UPPER MARLBORO — Leading 2-1 after Zachary Wittlinger’s goal on a penalty kick two minutes into overtime, Grace Christian Academy looked to be in good position to wrap up Saturday night’s Maryland Independent Schools Athletic League boys soccer championship.
However, sophomore Henderson Rodriguez saved Takoma Academy’s season when he delivered the game-tying goal in the closing seconds of the first extra period.
In the final moments of the second overtime, senior David Miongo dribbled through several defenders and nailed a shot at the top of the box past senior goalkeeper Elisha Walker to lead the Tigers of Montgomery County to a 3-2 comeback victory over the Knights at Riverdale Baptist School in Prnce George’s County.
“We had the lead early in the second half and we slacked off a little bit, but it was either go hard or go home, so we came back and in the end I was able to put one away for the team,” Miongo said. “I wanted to give it my all and I trust my teammates. Henderson’s goal was the biggest when he tied the game up. I’m glad he put it home and executed.”
It was Takoma’s first MISAL crown since the 2013 season.
Before Saturday’s anticipated MISAL final, Takoma (10-2-1 overall) split the regular season series with Grace Christian (11-5-2).
“For the program, this was huge for us,” Takoma head coach Brian Brown said. “This shows that we are growing as a soccer program and are staying together as a community. We battled tonight and we never gave up. We wanted this championship.”
A defensive battle in the first half led to a scoreless game at halftime.
Six minutes into the second half, the scoring drought was broken as Rodriguez assisted Mendel Baldwin, who headed the shot into the back of the net.
Later in regulation, the Knights sent all 11 players to the box and Wittlinger connected on the game-tying header that came from a corner kick from Brady Tippett.
“We never thought that we were down. We kept playing hard and we had a mission to win. We just came up short,” said Wittlinger, a junior.
“Hats off to Takoma. They are a very fast team and I give them all the love and respect they played a hard game and I appreciate their competition,” Grace head coach Dan Perotta said. “Unfortunately, I wish the game could have went the other way, but we were able to get that goal late in the second half to give ourselves a chance.
Perotta, whose Knights defeated Riverdale Baptist in Thursday’s semifinal matchup 2-1, had a strong run in the MISAL this season considering that they had a very youthful team.
“If you look at are team on paper, we had no business being in the championship. We only had two seniors out on the field and all the rest sophomores, juniors and a couple freshmen, so it was a miracle that we were even out here, Perotta said. “Tonight we had opportunities and we got breaks. We were the No. 1 seed over all in the MISAL tournament. No one expected us to make it all the way to the championship game. At the end of the day I was proud of our effort and grateful to coach these guys.”
Walker finished with 13 saves on the night to keep the Knights in the game. Takoma had 16 shots on goal in the contest.
“I think that I can stop every shot when I’m in the box,” Walker said. “I’ve never seen this much passion on one team like we played with. Zach scoring the goal on that header was big for us to keep to force overtime.”
Takoma goalkeeper Darien Roberts had a game-high 16 saves in the game.Monday, Grace returned to action and again it was another thriller as it picked up a 4-3 home win in overtime over Salisbury Christian of Wicomico County in the Maryland Christian Schools Tournament.
Aaron Ensminger led the Knights with two goals, while Daniel Goepner and Wittlinger each scored one goal. Walker had 14 saves in the win.
Grace is scheduled to play at Mount Airy Christian of Carroll County in the next round this week.