'We run this city' — John Marshall makes statement, beats Century to cap sweep of city rivals
Ralph Nah came up with his own way to send a message to the John Marshall faithful on Thursday night. He sparked the Rockets to something the program hadn't done in a long time.
ROCHESTER — Ralph Nah had a hunch he was going to score against intra-city rival Century on Thursday night.
So the John Marshall senior forward decided he would need a way to celebrate or commemorate the occasion. In fact, this idea stretched back to when the Rockets knocked off Mayo earlier this season —an upset victory that is the Spartans only defeat of the season.
With that mindset, Nah and company wanted to send a message.
Nah delivered that message personally, coming through on his gut feeling by netting a first half goal, before revealing his idea by flashing a home made under shirt that read "We run this city" to the JM faithful.
Fellow senior Jon McBroom drove the point home with a second half goal that propelled the Rockets to a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Panthers Tuesday night.
John Marshall now improves to 8-2-2 overall and 5-2-1 in the Big Nine Conference. This was the first time JM had beaten both Mayo and Century in at least a decade. Century falls to 5-8, 4-5.
"This was just a great game," JM coach Abdul Noor said. "Century is a great team. We played hard ... my boys, they are learning how to win these close games, not only tonight but all season. They are believing."
That belief started with Nah, who is an immovable force at times. Just about 12 minutes in, he bullied his way into the box where he collected a bouncing ball, before firing off a right-footed shot for the goal. But it was that celebration that had everybody talking.
"We had a plan," Nah said. "Come out, fight hard, win the game and show them that this is our city. We own this place. You play a good game but this is our time. We've been losing for like, I don't know how long. Century beat us last year like 5-1. This year we came together for our school and to make our school proud. That's this shirt."
To the Panthers credit, they responded right back less than five minutes later.
That's when Abdi Bulale continued his run of great play by utilizing just one touch off a long pass from Nick Watson to beat his defender. A well-placed shot to the left of JM keeper Camden Williams made it 1-1.
It was Bulale's eighth goal in his past four games.
"He's blown away my expectations for him this season," Century coach Hal Houghton said. "He's been just great."
The score would stay tied as the two teams were caught in an extended stalemate with neither able to get much possession.
That was until the second half adjustment made by the Rockets — one that saw them be more aggressive and play through their midfielders more instead of through the back line that has led to so much success for JM this season.
But Noor and company needed to find ways to get the ball to Mechwa Meermarew, who simply has unbelievable speed. In fact, if he was around before the Wright brothers, Meermarew would be credited as the founding father of flight, because he can absolutely fly.
Those jets were on display more in the second half when he found more space, thanks to a more aggressive push up the field from the Rockets that put him in more 1-on-1 situations.
"It's a good feeling (to use my speed)," Meermarew said. "I can't rely on it too much, there are faster people than me. There are times where I can't pass the whole defense. So I need somebody else to pass to — that's where our friendships come in."
In a span of three minutes of the opening in the second half, Meermarew had three shots on goal, but each time Century keeper Jack Bauman made the save.
The senior played well, making 11 saves on the night.
Yet, it felt like it was only a matter of time until JM found the game-winner, which it did on the foot of McBroom.
John Boyer found the senior captain alone at the top of the box and McBroom connected for a nearly unstoppable shot — a little flick of his foot sent the ball just over Bauman and just under the crossbar of the net for a 2-1 lead with just over 26 minutes left.
The Rockets were able to stifle the Panthers from there with Camden Williams making the necessary plays in net for JM when needed. He finished with six saves.
With two games left in the regular season, the Rockets know they still have more work to do but this is a good step.
"We were confident we could have a good season and we expect to have one," Noor said. "It's going good now."
"Give credit to them and Abdul," Houghton said. "They have done a really nice job. They've come in really confident this year. They won that game against Farmington, which I think surprised everybody. Then shocked everybody beating Mayo.
"They've been building off that and have really been playing people tough this year."
John Marshall 2, Century 1
John Marshall: Kheder Najya 1 assist; Jon McBroom 1 goal; Ralph Nah 1 goal; Jonathan Boyer 1 assist. Goalie: Camden Williams 6 saves.
Century: Abdirisak Bulale 1 goal; Nick Watson 1 assist. Goalie: Jack Bauman 11 saves.