River Hill striker Justin Hughes said he remembers going to soccer games when he was 8 or 9 years old to watch Bill Stara coach.
Yesterday at Atholton, he was part of a milestone, 300th victory for Stara as No. 1-ranked River Hill defeated the Raiders, 5-1.
"He's a great coach who always knows what to say at the right time," Hughes said. "It was a special day, although he didn't want to make a big deal of 300.
"He told us before the game that he didn't want it to overshadow what the team is trying to do. But there was a different feeling today. We were playing for something bigger and helping to build a River Hill tradition."
That tradition already includes three state titles in Stara's first six seasons at the school.
Hughes, second-team All-Metro last season, scored River Hill's fourth goal in the 46th minute off a pass from David Adams. Hughes' volley from the right side caught Atholton goalkeeper Austin McAfee leaning the wrong way.
The Hawks (5-0-1 overall, 2-0 Howard County) scored their first goal in the ninth minute when Mo Hamzeh took a through ball from Michael Stromberg and, going one-on-one with a late-charging Mc-- Afee, pushed the ball past him into the goal.
"[River Hill] came to play today," said Atholton sweeper Jerome DeFrances, who scored his team's only goal on a 35-yard direct kick in the 67th minute. It was just the second goal River Hill has allowed this season.
"The 300th must have got them pumped up," DeFrances said. "We just couldn't hang with them. They ran us all over the place. They are an outstanding team, and I don't see anyone coming close to them."
Jeremy Smith made it 2-0 in the 25th minute by volleying in a cross from Victor Argueta from 3 yards. Smith also scored the Hawks' fifth goal late in the game on a soft shot from in front.
Stara, who was doused with water from the team's tall thermal container after the win, was pleased with the Hawks' play.
"We strung together 12 straight passes from the opening whistle without them touching the ball, and got off a shot," he said. "We played some of the best soccer I've seen. When we're focused, we come to play. I guess No. 300 might have had something to do with how they played, but I wanted them to play well just to get better and to stay the No. 1 team."