No. 4 Mustangs top Great Mills in a shootout for 3A state boys’ soccer title (VIDEO HERE!!)

by Gary Adornato

To a man, the C. Milton Wright High boys’ soccer team wanted to make history in 2017 by becoming the school’s first state championship squad. Saturday night at Loyola University Maryland’s Ridley Athletic Complex, the fourth-ranked Mustangs accomplished their goal.

Senior captain and goalkeeper Ryan Miller is flanked by juniors Ryan Belfiore (left) and Jake Spurlock after the three helped lead C. Milton Wright to its first ever state title.

Wright’s Class 3A state championship game battle with Great Mills of St. Mary’s County went all the way to penalty kicks as both teams scored twice in the first half, but failed to tally again through the second half and a pair of 10 minute overtime periods. In the shootout five consecutive Mustangs converted and senior All-American goalkeeper Ryan Miller got the one save he needed as CMW took the shootout, 5-4, and claimed that elusive state championship.

Miller, who promised the team he would come through, made the game-winning stop in the third round, diving to his left to block a shot by Great Mills’ Marcus Minich with his knee.

In the Mustangs’ third round, after Conner Appleby and Ryan Belfiore had scored in earlier rounds, junior Jayson Butler converted to give CMW a 3-2 lead. The Hornets made their final two shots which meant the Mustangs needed to hit their final attempts to claim the victory. Sean Fleming scored in the fourth round and with the state title at his feet, junior Jake Spurlock converted in the fifth round to set off a massive celebration for the Hartford County squad.

“Going into PK’s, I wanted it on my back,” said Miller. “I wanted the team to look to me and I thought I would have one (save). I had faith in my guys that they could bury it and I thought, ‘I need one,’ that’s all I need.”

The Mustangs have been chasing a state title for a long time, having made three previous appearances in the the title game, including 2015, without a crown. This team, however, put the gauntlet down in their very first team meeting.

“In our first team meeting, we had them write their goals down and, across the board, a state championship was their goal,” said Brian Tully who completed his fifth season as head coach of the Mustangs after five years as an assistant. “They wrote down what was going to get them there and what was going to get in their way. We were up front about it. We thought we had the quality. We thought we had the guys that were going to be able to get there.”

Great Mills provided C. Milton Wright, a team that held its own against private school powers McDonogh, Archbishop Curley and Salesianum (DE), a considerable challenge, especially in the first half.

After some very early pressure by the Mustangs, Great Mills had the eventual champs chasing the lead for much of the first half.

CMW forced a corner kick in the first minute and a dangerous chance in the fourth. On the first opportunity Appleby played a ball into the right corner to Belfiore. Belfiore dribbled a few steps toward the goal and delivered a line drive cross to a diving header by senior Brett Lindsey which sailed above the cross bar.

Great Mills made its first challenge in the seventh minute when junior Michael Carillo Salguero dribbled into the box and made a quick left to right pass. The Mustangs were able to clear for a corner kick, but the Hornets pressured again and scored the game’s first goal in the ninth minute.

Freshman Kelvin Coronado hit an arching ball that took one bounce in the box. CMW All-American goalkeeper Ryan Martin took one step towards the ball, which proved costly as Great Mills’ Minich popped a floating header over top and into the goal, inside the right post.

C. Milton Wright answered at the 27:59 mark when Appleby struck a cross from the right side which Spurlock knocked down into the box to the waiting right foot of Lindsey. In one motion, Lindsey struck the ball out of the air into the roof of the goal, knotting the contest at 1-1.

Martin again came out aggressively, in the 20th minute, to challenge a mini breakaway by Great Mills’ Nolin Bradley and again he got caught in no man’s land. At the top of box, within three yards of Martin, Bradley fired a shot which Martin blocked. Bradley, however, retrieved the rebound, turned and fired a low hard shot inside the left post as the keeper retreated.

“Thinking back on it, I probably should have just come out on it and punch it. I read it early,” said Miller of the first goal. “The second goal, they played a big ball in and I thought he was going to try and toe it, but I wasn’t anticipating him not putting anything on it, so I tried to jump and cover as much space as possible, but it just didn’t work out.”

The CMW equalizer came with 9:37 left in the first half. Lindsey triggered a set piece with a throw-in from the right side. The ball reached Belfiore, about 12 yards from goal, and he ripped a blast off the right post. The shot caromed out to the left where junior Butler met it and crushed home a shot from about six yards.

The Mustangs dominated both overtime periods as well with Belfiore creating three excellent opportunities without a reward.

“There has been a big culture shift (in the program) over the last four or five years,” said Tully. “These guys have been a big part of it, and we expect to win every time we step on the field.”

GM 2 0 – 0 0 – (4)

CMW 2 0 – 0 0 – (5)
GOALS: GM-Marcus Minich, Nolin Martin; CMW-Brett Lindsey, Jayson Butler.
SHOOTOUT GOALS: GM-Jay Tracy, Michael Carillo
Salguero, Kelvin Salguero Coronado, Tucker Protzman; CMW-Conner Appleby, Ryan Belfiore, Jayson Butler, Sean Fleming, Jake Spurlock.
ASSISTS: GM-Kelvin Coronado; CMW-Jake Spurlock, Ryan Belfiore.
SAVES: GM-Gerig Thoman 7; CMW-Ryan Miller 6.