After three consecutive trips to state semifinals, Patterson Mill finally breaks through for first state championship (VIDEO HERE!)
by Gary Adornato
Instead of the usual giddy celebration which follows many state championship victories, the leaders of the Patterson Mill High boys soccer team were quite subdued during their post-game press conference, Saturday afternoon at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex.
There was certainly joy earned from their impressive 3-0 win over Loch Raven in the Class 1A boys state championship game, but senior Andrew Papageorgopoulos expressed a different emotion.
After three consecutive trips to the 1A state semifinals and their second straight appearance in the state final, the Huskies (14-3 overall) finally reached the pinnacle and Papageorgopoulos kept his side focused on the goal.
“Coming into the game, I told everybody to remember how it felt last year, being on the other side,” said Papageorgopoulos, who scored his team’s second goal. “Everybody remembers how that feels, so we just battled through and got the job done.”
The two teams knocked the ball around for the first 10 minutes of the contest with neither creating any advantages. Over the next 15 minutes, however, Patterson Mill had the better of it, creating five corner kick opportunities and the first two shots on goal.
Then, in the 26th minute, the Huskies broke the ice.
Junior Eric Neutzling fired a cross into the box from the right side and senior Zach Hebb met it with a diving header to beat Loch Raven goalkeeper Brendan Hegberg and give Patterson Mill a 1-0 lead.
“I honestly don’t remember diving,” said Hebb. “It was my first instinct and I just dove. As soon as I got up everyone was screaming and yelling. I looked at the goal and the ball was in the net. I was like, ‘I did that.’”
The sight was nothing new for Huskies’ head coach Wes Rich.
“I’ve coached Zach, even before high school, and he scores some crazy goals,” said Rich. “He does. Even years ago, he just has a knack for the goal and, as he showed, he’s willing to run through balls and defenders and do whatever it takes to get the ball in frame.”
The Huskies continued to press and had a potential second goal negated by a hand ball violation. Undaunted, Patterson Mill kept up the pressure and finally created the 2-0 spread with a low left-footed blast from Papageorgopoulos, 2:11 before intermission. The shot came from about 25 yards, from the right of goal, and it nestled inside the near post.
The Huskies saved their most spectacular work for the game-clincher, with 18:12 to play. Hebb, dribbling toward the right corner, with a defender in tow, twisted right and then spun back toward the goal to hit a laser cross. Senior Christian Shertzer rose up to meet it, heading a shot high off the far post and the ball caromed into the goal.
The Huskies created several other dangerous opportunities and their sustained pressure and defensive effort were so relentless that Loch Raven (12-7-1) never put a single shot on goal.
“The strategy for every game was the same,” said Rich. “We want to mark up tight in the back and play quick in our half; play two to three touches in our half, not lose balls in the middle of the field and spread the other team out.”
Rich also reflected on finally achieving the state championship goal.
“It was a dream season. The wins are great, but just in terms of the kids having fun, everybody getting along and we had no drama, we had no issues. It was just the best run and it has a lot to do with the senior class we had this year.”
Unlike Patterson Mill, Loch Raven had won state championships in its past. The Raiders won three (1974, 1975, 1977) in four years in the mid seventies and then waited 32 years to win their fourth in 2009.
However, this was an underdog squad which made a great run through the playoffs, including an overtime win over Sparrows Point, Loch Raven’s rival and the 2017 1A state champs.
At the end of the day, Raider coach Matt Raddebaugh said Patterson Mill won because of its superior physical abilities.
“Coming into this game we knew we had to play physical,” said Reddebaugh. “In the semifinal, Patterson Mill beat up Mountain Ridge pretty easily. We were unable to meet their level of physicality. We had a couple of chances in the second half, but couldn’t put any away.”
Loch Raven leading scorer Reice Thuerrach, who came in with 13 goals, said his squad just didn’t have enough opportunities.
“They were playing stopper-sweeper,” said Thuerrach. “It’s pretty hard when we don’t get a lot of possessions to break down a defense like that. I feel like if we would have held possession more, we could have gotten a lot more opportunities.”
Loch Raven senior defender Cal Hagen expressed no regrets.
“I’m proud of the team, always have been,” said Hagen. “It’s been my family for four years now. We work hard every day. All of our hard work got us to this big stage. We needed a little more there, but no matter what the result was, I was going to be happy.”
1A BOYS SOCCER STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
(at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex)
PATTERSON MILL 3, LOCH RAVEN 0
PM 2 1 — 3
LR 0 0 — 0
GOALS: PM-Zach Hebb, Andrew Papageorgopoulos, Christian Shertzer.
ASSISTS: PM-Eric Neutzling, Hebb.
SAVES: PM-Zach Fenlock 0; LR-Brendan Hegberg 4.