Redwood celebrates a 13-3 victory against Archie Williams’ in MCAL boys water polo champions game on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 in Mill Valley, Ca. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)
Redwood’s Preston Page shoots over Archie Williams’ Hayden Long in a MCAL boys water polo championship game on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 in Mill Valley, Ca. Redwood won 13-3. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)
Archie Williams’ Micah Sher tries to get off a shot against Redwood in a MCAL boys water polo championship game on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 in Mill Valley, Ca. Redwood won 13-3. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)
Redwood’s goalkeeper Charlie Mills flings the ball the entire length of the pool to score against Archie Williams in a MCAL boys water polo championship game on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 in Mill Valley, Ca. His team won 13-3. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)
Redwood’s Max Matthews scores against Archie Williams’ Hayden Long in a MCAL boys water polo championship game on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 in Mill Valley, Ca. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)
Archie Williams goalkeeper Hawken Lacy lets a Redwood shot get past him to score in MCAL boys water polo champions game on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 in Mill Valley, Ca. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Redwood High boys water polo team ascended to the MCAL throne in with an exhilarating victory over the team that has dominated the scene for years.
Redwood grabbed an early lead to start a physical matchup with rival Archie Williams and carried it to a 13-3 victory in Saturday’s MCAL boys water polo championship, hosted by Tam High.
As goalkeeper Charlie Mills grabbed a loose ball with 20 seconds left to play, he started shouting “Let’s go! Let’s go!” Soon all the Giants — even the coaches — were in the pool celebrating their first MCAL pennant since 2014, when they defeated then-Drake, 9-6, in the title game.
“This has been coming all year, ever since we lost to Archie Williams in the MCAL final by just one goal (12-11) last year,” Mills said. “This is just the best, especially the way our team has come together and worked hard, it’s just a great feeling.”
The Giants and Peregrine Falcons are both expected to be selected when the North Coast Section brackets are released on Sunday.
Saturday’s win was extra special for head coach Rudy Kardos, who earned his 200th career victory in his 300th game with the Giants (19-7).
“The boys really deserved this win,” Kardos said. “We’re proud of this one. Finally our offense stepped up and the guys came together to show they were really super-focused. They really wanted it.”
The Peregrine Falcons (15-7) had dominated the rivalry with the Giants since 2014, never losing a matchup, until this year, when Redwood won the regular-season showdown and backed that up with Saturday’s win in the title game.
“We’ve always lost to them the past three years and we just wanted it this year,” said Redwood senior Billy Zech, who scored four goals Saturday. “We knew we could win this and we accomplished our goal. It’s just an amazing feeling. The younger players showed what they can do, which is really encouraging for the future.”
Redwood ran the table in the MCAL for the first time in more than a decade and entered Saturday’s final as the No. 1 seed. Redwood didn’t take that status for granted against No. 2 Archie Williams.
“This is a long-standing rivalry. We know them well enough to know we always have to play them hard,” Redwood senior Max Matthews said. “Especially with MCAL on the line, we’ve got to be prepared for anything.”
Zech scored back-to-back goals to open the first quarter, and teammate Max Matthews powered home a goal with 26 seconds left in the opening frame for a 3-0 Redwood lead.
Mac Berry got the Peregrine Falcons on the board to start the second quarter, and Vinnie Krilanovich scored twice, with assists from Berry and Hayden Long, to set up what should have been an exciting second half. It was not to be the shootout fans might have hoped for, however.
“The game was over after the first half, it seemed,” Archie Williams coach Matt Swanson said. “Redwood played their plan to perfection. Their game worked for them. Credit to Redwood, but the loss stings for us.”
A physical contest let Archie Williams with a depleted roster, as one player was taken out of the pool with a head injury and two other starters were marginalized after they got into foul trouble. As a result, the Peregrine Falcons struggled to find high-percentage shots against Mills, who had 12 saves.
“You can write a chapter about Charlie Mills and everything he does. He was stopping everything he saw,” Kardos said. “The defense as a whole showed what they are capable of, and the offense was really strong. It doesn’t get much better than this.”
Zech fed the ball to Preston Page for two goals within a one-minute span early in the third quarter, and the Giants were ready to put their stamp on the win. Matthews picked apart the Falcons’ defense for three goals in the final quarter, bringing his total for the day to five goals.
Zech finished with four goals and Ossie Joplin also scored a goal. Redwood took nearly 25 shots against Archie Williams’ star goaltender Haakon Lacy, who had six saves.
Even Mills got in on the scoring to round out his day. After the Giants defense blocked a Falcons shot, Mills took the ball and launched it ahead of everyone else into an empty Archie Williams cage for a goal midway through the fourth quarter.
“I think our team came together well this season and especially today,” Mills said. “I think the connection that we’ve been able to create within the team the past few weeks, we’ve been able to play better. We moved the ball around better and get better shots.”