Marriotts Ridge senior Amir Najib was making another routine hard run at the ball in Tuesday’s game against Mount Hebron, and then he got a lucky bounce. The ball had just been dropped in on a free kick, and the midfielder positioned himself between a Mount Hebron goalkeeper and defender. When the ball landed outside the box, the Vikings keeper came out too far and misplayed the ball — allowing Najib to pounce behind him and convert a wide open goal. That made it 2-0 in the second half, insurance that also ensured the top-ranked Mustangs stayed undefeated.
“This is new and I’m loving it right now,” Najib said. “The past three years I haven’t had nearly as much freedom to push up. I’m just enjoying my freedom.”
The scenery has certainly changed for the four-time defending Maryland 2A champions this offseason. Marriotts Ridge returns just three starters from last season’s 16-0 team, one of whom is currently hurt. More offensive responsibility has been handed down on the talented Najib, who sat back for three seasons and patiently picked his spots to be aggressive. Through the first three games this season, he has been relentless (he also had an assist on Tuesday), scoring goals in each of the three games and providing the key assist in a 1-0 overtime win against Whitman in the opener.
Marriotts Ridge has made an appearance in the last five state title matches. It has lost just eight games and given up 54 goals in those five seasons and the first three games of this year. That fosters an obvious culture of expectation to win, Najib said. Coasting through a light schedule isn’t an option, either. The Mustangs will get perhaps their toughest match of the regular season next Tuesday, when it travels to face undefeated Howard County rival Reservoir (3-0).
“There’s a lot of pressure,” Najib said. That’s going to be our biggest test in the county, to that point.”
Meade (4-1) is off to its best start in the four-year tenure of Coach Mike Banach, and if not for a 1-0 overtime loss to Arundel last weekend the Mustangs would have an unblemished start. That defeat was an uncharacteristic turn for a club that has had one of the best offensive production in the area through the first two weeks of the season, posting 16 goals in its first four games, including seven from senior midfielder Mark Woodard.
The most wins in a season for Meade was 11 in 1991, which was the last time the team beat Severna Park, Banach said. His team will get another crack at the Falcons (3-0-1) next Tuesday, which will be just the beginning of the toughest five-game stretch of the season. The league gauntlet begins Wednesday against North County and the stretch includes a home match against Broadneck and road tests at Annapolis and Chesapeake.
“We definitely have people that can score,” Banach said. “We’re still trying to form the way we play, the style of play. And I think that’s going to help us down the road, once we get to the playoffs. We know what we’re up against.”
After Tuesday’s thrilling 3-2 win over DeMatha, Gonzaga must now prepare for returning Maryland 4A champ Wootton Saturday . . . Reservoir’s Carvell Akuffo and Phillip Reichel each scored goals as the Gators held off Hammond 2-1 on Tuesday. . . . Walter Johnson will play for the first time in a week against Damascus Wednesday, and then will wait another six days before playing its next opponent, Wootton . . . Severna Park has scored 14 goals in two straight wins over Northeast and Glen Burnie.
1. Marriotts Ridge (3-0) LW: 2
2. Gonzaga (2-1-1) LW: 3
3. Reservoir (4-0) LW: 4
4. St. Albans (5-0) LW: 5
5. DeMatha (2-3) LW: 1
6. Walter Johnson (2-0) LW: 6
7. Landon (4-0) LW: 7
8. Paul VI (1-0-1) LW: 8
9. Severna Park (3-0-1) LW: 9
10. Georgetown Prep (2-0) LW 10