UPPER MARLBORO – Miguel Contreras Alfaro took a long gaze around the soccer field at Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School once the final whistle blew on Nov. 10. He slowly struggled to peel off his shin guards one-by-one before sitting back down on the ground, trembling with tears.
The captain for the Bladensburg High School boys soccer team reminisced over his final season in a flash and it pained him to know that it was final time he would play with his teammates. The striker needed assistance from a team manager and Head Coach Juliana Ocampos-Barry before walking off the field.
“I’ve been with this team for four years through the rough times to the big times,” Contreras said. “During the day, it is about the team but it is not like they are not family; my teammates are my family and they are everything to me and I wanted to give them everything I had.”
It was the end of a magical playoff run for the Mustangs, an underdog inside the tough 4A South of Prince George’s County. The regional champions took Urbana High School from Frederick County to their limit, matching them with possession and tactics. However, two first-half goals were enough for the Hawks to escape with a 2-0 win in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) Boys Soccer State Semifinals.
Bladensburg (10-5) was making its first appearance on the state semifinal stage since 2014 after beating previously undefeated Bowie 4-3 on Nov. 6 for the regional championship.
The stunning win brought in excitement to the usually composed camp that may have brought on nerves in the opening minutes of their state semifinal game, Ocampos-Barry said.
The Mustangs faced an experienced Urbana side (17-2) who won the 4A state championship two times in the last five years.
The Hawks scored right away, three minutes into the game, as freshman midfielder Max Riley received a quick pass from striker Ryan Herman, quickly turned around and fired a 20-yard shot that sailed past senior goalkeeper Salia Hinwaii.
“He has been great for us this year and hitting shots like that a lot (this season),” Captain and midfielder Lucas Roberton said about his freshman teammate. “Getting one early like that is a big thing to bring your confidence up and reminds your guys that we are in this game.”
Bladensburg attempted to fight back right away two minutes after the Urbana goal as striker Shaku Wagay hit a header towards goal after a rebound but the ball landed straight into goalkeeper Parker Sherrill’s hands. In the 20th minute, Contreras collected a loose ball inside the penalty area and struck a one-time shot on goal but the shot was quickly saved. Meanwhile, Hinwaii made save after save on the other end, denying several Hawk attackers.
In the 38th minute, a controversial call was made by the game officials as Hinwaii slid down to retrieve a loose ball. Riley attempted to chase the ball down but the goalkeeper punched the ball away. However, as the ball rolled away, Riley fell over top of the Mustang keeper, a penalty kick was awarded in favor of Urbana. Roberton converted the penalty, increasing the lead by two.
“I do not think that was a foul to be honest because I hit the ball as it came right to me,” Hinwaii, who finished with eight saves, said. “I touched the ball and it went out. He did not touch the ball.”
Bladensburg came out in the second half looking for different ways to score, including increasing their play on the wings. Sophomore Dylan Portillo’s header goal off a free kick would have brought the deficit down one but the shot was nullified by an offside call.
Urbana would shut down several shooting opportunities from developing defensively and kept possession of the ball for the majority of the second half to hold on to their two-goal lead.
“I could not be more proud of our guys and I thought they played their hearts out,” Ocampos-Barry said. “Sometimes, it just does not go your way.”
“Bladensburg is a very determined team; our coach (Scott Schartner) told us they would be the most determined team we would play all year,” Roberton said. “So I was happy with how we carried ourselves and played through all the pressure.”
As the game ended, several Mustang players cried but muscled their way to the bleachers to thank their classmates, friends and family who travelled to support their state semifinal journey.
While the team will go on next season without seven seniors, Contreras hopes that the experience of winning regionals and making it one step closer to a state final will motivate the younger players to continue the growing soccer tradition at Bladensburg.
“This was a tough loss and the emotions just hit you right way but I love my brothers and I love what we achieved,” Contreras said. “We made it to a place that nobody thought we could because we played with heart… I hope next year, they do what we did now and never quit until the final whistle blows.”