Northwestern boys soccer team is a state power
BY CHRIS MCMANES
The Northwestern High School boys soccer team’s season didn’t end as well as it did two years ago, but make no mistake: The Wildcats are a state power.
“Before this, everyone talked about Bowie,” Northwestern coach Victor Ramirez said. “With all due respect to Bowie, they have a good program, but I think we are as strong as any other program in Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland. We’ll be back next year.”
The Wildcats fell just short of winning their second 4A state championship in three years by falling to Leonardtown on penalty kicks, 4-2. Northwestern rallied late to tie the game at 2 and send it into overtime.
“Penalty kicks are a lottery — you never know,” Ramirez said. “We had our chances but just didn’t capitalize. It wasn’t our night to win. … I take my hat off to Leonardtown.”
The Wildcats, who won the school’s third state title in 2021, have posted a three-year record of 35-3-3 (.890 winning percentage). Their loss to the Raiders in the state final Nov. 17 at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore was their first on the field since Sept. 28, 2021.
After posting a 10-0-2 mark in 2022 and beating High Point 2-0 in the region semifinals, Northwestern was disqualified from the state tournament for use of an ineligible player. (Exactly why the player was ruled ineligible was never publicly disclosed. Ramirez told WTOP there was no way for him and his assistants to know that the player wasn’t eligible.)
The Wildcats continued their winning ways in 2023. They were 13-0-1 heading into the state championship after downing Urbana in the semifinals, 2-1, on an overtime goal by senior Josue Mejia Rico.
Northwestern fell behind 2-0 to Leonardtown (18-1-1) before junior Denilson Mora Alvarez scored in the 68th minute. With just 1:17 to play, senior Marvin Arias drilled a rebound off the crossbar into the net to tie the game.
“We were fighting and fighting; that’s who we are,” Ramirez said. “People underestimate us a lot.”
After two 10-minute overtimes failed to produce a winner, the game came down to penalty kicks. The Raiders made all four of their attempts while conceding only two for their first state title.
The Wildcats were the only team to score two goals against Leonardtown all year.
“We hadn’t faced a team all season that had guys with that kind of skill and ability individually,” Raiders coach Luke Kokolios said. “I thought their front four — their attacking [midfielder], striker and wingers — they were all exceptional players. They had a midfielder who could turn really well and was dangerous. So, it was a big test for us.
“Going up by two [goals] is always a dangerous lead, and they made us pay when we weren’t turned on at times. So, I can’t say enough about the talent that Northwestern has, and they’re coached very well.”
Mejia Rico was a sophomore when Northwestern won it all.
“It was a great experience, a beautiful experience,” he said. “To be here for a second time — not many people are able to achieve that. I hope the ninth-, tenth- and 11th-graders can come back again.”
The Wildcats should have another strong team next season. Rising seniors include Mora Alvarez — the team’s leading goal scorer (13) — Franklin Cruz (12 goals) and Arturo Acosta (2 goals, 8 assists). Goalkeeper Jason Mejia will be a junior.
“We have very talented kids, and they have really bought into the program,” Ramirez said. “I think some of the kids now are saying, ‘We have a winning program,’ and the students want to be a part of that. It’s a pride thing, and they’re very proud to be part of the soccer team.
“I think we have really implemented a winner’s mentality.”
The Wildcats took a 38-game unbeaten streak into this year’s final.
“That’s an indication of their hard work and dedication,” Ramirez said. “The talent is there, but I think we’ve created something that the kids have really bought into. I’ll put my program up against anyone’s. I always tell someone, ‘You catch us at the end of the season — we can play with the Catholic schools, we can play with the private schools.’”
Ramirez, a 1992 Northwestern graduate, is clear about his team’s focus each season: “Our goal is to get to the state championship every year.”
Chris McManes covers sports for the Life & Times.