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Emilio Rodas leads hair-raising victory for Reservoir in 3A boys’ soccer state title game

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CATONSVILLE - Many of the starters on the Reservoir boys’ soccer team wore blonde-dyed Mohawk haircuts for Thursday night’s Maryland 3A final against Urbana.

The hair blended in with the team’s orange uniforms, and it was hard to tell some players apart.

But midfielder Emilio Rodas didn’t dye his hair. And as it turns out, he had a reason to stand out anyway on the field at UMBC.

Rodas had two decisive assists off set-pieces, including a perfectly placed corner-kick in overtime that set up the game-winning header goal from Mike Peprah as Reservoir beat Urbana, 3-2, for the state championship.

“I told the guys right when the game ended, right before overtime,” said Rodas, “Gimme one chance. One set piece.”

It was the third Maryland 3A final appearance in four years for Urbana. And the Hawks looked like the more polished offensive team for long stretches.

The Hawks took a 1-0 lead 15 minutes into the game after Austin Thames scored on a free kick as the Reservoir players stood idle.

Thames took the kick as soon as the ball was dropped.

“They caught off us off-guard,” Reservoir Coach Reg Hahne said. “I didn’t think we were going to respond, but we responded beautifully.”

The Gators (13-6) entered Thursday with a feared ability to score off set-pieces.

They lived up to that reputation.

Javier Wardcantroriscored the equalizing goal minutes after halftime, rebounding a free kick that bounced off the post.

The Gators took the lead with 19 minutes remaining after another free-kick cross from Rodas set up a header from Carvell Akuffo.

Urbana (17-0-1) began making desperate pushes at the net in the final 10 minutes, sending cross after cross toward the Reservoir goal.

And Brett LaBonte scored on a header from five yards on one of those crosses with about seven minutes remaining to send the game into overtime.

Five minutes into the extra frame, a deflected ball gave Rodas one last opportunity to stand out just the way he had all year long — Reservoir also beat Centennial on a Rodas corner kick goal earlier this season – and he delivered.

After the ball bounced off Peprah’s head, Rodas stood in the corner and held his hands in the air. He didn’t chase after his teammates.

“I really felt that when I got it, I thought that was going to win the game,” said Rodas. “It just came natural.”

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