UPPER MARLBORO – Eleanor Roosevelt’s Baxter Hamilton did not feel ready to go through another penalty kick shootout.
Being upset with his play and along with having some nerves, he decided against being one of the penalty kick takers. However, as the shootout against the Northwestern Wildcats was still tied after five rounds, the striker knew he may have to take one to win the game.
“On all their shots, I just looked down and closed my eyes and wished for the best,” Hamilton said. “I knew, as soon as they missed it, where I was going to place it.”
The junior, whose role was slightly diminished this season due to injuries and the inclusion of forward Lovet Cheg, came up huge by hitting a low-driven shot inside the left post. Hamilton, filled with disbelief, hopped around the field and quickly hugged his goalkeeper, Jonathan Middour, before being smothered by his joyous teammates.
“I was just so happy that we won it,” Hamilton said. “(The celebration) was filled with enthusiasm, excitement, everything.”
Hamilton’s goal in the eighth round of the penalty kick shootout gave the Eleanor Roosevelt boys’ soccer team the victory over Northwestern to become back-to-back 4A South Regional Champions in front of a lively crowd at Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School. Roosevelt will now play Walter Johnson High School in the state semifinals on Nov. 12 at Wise.
Roosevelt battled for 100 scoreless minutes against a Northwestern team that survived the wild card round of the bracket and played in two penalty kick shootouts before making it to the finals. The Wildcats defeated one of the No.1 seeded teams in the playoffs, Parkdale, in the regional semifinals on Nov. 4, but were seen as underdogs to their more accomplished foes.
Northwestern was the aggressor early, keeping the ball in the Raiders’ territory for most of the first 20 minutes and filtering passes forward to create open opportunities. Striker Francisco Canton Solorzano and midfielder Linuel Tebit had early chances to give the Wildcats an early lead, but both of their shots sailed wide from the goalposts.
“In the first 20 minutes, I thought we were heading home with a three-to-four goal difference on us,” Roosevelt Head Coach George Kallas said. “I give credit to the guys, they got themselves together, they kept their act together, kept going and did not quit.”
“I guess our luck ran out,” Northwestern Head Coach Victor Ramirez said. “It is what it is. We had our opportunities to put it away early, but that’s what happens when you are given those opportunities. You have to put it away. If not, they come back to haunt you. And it came back and haunt us.”
Roosevelt quickly bounced back as Hamilton outran the Wildcat backline for a quick shot. However, Northwestern goalkeeper William Benitez rushed off the line to make one of his four saves.
Early in the second half, an attempted trick free kick freed Captain Francisco Leon in the middle of the penalty area for a volley shot, however, Leon slammed the ball over the crossbar.
With all the pressure mounting, Northwestern continued to play its quick-passing style against Roosevelt's physicality and the strategy produced seven total shots, four of them on-target. Solorzano had a chance to take the lead late in the second half after a quick volley from a chipped pass, but it was denied by Middour.
While only 25 combined foul calls were made, both teams had tense and heated exchanges that went uncalled. Leon was tackled from behind with less than 10 minutes to go inside the Wildcat penalty area, but no foul call or penalty kick was given on the play. Leon was carried off and did not play for the rest of the game, possibly re-aggravating a previous hip injury, according to Kallas.
In the penalty kick rounds, Benitez saved sophomore Dennis Milijkovic’s shot, sending shockwaves to both benches. The junior goalkeeper also converted a penalty in the fourth round, putting the Wildcats on the brink of victory. However, two out of next three attempts by Northwestern sailed over the net or hit the crossbar, leaving Roosevelt a chance to win.
“Not many people expected us to get out of the wild card (round),” Benitez said. “For next year, we got to concentrate on executing opportunities we get. Next year, I just want to win something. Not many people get the opportunity to do so that’s what I really want, more than anything else.”
County Notes: Patterson Mill defeated International High School at Langley Park, 6-0, to become 1A North Regional champions in the first game of the tripleheader at Wise High School on Nov. 8. In its first complete varsity soccer season, International finished the regular season 8-3 and was one of the No.1 seeds in the 1A North region bracket.
Opened in August 2015, International, a new high school that helps immigrant students with limited English language skills advance their educational opportunities, is located on Annapolis Road in Bladensburg.