From ball­boy to goal scorer

Ekebo nets three goals as Thomas Stone boys roll over Patux­ent

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By MICHAEL REID mreid@somd­news.com

The last time Patux­ent faced Thomas Stone Is­sac Ekobo was the ball­boy. The Pan­thers wish he had been again.

Ekobo scored three goals to pace the vis­it­ing Cougars to a 5-3 win over Patux­ent in a Class 2A South Re­gion Sec­tion I semi- fi­nal matchup Tues­day night.

The third-seeded Cougars (8-8 over­all) will travel to La Plata, the top seed, to face the War­riors at 5 p.m. Fri­day in the sec­tion fi­nal. La Plata de­feated Calvert in the eighth round of penalty kicks to ad­vance.

“It was def­i­nitely a tough game, but we played well as a team. Our whole team was just work­ing to­gether,” Stone cap­tain Aaron Saliek said. “We just work as a team and that’s what helps us win these games. We played pretty good I thought.”

The Cougars grabbed a 2-0 lead in the 27th minute and nev- er trailed. Each of Ekobo’s goals gave Stone a two-goal lead. Ekobo trans­ferred to Stone from a school in France af­ter last year’s soc­cer sea­son and spent the first half of this sea­son wait­ing for his pa­per work.

“I’m lucky I guess. It’s hard

work and de­ter­mi­na­tion, that’s the key,” said Ekobo, who also net­ted three goals in the Cougars’ pre­vi­ous game, a 7-0 win over sixth-seeded West­lake in the sec­tion quar­ter­fi­nals. “I don’t know what to say. It was a tough game so we were play- ing hard and so were my team- mates, and the other team too. My team was just awe­some; I’m so proud of my team.”

The se­cond-seeded Pan­thers (6-7) re­ceived a bye in the sec- tion quar­ter­fi­nals.

“I was very dis­ap­pointed in how we played and the boys will tell you the same thing,” Patux-

ent head coach Paul Gray said. “We had a cou­ple weeks off, no ex­cuse, and we just didn’t play with our in­ten­sity. We just didn’t push for­ward enough. A lot of our play was around the out­side. Stone had a lot of guys in the back, and they were counter-at­tack­ing and they took ad­van­tage of their op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

“We just never played like that,” Patux­ent se­nior co-cap­tain Ar­ley Shep­herd said. “I don’t know where that came from. I just didn’t ex­pect that. They just

got a cou­ple lucky breaks. It re­ally hurts.”

Stone grabbed the lead in the 19th minute when Alec Hart’s hard shot trick­led past Patux­ent goal­keeper Brian King (6 saves). Eight min­utes later, Ekobo net­ted his first of the game when he picked the cor­ner on a par­tial break­away.

“That was amaz­ing,” Stone head coach Tom Parker said, “be­cause we hadn’t had a whole lot of suc­cess [tak­ing the lead] lately.”

“Since we got the first two goals it boosted ev­ery­one’s con­fi­dence and made ev­ery­one play bet­ter,” Saliek said.

The goal was the first of three — one by Patux­ent’s Evan Di- nopou­los and one by Stone’s An­tone Perry — over the next four min­utes and the Cougars headed into half­time with a 3-1 ad­van­tage.

Once again, Patux­ent closed

to within a goal when Dinopou­los scored his se­cond of the game on a penalty kick in the 48th minute, but Ekobo rees- tab­lished the two-goal mar­gin just three min­utes later when he sent a shot just in­side the right post while fall­ing to the turf.

Patux­ent again drew to within a goal when Hunter Dixon took as through­ball and beat keeper Alex Richards (9 saves) in the 67th minute, but Ekobo com- pleted the hat trick mo­ments later.

“When we got that penalty kick we had mo­men­tum, but they came back two min­utes lat- er with an­other one,” Gray said. “It was just one of those things where as a coach you’re on the side­line and you think, ‘What are we go­ing to do to change things?’ We just weren’t click­ing tonight. It was just un­for­tu­nate.”

“I think we just kind of un­der­es­ti­mated them think­ing it would be an easy win and it wasn’t,” Dinopou­los said. “We just weren’t think­ing right, we were stupid.”

Patux­ent will lose eight se­niors to grad­u­a­tion, though Gray was able to give sev­eral sopho­mores sig­nif­i­cant play­ing time through­out the sea­son.

“I wasn’t sure what my ex­pec­ta­tions were at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, but af­ter the first cou­ple of days I started to think we could re­ally be some­thing,” Gray said. “We played very well at the end of the sea­son, and to come out here and not play well tonight it’s very frus­trat­ing.”

“It was a great sea­son,” said Shep­herd, who plans to ma­jor in math or en­gi­neer­ing.

STAFF PHOTO BY MICHAEL REID

Patux­ent’s Danny Robles, left, and Stone’s An­tone Perry fight for the ball in Tues­day’s Class 2A South Re­gion sec­tion semi­fi­nal. The Cougars elim­i­nated the Pan­thers 5-3.

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