In the middle of a second overtime on Tuesday night, with penalty kicks looming and plenty of squandered chances fresh in their minds, River Hill’s Alex Hamer sent a ball to senior Sheridan Street a few yards from the Centennial goal line and a few feet from the keeper. In a departure from the norm in a game that had been played at an electric pace for 95 minutes, Street stopped. The Syracuse-bound forward paused over the ball before burying the game-winner that secured a 2-1 Hawks win.
“I was talking to Coach [Brian] Song after the game and he goes ‘How long were you going to take to take that shot?,’ ” Street said. “All I was thinking is ‘I gotta put it in. I gotta put it in. I told him It HAD to go in.’ ”
Centennial had sent ball after ball over the top of the goal and created chance after chance throughout the evening, controlling play for large parts of both halves and the first overtime on a lumpy home field. The unpredictable bounces didn’t hinder the Eagles’ vertical approach as much as it did the foot-to-foot connections needed for the Hawks’ more possession-based game.
“We like to knock some balls around, but [because of the field’s bounces] we lost a lot of continuity back and forth,” Song said. “Knowing their game was hit the ball high . . . they were very successful at it. We were always trying to recover from that.”
Centennial (12-3-2) kept the Hawks (12-4-1) on their heels for much of the first half, scoring first thanks to excellent ball movement that set up sophomore Reese Western with 15 minutes to go in the opening half. With the ball in the Eagles’ end for much of the game — or at least high in the air on its way there on one of many Centennial deep balls — River Hill’s best chances came on quick counters and defensive breakdowns in transition. The Hawks’ first goal came when a ball bounced off a retreating defender’s back in front of the net and set up Street with a point-blank opportunity that tied the game.
“This was a very tough game. They play hard, they play tough and they get a lot of opportunities,” Street said. “I think we both get a lot of opportunities both ways. . . . Some of the opportunities I felt we could have capitalized on before, so I was glad we were able to put one in.”
The Hawks, Maryland’s defending 3A state champions, will play Montgomery County’s Damascus (17-0) in the state semifinal Saturday. The upstart Hornets, who have yet to lose this season, earned a 2-1 overtime victory at Linganore on Tuesday night. Huntingtown (15-1-1) , which beat Westlake (9-8), 4-2, and Bel Air, which won, 1-0, over Westminster, will play in the other 3A state semifinal.
In the 4A, Eleanor Roosevelt (11-2) continued its magical season with a 4-0 win over Parkdale, putting the Raiders in a tough state semifinal matchup against Catonsville, which disposed of Sherwood, 4-0. On the other side of the bracket, defending 4A champion South River (13-3-0) defeated Severna Park (13-4-0), 2-1, for Coach John Sis’s 100th win withthe Seahawks. They’ll face Whitman (14-1-1) in the other 4A state semifinal. The Vikings emerged from the 4A South gauntlet with a 3-0 decision over Wootton (8-7-1) .
“The first 10 minutes were kind of ugly as far as both teams kicking around, but then we settled in and started to play our style of soccer,” said Vikings Coach Greg Herbert, who said his team led just 1-0 at halftime before opening things up against a tough Wootton team. “We scored with probably 15 minutes left in the game that third goal, and at that point both teams put everyone in and just kind of enjoyed the moment.”