No. 1 River Hill upended by Oakdale in penalty kicks for 2A boys soccer crown
by Derek Toney
River Hill High boys’ soccer team returned to Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Center Saturday for the Class 2A state championship, looking for redemption and a special place among past Hawk title squads.
Instead, the Hawks left the RAC again heartbroken. Frederick County’s Oakdale outlasted the top-ranked River Hill in penalty kicks (4-3) for the crown.
“It’s pretty devastating,” said a solemn Hawks coach Matt Shagogue. “Very.”
A year ago, River Hill watched Eastern Tech hoist the championship trophy in front of the stands on the turf at the Baltimore City facility. It was instant motivation for the Hawks, who were unbeaten through 17 games.
Their road to redemption appeared less daunting when Eastern Tech was eliminated by Hereford in the second round of the North Region playoffs. River Hill easily disposed of the Bulls in the state semifinals for a 12th state final berth.
But Oakdale (14-5-1 overall), whose coach said didn’t have River Hill’s overall skill, craftily played a cat-and-mouse game. The Bears never trailed Saturday, slowing the pace in the second half.
“They made us chase the game a little bit,” said Shagogue. “I thought we had some chances early and I was really pleased with how the guys fought back; we scored early in the second half and we certainly played in their end a lot of the time and Oakdale absorbed a lot of our pressure.”
Trailing 1-0 after Riley Daiger’s goal on a counter attack in the 30th minute, River Hill got the equalizer early in the second half. In the 43rd minute, Hawk senior Justin Harris’ cross to the back post found its way into the net.
The Clarksville school (16-1-1) dictated the pace the remainder for most of the final 37 minutes of regulation. After two 10-minute overtime sessions, the championship would be decided in penalty kicks.
“The second half we came out much stronger. Getting that goal definitely helped,” said River Hill senior goalie Patrick Sherlock. “We’re right there getting shots, getting opportunities and not putting them away is definitely frustrating. …It’s the nature of the game.”
Oakdale coach Mitch Rubin was confident once the match got to a shootout.
“I asked my assistant coach at the beginning of the match, ‘Hey, could we just convince them to go to penalty kicks right now?” said Rubin. “We’d be OK with that and take our chances because we were going to win if we got to that point.”
Bears goalie Jack Roby denied Harris and Jonah Stoutenborough on the Hawks’ first two attempts in the shootout round. Noe Melgar converted in the second round for Oakdale, and teammates Anthony Kocan and Bryce Fischer followed.
River Hill bested Roby with scores from Julian Elguera, Jed Dixon and Josh O’Brien tying the shootout at 3, with Oakdale’s Daniel Ivanov left against Sherlock for the final kick.
Ivanov placed his shot into the right corner and the Bears had their third state championship since 2014. That same year, River Hill claimed its last title (3A; defeated southern Maryland’s Huntingtown), capping its first undefeated season (18-0-1).
Shagogue felt for his senior class of Harris, Sherlock, Noah Wauls, Aashish Balani, Josh O’Brien, Alex Smedley, Will Vasilios and Will Tarpine.
“This is their last go-round. I wanted it so badly for them,” said Shagogue, who has 18 letter winners scheduled back next season. “It’s heartbreaking, but the relationships, the ups-and-downs. The positives far outweigh the negatives.”
CLASS 2A BOYS SOCCER STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
at Loyola University/Ridley Athletic Complex
Oakdale 1, No. 1 River Hill 1 (Oakdale wins 4-3 in PKs)
River Hill 0 1 0 0 – 1
Oakdale 1 0 0 0 – 1
Goals: River Hill – Harris; Oakdale – Daiger
Saves: River Hill – Sherlock 3; Oakdale – Roby 4