In his varsity soccer career, Marriotts Ridge’s Amir Najib has never been down two goals in a game. That changed Tuesday evening when Reservoir had the second-ranked Mustangs and their winning streak on life support late in the second half.
“They [Reservoir] get the goal and it’s wow, we’re down two and we can’t finish one,” said Najib, who saw his team’s miss several chances through the first 70 minutes. “Honestly, I didn’t think it going to come.”
The Mustangs finally got their first goal. Then came another and another.
When the final horn sounded, Marriotts Ridge celebrated an improbable 3-2 victory over the No. 3 Gators in a battle of defending state champions. Najib, a senior, scored two goals and Jeff Kammerer had a goal for the Mustangs (7-0 overall, 4-0 Howard County).
Kammerer converted a misplayed ball by Reservoir goalie Kyle Kroll into a goal with 4 minutes, 56 seconds left in regulation, completing a five-minute Mustangs’ surge that left Reservoir in shock. The Mustangs, who’ve won the last four Class 2A state championships, extended their winning streak to 31 games.
“Nothing really phases them,” said Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn. “You simply don’t come back from 2-0 with that much time left.”
Not against a motivated Reservoir squad, looking for its first-ever victory against the Mustangs. Not after Marriotts Ridge spend most of early Tuesday evening frustrated by miss chance after miss chance, including a Kammerer’s free kick that ricochet off the crossbar early int the second half.
It was Najib, who sparked last year’s title four-peat with an impressive postseason, converted a penalty kick with 9:36 remaining in regulation. A couple of minutes later, after failing to convert off a corner kick, Marriotts Ridge maintained possession. Najib extended his right foot to knocked in a ball off a header by Kammerer.
“I thought [at 2-0] we were done. Amir came over to the bench and said we weren’t going to lose this game,” said Kammerer.
After hitting the crossbar earlier, Kammerer got another-and most unlikely-opportunity. The Mustangs sent a through ball towards Reservoir’s goal with Kammerer in pursuit. Kroll came out of the box for a clearing kick.
But Kroll missed the ball. Kammerer got it and knocked the ball into the goal, giving Marriotts Ridge the lead for good.
“I had actually slowed down and given up on the play and then I heard everyone screaming. I looked down and the ball was right there,” said Kammerer. “It was like too good to be true and I knew I couldn’t miss that one.”
The defending Class 3A state champ Gators (4-1-1, 2-1-1 Howard) had the better of play early Tuesday as David Harris headed in a crossing pass from Phillip Reichel in the 9th minute. After maintaining through several Mustangs’ attempt to get even, Reservoir’s Mike Peprah put a left-footed shot into the top corner for a 2-0 advantage with 13:29 left in regulation.
Peprah celebrated with a dance on the sidelines. The party was on in Fulton as Marriotts Ridge’s winning streak was running out of steam, but the resilient Mustangs refuse to wilt.
“We took the foot off the gas,” said Peprah, standing outside the field. “You have to give them credit, that’s why they’re champions.”
Flynn believed 2007 was the last time Marriotts Ridge trailed a game by two goals. Najib, the undeniable heart and soul of the Mustangs, admitted he had a lot of doubt.
“I thought we were in trouble, but if we were going to make the comeback, it was up to me to get the guys together and make them believe,” said Najib. “I didn’t know if we could win, but I knew we were going to at least go down fighting.”
No. 2 Marriotts Ridge 3, No. 3 Reservoir 2
Goals: Marriotts Ridge – Najib 2, Kammerer; Reservoir – Peprah, Davis
Assists: Marriotts Ridge – Kammerer; Reservoir – Reichel
Saves: Marriotts Ridge – Dryja 6; Reservoir – Kroll 7
Halftime: Reservoir 1, Marriotts Ridge 0