Maryland Exiles Win State
By Dan Soso
Maryland Exiles gut out a tough victory
The last time we played West Carroll, they were tough and physical and gave us all we could handle. The game came down to the final play and we won on the final play of the game. This time in the State Championship, we had to face the same team and ultimately it again came down to the final play of the game.
The team posted late for the final, and our team leaders found out sitting in cars is not the smart way to prep for a Maryland State Championship. WC were all over us, and we abandoned the patterns that had been so successful through our season. In the face of WC aggression, we panicked and gave up the ball on numerous occasions. WC scored two tries and one conversion on their way to a half time 0-12 lead.
At the half, it was time to do a lot of soul searching. Lots of lessons needed to be absorbed, as the team needed to process a way out total defeat. We acknowledged that we got off to a slow start because we weren't prepared, we understood that we had to listen to the referee set the off sides line, and we understood that we needed to go straight ahead to confront their line speed instead of running away from them.
Noah Lucas split the West Carroll defense shortly after the halftime start, by showing the ball and then cutting through the middle of the field. We continued to keep possession and build pressure through multiple phases of play. Our patience led to multiple penalties against WC and opportunities to score. WC's defense was outstanding and continued to deny us the winning try. In the final minute, we attacked through multiple phases towards the middle of the field. The referee went back to the original mark and stopped us from quickly tapping to warn WC about their high tackles. Francisco de la Lama took the ball and passed to Elijah Ruspi whom the opposition tried to tackle high. I thought that Edog had scored, and we would have the opportunity to kick a conversion to win or go into overtime and win there. I had no doubt that we would win in overtime. Instead it was a penalty try, and we were now up 14-12.
The game was not over yet! There were still 17 seconds left on the clock. The initial kickoff did not go 10. At the following scrum, we gave up a tighthead, and West Carroll made the most of the opportunity. They attacked our defense stretched us almost to the breaking point to the left. However, we were able to gain turnover ball and looked for a clearing kick to end the game. Noah Lucas gave the ball a towards touch where it hit a puddle and went splat -- it was anybody's ball.
Fortunately Rylan Wareham won to the footrace and kicked it into touch -- Game Over
Maryland Exiles State Champions
It is a just reward to all of you for your hard work and dedication. It was a bitter pill to swallow for a West Carroll team that were very tough and worthy opponents. It didn't happen without a lot of help: from the players that didn't see A side action, coaches Mark Cohen and Brian Lopes who never missed a practice, Inaki Basauri, George Tolotu and Roland Pratt who shared their international experiences with our team, as well as Max Cohen and Tristan McAlister who shared their youth and enthusiasm with the team and helped us in the beginning of the season.
Keep the faith, work hard, and you guys will forever be Maryland Exiles.