BOWIE – Freshman Michael Adekanmbi calls it a “natural chemistry” that he has developed with his fellow strikers, seniors Isaiah Price and Justin John-Longbah.
Bowie High School Boys’ Soccer Head Coach Frantz Deetjen calls them a “three-headed monster.”
The trio known as “J.I.M.,” in reference to their first names, have been wreaking havoc on their opponents this season. The group scored 37 of Bowie’s 49 goals this year and helped lead the team to 10 regular season wins and a county championship. However, a state title is the ultimate goal for the Bulldogs.
Bowie is now one step closer to fulfilling its mission after defeating arch-rival Eleanor Roosevelt, 3-1, in the regional semifinals of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) state playoffs.
After an hour delay for kickoff, it only took six minutes for Bowie to take an advantage. A deep throw-in into the penalty area by senior Noah Wright found John-Longbah, whose header shot beat Roosevelt goalkeeper Jonathan Middour for the opening goal of the match and marked his 15th tally of the season.
The early lead motivated the Bulldogs’ attack to continue pressing the Raiders’ defense.
“As long we set the tone, we will forever be unstoppable,” Deetjen said. “Whenever we have the opportunities, you will hear the boys say, ‘secure the bag,’ and that is what (John-Longbah) did by putting us up on the scoreboard early, and from there, we just kept pounding.”
The Bulldogs continued to attack aggressively, with midfielders Wright and sophomore Jesus Sosa spraying passes to their trio of strikers.
Minutes following the first goal, Adekanmbi struck a loose, free ball following back-to-back Middour saves to notch his fifth goal this year. The freshman impressed coaches during the preseason and has fit in well in the veteran-filled lineup.
“It was chaotic in the box,” Adekanmbi said about the situation leading up to his goal. “I calmed down and focused on getting it on target because if it is, anything can happen. Luckily for me, I scored.”
Miscommunication between the Raider defense led to an own goal midway through the second half, giving the Bulldogs the three-goal cushion before halftime.
Despite the deficit, Roosevelt (4-4-2) continued to battle in the second half. Five of its seven shots came after halftime as the Raiders switched to a three-striker formation and moved captain Alex Pagan up to add more attack power.
Bowie goalkeeper Timothy Mangen attempted to keep his sheet clean after making three consecutive diving saves, including one off a scissor-kick volley inside the 6-yard goal area by Roosevelt senior striker Baxter Hamilton.
The Raiders finally capitalized in the 72nd minute after Pagan’s 35-yard free kick found a diving Hamilton for his seventh goal of the season. However, as the referee’s whistle blew for full-time, it was the close of Roosevelt’s three-year reign as regional champions and a three-game winning streak in the state playoffs over Bowie.
“We didn’t care about the score at that point,” Pagan said. “We just wanted to play and leave it all out on the field. We planned to get the ball up (field) and shoot. We got one, but we could have had way more, but it is what it is.”
Bowie will face Laurel, who the Bulldogs defeated 3-2 on Oct. 9, in the regional finals. Bowie has lost to just one county team all season, but they will need to fix their foul issues before playing the Spartans.
Deetjen said his team must continue setting the tone from the start of the match and scoring early to continue progressing forward in the state playoffs.
Meanwhile, John-Longbah said the Bulldogs are getting hot at the right time.
“Our confidence is rising, and we are getting better as a team,” he said. “Part one is done, and we are almost there at the state championships.”
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