Howard County rivals battle to a double-overtime draw in Columbia

Kofi Bonsu of Wilde Lake hit what River Hill coach Matt Shagogue called an “unsavable shot,” off a free kick in the second half, to help the Wildecats claim a 2-2 draw with the Hawks.

by Nelson Coffin

Although a tie is not the most satisfying result for any team to embrace, in the case of the key Howard County boys soccer showdown between Wilde Lake and River Hill on Tuesday night in Columbia, it seemed almost fitting.

It was one of those matches — between teams boasting a combined 14-0-3 record — with an abundance of momentum swings, pivotal plays and end-to-end action that commanded rapt attention from players, coaches and fans alike.

For one thing, the 2-2 double-overtime deadlock keeps both teams in the hunt for a Howard County championship and also augers well for a drama-filled rematch in the upcoming Class 2A regional playoffs.

Having said all that, River Hill coach Matt Shagogue said that he felt his team lost the match, even though he played a man down for the final 24 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime after junior defender Julian Elguera was given a red card.

“It feels like a loss,” Shagogue said. “I thought we were the better team. But when you lose a player like Julian in the back, it impacts your team greatly.”

Wilde Lake coach Trevor Shea felt that his team, which hasn’t claimed a county crown since 2010, was a little more upbeat about the outcome.

After all, the Wildecats were trailing, 2-1, at halftime and needed a big push in the second half to draw even.

“It took a lot of talking at halftime,” Shea said about erasing the memory of last year’s OT loss to the Hawks. “We told them that nobody is going to feel sorry for us and that we needed to show that we can play with these guys, and that we can play with anybody in the state.”

It didn’t feel that way in the early going because River Hill had the better of play for the first 40 minutes, despite giving up only their second goal of the year to Wilde Lake senior co-captain Jack Swain in the 28th minute off a corner kick.

Swain bounced the ball just inside the far post to give the opportunistic Wildecats an early 1-0 advantage on just their second shot of the game.

Earlier, River Hall almost found the net in the third minute when senior midfielder Justin Harris’ bounced a shot that was denied by diving junior keeper Gabrial Viteri.

And Elguera just missed on Harris free-kick feed shortly before Harris was pulled down barely inside the box and awarded a penalty kick with just over seven minutes remaining in the half.

Harris’ well-placed conversion knotted the score at 1-1 until the tie was broken less than five minutes later when, on a set piece, Harris found Elguera inside the box for a header and a 2-1 lead.

It stayed that way until a quick Wildecat counter attack earned a free kick when junior Ethan Shulgold was fouled just outside the box with 24 minutes remaining in regulation.

Kofi Bonsu lined up 21 yards in front of Hawks goalie Patrick Sherlock and struck a shot that was so perfect that the senior net-minder barely moved as the ball glanced off the bottom of the cross bar and ripped to the ground at a severe angle.

“That kid just made an unsaveable shot,” Shagogue said. “You have to give him credit.”

Bonsu said that he was the main player to take free kicks last season, but had been relieved of the job this season.

He said that he told Shulgold that he wanted to take the shot.

“All I had on my mind was that I wanted it to go in,” Bonsu said after scoring his fourth goal of the season. “We still have our optimism that we can win a state championship.”

So do the Hawks, who Shagogue said are still “in the driver’s seat,” for a county championship and have ambitions to go deep in the playoffs as well.

He said that he anticipates meeting the Wildecats again in postseason play.

“We didn’t give up any goals in the flow of play,” Shagogue said. “And the boys battled hard and played well.”

Wilde Lake will travel to Marriotts Ridge on Thursday for another big match while River Hill hosts Atholton the same day.

Pictured above: Wilde Lake junior Ethan Shulgold (right) and River Hall senior midfielder Justin Harris vie for possession of a 50-50 ball in Tuesday’s 2-2 tie.

RH 2 0 0 0 — 2
WL 1 1 0 0 — 2
Goals: RH-Justin Harris, Julian Elguera; WL-Jack Swain, Kofi Bonsu.
Assists: RH-Justin Harris.
Saves: RH-Patrick Sherlock 4; WL-Ethan Shulgold 7.