov. 7 for the 2A South regional championship.
Reach Brent Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports