Rines' Title Hunt Claims its First Prey
After thrashing Damascus 6-0, Watkins Mill hosts Urbana on Thursday night in the Maryland 3A West semifinal.
Watkins Mill boys’ soccer launched its chase for a first-ever championship in overwhelming fashion against Damascus, pouring in six goals while giving up hardly a shot.
The Wolverines forced the issue in Tuesday night's regional quarterfinal with a relentless pressure and a barrage of shots that goalkeeper Alex Werhle and the Damascus defense could fend the Wolverines off for only so long. Under the unflagging attack, the Damascus back line started to falter, missing chances to clear the ball and leaving Wolverines unmarked in dangerous positions.
Watkins Mill pounced on those breakdowns for their first two goals. Oscar Carcamo corralled a loose ball near the penalty spot in the 25th minute, pulled back to his right foot and put a lunging shot into the back of the net. Barely a minute later, William Yougnia found space deep in the Damascus defense, got off a shot that a defender deflected, another defender whiffed at and Angel Barrios buried for a 2-0 lead.
Maverick Amaya resumed the onslaught with his goal three minutes into the second half. Four minutes after that, Carcamo beat his defender along the sideline, and when no one stepped up with a challenge, carried the ball along the end line and ripped a low screamer from a wide angle that gave Watkins Mill a 4-0 lead and left Damascus’s defense dejected and distraught.
The fifth goal came with 14 minutes left thanks to Ismael Konate, who has seen major minutes since being called up from JV. The Wolverines’ offensive display was capped off by perhaps the prettiest goal of the game: With less than four minutes left, Nickolaye Douglas soared into the box on a corner kick, skied over earth-bound defenders and buried a gorgeous header into the upper 90.
Defensively, Watkins Mill had little problem containing star forward Yaw Amankwa, a memeber of the U.S. National team's player pool. Just as he did in their Oct. 21 match-up, Watkins Mill's Ariel Rodriguez ran step-for-step with the powerful striker all game long—and on the handful of occasions that Amankwa created a moment of space, Sergio Mosquera and Kedin Rodriguez were right there to shut the chance down.
Damascus’s defensive strategy took a similar tack against Watkins Mill’s leading scorer, William Yougnia. Brian Kolb and company kept Yougnia from scoring his 13th goal of the season, but the added attention helped free up more than enough room for the Wolverines to run roughshod through the Damascus defense. Oscar Carcamo—who has played with Yougnia up top for the past three years—took full advantage, posting the fourth and fifth goals of his senior season.
"[Yougnia] is a talented player and took some of our focus—maybe too much of our focus," said Damascus Coach Andre Wise. "Oscar was unmarked too many times, and to be the caliber of player he was tonight, that killed us."
From Day One, Watkins Mill Coach Jeff Heckert has told his team that the "real season" would start only with the playoffs. They’re playing a whole different brand now, keep getting better,
Watkins Mill has now outscored its last eight opponents 25-1, including a four-goal outburst against Seneca Valley and a five-goal goose-egg on a Northwest team ranked No. 8 in metro D.C. by the Washington Post—playing perhaps the best half of soccer Heckert said he has seen in years.
"I kept telling the team, 'If we get that one, the floodgate’s going to open,'" Heckert said. "You see the confidence rise, you see the pressure’s off you a little bit, and then our skills really come out."
They’ll need every bit of their best game when Urbana (13-3) comes to town for tomorrow’s regional semifinal. The Hawks beat Watkins Mill handily in the preseason, but the squad that takes the field 7 p.m. on Thursday night will bear resemblance in name and uniform only.
When the teams faced each other two months ago, junior Sergio Mosquera was only beginning to feel out his new role as the defensive anchor, and freshman Kedin Rodriguez—an every-game starter who has emerged as a quiet enforcer—wasn’t with the team yet. Heckert’s midseason tweaks put Patrick Pato (first team all-state last year) in a more defensive role in the midfield and pulled Ariel Rodriguez in to help bolster the back line.
The result: Not only have Watkins Mill’s last seven opponents failed to score, third-year goalie Rolando Alba has barely been tested during the stretch.
And they think they’re only getting started.
"We can get better," said Ariel Rodriguez. "Way better."
Tuesday’s playoff win wasn’t nearly enough. Nor would a win over Urbana. From this season’s outset, the team has had its sights set squarely on top-seeded Linganore—who dealt Watkins Mill a stinging defeat in last year’s regional final—and beyond.
For a squad loaded with nine seniors who know they have only one chance to make their mark in the record books, nothing less than a shot at a state title will suffice.
"It’s a veteran group. They know what’s at stake," Heckert said. "We have a focus right now, and we believe we’re able to play with anyone."