BALTIMORE – With eight seconds left, Walt Whitman High School sophomore goalkeeper Austin Mboijana made a diving save on a free kick, allowing the Vikings celebration to begin in earnest. Whitman was leading 3-1 and had put together an all-around solid performance. As the clock hit zero, Mboijana’s teammates sprinted toward him, creating a mob as they celebrated a second straight state championship.
On a near-freezing night on Nov. 16, Walt Whitman was once again hoisting the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 4A state championship trophy, this time after a 3-1 win over Leonardtown High School at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex.
“The experience of being a part of two state championship-winning teams, I was on varsity for two years and we won state championships both years, has been the best time of my life,” senior midfielder Aaron Gunther said. “…We’ve been working and working and working leading up to this moment. It’s been a journey and I’m really happy with how it’s ended up.”
Whitman (17-1-1) put together back-to-back titles for the second time in program history, having already won consecutive titles in 1996 and 1997. Current Head Coach Dave Greene was also the head coach for both of those titles as well. With this year’s crown, he has now won seven of the Vikings’ 11 state championships.
After winning its first state championship since 2014 last year, Walt Whitman once again did not lose a game to Maryland competition. The Vikings’ only loss the last two years was to New Jersey’s St. Benedict’s Prep. Their last loss to an in-state foe came against Bethesda Chevy-Chase in the second round of the 2017 MPSSAA 4A state playoffs.
“We only had four returning starters and I think we lost 56 of our goals from last year,” Greene said. “It was the defending, it was the discipline and we were resilient. We won seven overtime games, which is kind of unheard of, but I don’t think we ever believed we were going to lose a game.”
The Vikings gave up just one goal in its first three playoffs games before edging past Wootton last weekend in the semifinals in the game of the year. They rallied to send the game into overtime, and Chris Vogel buried a penalty kick to seal a 4-3 victory.
The state championship was much less dramatic.
Whitman’s first goal came in the 15th minute off a free kick. The service was headed out by the Leonardtown goalie, bounced off the crossbar and was headed in by Hunter Lee. Nine minutes later, the Vikings struck again on another header off a free kick. Gunther headed in a set piece from Ian Poe, doubling Whitman’s lead.
“Once we settled in and started moving the ball around, I thought we were brilliant,” Greene said.
Poe added one himself off a free kick in the 53rd minute. The ball was sent in from 40 yards out and sailed over a litany of bodies crowding the goal into the back of the net.
Defensively, the Vikings held what had been an electric Leonardtown offense in check. The Raiders (19-1) entered the game with 89 goals this season and didn’t get a shot off until late in the first half. Kobe Harris got the Raiders on the board in the 71st minute, though it was more of a consolation prize at that point.
Leonardtown was making its first appearance in the state championship, having finally broken through a tough 4A East Region thanks to a strong senior class.
“We’ve been, in I think, the toughest region year-after-year for the last 10 years,” Raiders Head Coach Rob Hor said. “We felt that if we could break out this year we were a threat to win it all…We just fell a little bit short today.”