From ballboy to goal scorer
Ekebo nets three goals as Thomas Stone boys roll over Patuxent
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.
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.