Throughout Friday night’s match between Walter Johnson and Thomas S. Wootton — a battle of the two remaining undefeated high school boys’ soccer teams in Montgomery County — Wootton successfully limited Jeremy Ebobise’s touches with his left foot.
That was the part of the Patriots’ tactical strategy coming in, and for roughly 60 minutes of scoreless soccer, it was working.
In the 62nd minute, however, Ebobise managed to find the ball on his left foot with an opportunity to score.
The sophomore standout adjusted to a deflection of a through ball played by Rodrigo Villordo, created space for himself on the right side of the box and released a pristine left-footed blast from a sharp angle that curled high into the top left corner of the net to give Walter Johnson a 1-0 victory against Wootton on its home field.
“The ball was a little bit behind me [after the deflection]. I had to get it on a half turn to get it back facing toward the goal,” Ebobise said. “I’m satisfied that it was the perfect shot from me. They always say, ‘force him to his right,’ but soccer players need to be two-footed.”
Ebobise immediately ran toward his bench and was mobbed by his teammates after scoring his third of the season.
“That’s one of those where you just drop your jaw and there’s nothing to say,” Wildcats coach Mike Johnson said.
An energetic crowd on both sides helped fuel the match as Ebobise and Walter Johnson goalkeeper Ben Meyers — both of whom have been hurt for extended periods of time this season — said the Wootton cheering section motivated them.
“I’ve never had fans like that from an opposing team. That was insane. They motivated me,” Meyers said. “I give all the credit to my defense. They were insane. Especially Kyle [Madden] and Adam [El Hamti], they were really good.”
The first half was dominated by Wootton as Walter Johnson managed only one shot. The Patriots, on the other hand, attempted seven shots in the first half, two of which tested the limits of Meyers. Meyers and his backline withstood the onslaught as the county’s highest-scoring team couldn’t find an opening and now has been held scoreless for more than 180 minutes.
In the second half, Williams shifted Ebobise to center midfield after he started on the wing and the results were favorable. Walter Johnson caught up in the possession battle and generated seven shots to Wootton’s eight.
“That was huge. We’ve been wanting that. After [Ebobise’s] injury, we tried to get him back in shape and it wasn’t the time to put him there. Now he’s getting closer to being in shape and it changed things quite dramatically,” Williams said.
Perhaps Wootton’s best chance to score came in the seventh minute when a free kick led to a bouncing ball in the box that forward Jared Nozick sent on goal, but Meyers was there for the stop.
“Sometimes you don’t win great games, but they’re still great games,” Wootton coach Doug Schuessler said. “I thought our tactics were exceptionally well-executed by our boys in the first half. I thought we created some exceptional chances. For 40 minutes, we did everything we hoped to do, but the chances that were there, we didn’t finish.”
In the 78th minute, Nozick was shown a straight red when his cleat caught Meyers underneath the eye while Meyers was holding the ball on the ground.
Meyers came out of the game and was replaced by defender Max Vanegas. Vanegas handled the ball once, successfully, before Meyers reentered to finish the match.
“At every position, they’re strong,” Williams said of Wootton. “I think they’re the most complete team we’ve seen.”
Walter Johnson 1, Thomas S. Wootton 0
Thomas S. Wootton (7-1-1) 0 0 — 0
Walter Johnson (8-0-0) 0 1 — 1
Walter Johnson — Jeremy Ebobise (62’)
Walter Johnson — Rodrigo Villordo (62’)