There obviously was no way for Thomas S. Wootton High School boys soccer coach Doug Schuessler to know for sure whether his team was a state championship contender before the season started, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have an inkling.
“During preseason, we felt like this was a possibility,” said Schuessler, who completed his 15th year at the helm. “You can never assume anything or think that you’re going to do it because there are just too many variables that come into play.”
Variables, sure, but there also was a defining game. Wootton’s 9-0 victory against Bowie, the defending state champs, on Sept. 8 during which forward Matt Hoy scored five first-half goals, served a serious turning point, philosophically at least.
“The boys were so pumped up to play that game,” Schuessler said. “We went out there and Matt Hoy scored in about the third minute, then the eighth minute, then the 12th minute. At that point, you realized we have the potential not just to beat anybody, but to take them out of their game.”
Little more than two months later, the Patriots stood in a straight line on the turf field at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and accepted their plaques after winning the first boys soccer state title in school history, having completely taken Severna Park out of their game en route to a 3-1 victory.
Leading scorer Matt Hoy — who finished with 26 goals and recorded a goal and an assist in Friday’s match — sat contemplatively in the media room following the victory, peeling the sticker off the back of his trophy. Seniors Spiros Tsakos, Sam Summerlin and junior Matt McDonnell sat to his left, all grasping for words to describe the magnitude of the moment.
“I think we started off a little lousy,” said Tsakos, who scored the game’s first goal. “Once we put that goal in, we got some type of momentum. A game is a game. People can score, so I guess we just put it in and we know what we could do.”
After beginning the game, as they did every playoff match, with a huddle chant of “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose,” Wootton applied constant pressure and dominated play, especially in the second half.
Throughout those final 40 minutes an observer unaware of the score would have thought the Patriots were the team trailing by a goal. Wootton constantly was the aggressor and maintained possession. Severna Park’s only shot of the second half came in the closing seconds as Wootton’s backline — often lost in the shuffle on such a prolific offensive side — orchestrated one of its best efforts of the year.
“We just played our game. And by playing our game we shut them down,” Summerlin said. “We’ve got very good outside backs that defend. Overall, our backline worked pretty well.”
As the busses were preparing to take Wootton back home, Schuessler stood in the hallway. His assistant coaches Robert Askin and Ron Gallant stood next to him.
“After 15 years, we finally broke through and we did it,” Schuessler said. “Robert and Ron, we’ve been together 11 of those 15 years. The players are all such good friends and I think the same thing’s true for us as coaches. You’d have to have a fist fight to figure out who’s happier for who right now.”