Shortly after he scored the go-ahead goal in the 42nd minute of Tuesday night’s Maryland 4A West Region championship match, Magruder striker Ofentse Kale collided in the midfield with a Walter Johnson player. He was the smallest player on the field, and in that moment, he paid the price for being so. He squeezed his ribs before eventually walking off the field, rubbing his hand through his flat-top while receiving an ovation from the Colonels fans.
It was well-deserved. Kale started high-fiving teammates, some of whom were wearing hoodies emblazoned with the words dedicated to his late mother: ‘In Memory of Masello.’
“His mom died August 1,” Magruder Coach Juan Gomez said. “So we play for his mom.”
There was no way Kale was coming out of the game Tuesday night. He re-entered the match shortly after that, and nearly scored again. But his goal early in the second half — not to mention his presence alone — helped lift Magruder to an emotional 1-0 win over Walter Johnson at Paint Branch in Burtonsville.
With the 4A West championship, Magruder (12-4-1) advanced to the Maryland 4A state semifinals Saturday at Richard Montgomery. The Colonels will meet Severna Park, 3-1 winners over Leonardtown in the 4A East region championship on Tuesday.
“There’s no words,” Kale said after the game. “It feels really good.”
There were long stretches when Kale didn’t feel good on a chilly Tuesday night, and he was punished on several occasions by a physical and aggressive Walter Johnson (11-6-1) midfield. But Kale, who entered the match with 10 goals on the season, wasn’t deterred. His speed was the difference, creating countless opportunities for the Colonels near the Walter Johnson box. After a scoreless first half, he used his small stature to lurk near post on a corner kick, and simply headed in the first goal of the night. It was his second game-winner of the postseason; he ended Gaithersburg’s terrific season last week with a golden goal in overtime to help the Colonels advance.
Walter Johnson nearly tied the game on a flurry of opportunities in the final 10 minutes, when Kale also had two more chances to score inside the Wildcats’ box, a product of his breather at the beginning of the half.
“I was confident. I was like, ‘No I can’t stay out.’ I wanted to keep playing,” Kale said. “My coach was like, ‘Take a little rest.’ ”
If anyone knows the importance of rest for Kale, it’s Gomez. The team, he said, has found a great source of energy playing for Kale, and in the memory of his mother, Masello, who he said died of cancer. It’s why they had the hoodies made. And it’s part of the reason why the team keeps winning, he said.
“He’s so sad,” Gomez said, before shifting his focus on the team trying to help the junior. “They played with heart.”