There is no more exciting way to end a state championship game. Golden goal. One team elated, the other devastated.
The Maryland 4A boy’s soccer state championship between west regional champs Walter Johnson and south regional champs Bowie exceeded all expectations. Bowie was able to claim its 9th state soccer championship with a dramatic 2-1 overtime victory at UMBC last night.
Meanwhile Walter Johnson watched its previously undefeated season disappear in less than 2 minutes.
However, it was the Wildcats who struck first and looked like the dominant team throughout the contest. Just over a minute into the game Walter Johnson won a throw-in deep in Bowie territory. Freshman Jeremy EbobisseEbolo delivered a long throw inside the six-yard box where senior Harrison Gibert and Bowie junior keeper Brady Mazzei challenged for the service. Mazzei struggled to deal with Gilbert and misjudged the ball, which sailed over both of their heads to senior Noah Sheetz-Ziegel won calmly headed the bouncing ball into the net for an early 1-0 lead.
Walter Johnson continued to have the better of the play and nearly doubled their lead in the 12th minute. Once again the chance came from another EbobisseEbolo long throw. This time his throw was met by junior Mateo Arenas-Rivero, who ripped an acrobatic volley off of the crossbar.
But Bowie’s defense would not budge. The Wildcats continued to attack the Bulldog’s back line, mostly through freshman playmaker GedionZelalem. Zelalem was involved in nearly every attack and was clearly pulling the strings in the midfield. He set up several dangerous opportunities, but Walter Johnson was not able to capitalize and went into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
The start of the second half was hardly different than the first. Walter Johnson continued to dominate possession and create scoring chances, but Bowie refused to give up, especially their keeper Mazzei.
After committing an error and conceding the early goal, Mazzei played lights out for the Bulldogs. Just 4 minutes into the second half, Walter Johnson broke down the right side of the field with a clever combination play between Sheetz-Ziegel and EbobisseEbolo. The result was a dangerous low cross into the box that Mazzei caught solidly to keep his team from going 2 goals behind.
Mazzei would be called upon again just 10 minutes later when Walter Johnson sprung junior Juan Ortiz past the defenders and onto a breakaway. Mazzei closed down Ortiz’s angle and forced the shot wide.
But Walter Johnson was not done creating scoring chances. With only 18 minutes to play in the game senior Gerry Madden played a clever through ball between the defense to Sheetz-Ziegel for another one-on-one opportunity with the keeper. Once again Mazzei made a terrific play and deflected Sheetz-Ziegel’s shot wide of the goal.
Those two enormous saves seemed to inspire and give life to the rest of the Bulldogs. They began feverishly attacking the Walter Johnson goal. Most of their chances came from long balls into the box in order to create havoc, but the Walter Johnson defense did just enough to keep Bowie off of the scoreboard.
With less than a minute remaining in regulation, Walter Johnson was awarded a free kick, which they sent deep into Bowie’s half of the field to try and run out the clock. Bowie gathered the clearance and launched the ball forward to try and create one last chance. The long ball from the midfield was delivered into the Walter Johnson penalty area, but was not cleared with conviction, and the ball bounced out to junior center back Bonaventure Akinlosuto won cracked a volley from 25 yards out over the keeper’s head and into the goal to tie the game with only 17 seconds remaining.
Walter Johnson was stunned, and Bowie had the momentum going into overtime.
Less than one minute into the first overtime Bowie capitalized on a communication error by the Walter Johnson defenders. Neither of the two defenders claimed an errant pass from the midfield and junior MoisesLazo jumped on the loose ball, split the defenders, and slotted the shot into the lower right corner of the net to give Bowie the win, and the state championship.