Skipjacks stun unbeaten league-leader Howard, 2-1
Impressive win follows near misses against JuCo powers Essex, PG
WYE MILLS It wasn’t like the Skipjacks hadn’t provided the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference with sufficient warning.
Chesapeake College already had two near-misses against JuCo powers, holding their own in 1-0 men’s soccer losses to both CCBC-Essex and Prince George’s Community College. The Skipjacks (5-4-1 overall and league) carried through on their threat Friday afternoon, stunning previously undefeated Maryland JuCo leader Howard Community College, 2-1.
"When we’re healthy, we can play with anybody," said first-year head coach Mike Moulton, who has transformed a program that went 0-12 last season into a team seemingly capable of mounting a serious postseason run later this month. "That doesn’t mean we’re going to beat everybody, but we’re not going to get run off the field."
Chesapeake won despite being outshot by the talented Dragons, 23-8, thanks to an aggressive counter attack. That strategy allowed the Skipjacks to knock off a Howard team ranked eighth in the latest NJCAA Division III national poll.
"I told the guys we had to counter at every opportunity," said Moulton.
The first opportunity came late in the first half when leading scorer Mohamad Dajani slid a long pass to Diego Hernandez, who used a couple of moves to free himself for a left-footed shot that deflected off a defender’s foot and into the goal for a 1-0 lead.
"After that first goal, everybody was pumped up and ready to go again," said Skipjack Jake Windsor.
The Skipjacks stretched their lead to 2-0 early in the second half when Mike Turner scored off a Jake Williams feed. After Howard pulled back within a goal when Promise Ebinum scored with 20 minutes remaining, the Dragons pushed frantically for a tying goal that never came.
"They could take shots all day long, but their shots weren’t really effective," said Dajani. "They were sending long balls up field, dribbling and shooting, but most of them weren’t on target. Coach (Moulton) always tells us to keep them on frame (on goal) and make the most of our shots."
Chesapeake goalie Jordan Durner finished with seven saves as the Skipjacks notched what may have been the biggest regular-season victory in school history. Chesapeake also extended its current unbeaten streak to four games (3-0-1).
"We’ve played with more confidence after beating Catonsville and tying Harford, and the Allegany game (a 2-1, sudden-death triumph) gave us a huge boost," said Dajani.
Moulton said "every single player" contributed to the impressive win while noting particularly strong efforts from Ryan Wheat, who moved from midfield to defense and was "absolutely superb," and Pat Hambleton’s "excellent defense" after shifting to center back.
The one continuing concern for the relatively thin Skipjacks is injuries. Josh Plugge missed Friday’s game with a knee injury, and Dajani is still recovering from a hamstring injury that played a key role in a pair of lopsided losses to Hagerstown Community College and the College of Southern Maryland during a four-game losing streak.
"My only concern is that we’re still struggling with injuries," said Dajani. "Howard had something like 23 players losing two or three players is nothing to them. With us, losing anyone especially a key player makes a huge impact."
The Skipjacks, who set a preseason goal of a winning season, can achieve that goal this week. They host Delaware Tech/Terry Campus (9-5) Monday at 4 p.m. and Cecil College (1-10, 1-8) Wednesday at 3 p.m. and a sweep of those games would guarantee a winning season.
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