After Marriotts Ridge forward Amir Najib scored his second goal in three minutes to tie the game late in the second half Tuesday against Reservoir, he trotted over to a corner of the field alone. He stared into the darkness with his back to the field, and stretched his arms as wide as he could. A moment later, his entire team mobbed him, jumping on his back in celebration.
Najib carried the Mustangs during one of the most desperate hours in his four years with the school Tuesday — scoring two goals to help erase a 2-0 lead late in the second half, and his teammate Jeff Kammerer added the game-winner on a bizarre play with just six minutes remaining to lift No. 1 Marriotts Ridge to a dramatic 3-2 win over No. 3 Reservoir in a matchup of Howard County heavyweights in Fulton.
“We started the game off horribly, actually. For the first 20 minutes, they were the better team,” Najib said. “For a while, it wasn’t going to come.”
Marriotts Ridge (7-0), the four time-defending Maryland 2A champs, looked outclassed early against defending Maryland 3A champion Reservoir (4-1-1) as the Gators took a lead on a David Harris header 10 minutes into the game. Behind returning second-team All-Met defender Kyle Saunderson, who is built like a free safety and caused problems roving around the back end all evening Tuesday, the Gators repelled wave after wave of offensive runs by the Mustangs — who looked thoroughly stunned when Reservoir took a 2-0 lead off a 15-yard dart by Michael Peprah with about 13 minutes remaining.
It was the first time in Najib’s four-year career at the school that his team was down 2-0, he said. Najib has 13 goals and five assists through the first seven games this season — a product of a relentless nature near the net for a team that has just three returning starters back. He converted his first goal on a penalty kick with 9:30 left, and three minutes later he muscled his way to the front of the goal and poked a crossing pass into the top of the net.
“As soon as we got that one, it all clicked,” he said.
Kammerer provided the go-ahead goal moments later, after Reservoir’s goalkeeper came out of his box and whiffed on a clearing kick. The ball trickled behind him, and a charging Kammerer simply dribbled the loose ball in from about 20 yards and delivered.
Like Najib, this was new territory for Kammerer, too. Playing on the road against a perennial Howard County power was a daunting assignment — and there were ominous signs. Reservoir’s home field sits next to a turkey farm, which gave off a foul smell of livestock Tuesday — “the smell is awful,” he said. The 2-0 hole didn’t help, and the Mustangs were forced to gut out the win.
“We knew it was going to be a great atmosphere and a really tough place to play,” Kammerer said. “This was the state champion last year in 3A, and they were one of the best in the county. We always knew we were up there, but now we know.”