By Liam Day
In recent years, Howard has been Glenelg’s toughest competition having lost in three of their previous four meetings against the Lions. Coming into the season, the Gladiators had high expectations after a State Championship appearance and only gaining more talent from last season.
On Thursday April 26th, the Gladiators faced off with Howard in a heavily contested match. Glenelg struck first with a beautiful pass from Tyler Reiff to Junior Midfielder, Eric Gruber. Their celebration didn't last long as Glenelg found themselves down 2-1 at the end of the first quarter after multiple defensive breakdowns.
Glenelg Midfielder, Tyler Reif had a highlight reel goal in the second quarter that started with a hard one-on-one dodge from the top of the key. Reiff is currently ranked 13th in the County in points with 30+ goals but just five assists. He was asked about his role on the team that started when he was just a Sophomore, he said, “Our offense requires good shooting, so that’s what I’ve worked on all offseason.” Glenelg's high powered offense relies on Reiff for his offensive skills. Glenelg still trailed 4-3 at halftime.
The third quarter was heavily possessed by Howard as they rarely gave up the ball, but the aggressive defense by the Gladiators gave up just two goals. The offense was being carried by Junior Tyler Reiff having scored the team’s last three goals. Coach Hatmaker kept a positive mindset going into the fourth. He said, “I teach my guys to just finish strong. The fourth quarter is where we go to work because that's when it all matters most.” With the team sticking to their coaches advice, they remained confident going into the fourth still down 6-4.
The final quarter got off to an extremely fast start. Eric Gruber’s goal 26 seconds in started the rally, and even though Lions midfielder Connor Denicola answered 56 seconds later to push the lead back to two; Glenelg kept their foot on the gas pedal. Attackman, Tyler Nalls scored with ten minutes, seven seconds remaining and Sophomore Kyle Dry’s goal 44 seconds later tied the score at seven. Once again Tyler Reiff struck scoring his fourth goal of the game to give Glenelg their first lead in over 40 minutes. Less than a minute later senior Eric Gruber gave Glenelg the cushion they needed to seal their 9-8 victory and hand the Howard Lions their first loss of the season.
At this point the Gladiators are 11-1 and hold the top spot in the County. With the playoffs right around the corner, the Gladiators are a huge favorite to make yet another run to States and give Glenelg and Coach Hatmaker their third shot at the championship in the last six years.