Second-ranked Howard High laid claim to the area's No. 1 boys soccer ranking by edging top-ranked Oakland Mills, 3-2, last night before an overflow crowd of about 2,000 at Howard.
The victory gave Howard (6-0, 1-0 in the county) the respect it has been seeking since Oakland Mills (4-2, 0-1) lost to Bowie, 2-0, Sept. 17, and still remained No. 1.
In the Bowie game, three Oakland Mills starters -- Ryan Burke, Dan Bickell and Mike Fitzgibbons -- did not play due to a school suspension. They were supposed to have been suspended for 30 days, but after an appeal they rejoined the team Monday and all three started last night.
With about 9 minutes remaining, senior forward Steve Sietsema drilled a 17-yard shot off the carom from a missed header after Ryan Hudson's corner kick, for the game-winner.
Sietsema and Oakland Mills' Clint Peay both had a shot at the ball, but Sietsema managed to get more foot into it and blast it past goalie Tony Richmond. Sietsema had been hanging back on the corner kick as a safety valve.
"It was 2-2, and I didn't want to go in," he said. "I wanted to play it safe because I thought they were dominating. The ball came out, and I kind of mistrapped it. Clint Peay came up, and we both swung at the same time. It was a bad trap because I trapped it three yards in front of me. I was sure Clint would come up and clear it."
Sietsema's goal came about 4 minutes after Hudson scored from close in to tie the game at 2-2, after Oakland Mills had dominated the ball for much of the second half.
Hudson's goal also came after a corner kick when he was not the primary target.
"My roll was to make a run to the goalie and block him out of the play," he said. "Jon Armstrong headed it in, and it went right to me. I trapped it, and I was shielding the goalie. I just tapped it, and it went right in. He had no chance."
Richmond, the Oakland Mills goalie, had just made a spectacular diving save to stop a shot by Chris Smith as Howard began to apply pressure at the offensive end, having spent most of the second half on defense.
In the first 20 minutes of the second half, Oakland Mills controlled the ball and outshot Howard, 6-1.
"I was scared to death," Howard coach Rudy Storch said of that stretch. "They probably have a better team. Once they start rolling, it's hard to stop them. Fortunately, their momentum stopped, and we got it back."
Howard was also fortunate that Oakland Mills managed just one goal during that stretch. Wallace Chandler gave Oakland Mills a 2-1 lead when he sliced between two defenders and booted a short shot past goalie Joe Wilson at 9:00 into the second half.
It could have been worse, but defenders Jarrod Moreland and Armstrong both went to the mouth of the goal to stop shots that got past Wilson.
"We had to stop their dribbling," said Storch. "I think we did that all right. I think our organization beat them. We didn't panic, and I think that's what beat them."
Howard took the early lead when Josh Smith was credited with a goal. Smith was racing to the goal with the ball when Richmond charged out, but the ball took a high hop over Richmond and bounced into the net.
Oakland Mills tied it with 5:00 left in the half as Peay fired a left-footed shot into the right-hand corner of the net. Oakland Mills outshot Howard, 3-2, in the first half.
Howard will not have much time to savor its No. 1 ranking. The Lions host No. 8 Atholton Tuesday night and host No. 3 Centennial next Saturday afternoon.