Player of the Year: Saah Johnson, Oakland Mills
The senior striker's gifted skills and explosive first touch allowed him to overcome the attention he received from defenses geared toward containing him. Despite seeing two and sometimes three defensive marks, Johnson finished the season with 21 goals and seven assists in leading the No. 3 Scorpions (13-2) to their first Howard County championship since 1988 - sharing the crown this season with Class 3A state champ River Hill.
Transferring to Oakland Mills from Mount St. Joseph last year, Johnson was both consistent and timely with his goal-scoring prowess. He scored in 13 of 15 games this fall and had the goal in four 1-0 wins for the Scorpions. His season ended on a disappointing note in a 2-1 Class 1A state semifinal loss to Pocomoke when he was ejected for pulling his shirt over his head in celebration of his game-tying goal in the first half.
Co-Coaches of the Year:
Randy Dase, Towson
Winning while also using the regular season as a building block for the playoffs, the No. 4 Generals (16-1-2) earned a share of the Class 3A state crown after holding their ground in a 1-1 tie against No. 1 River Hill. Dase, 49, is no stranger to state titles at Towson. The 1972 graduate was a three-sport standout (soccer, basketball and lacrosse), winning titles as a player in soccer and lacrosse. He also coached the lacrosse program to eight state crowns in 18 seasons before stepping down in 1997. With the Generals moving up a class after a 2A state runner-up finish last fall, Dase made good use of speed up top, a centerpiece in All-Metro midfielder Jeff Routh, and an unheralded defense that posted 10 shutouts. It's the program's fourth state title and the first under Dase, who has coached 14 seasons in three stints.
Bill Stara, River Hill
With only two seniors returning as starters and an otherwise youthful base, Stara had one of his toughest coaching assignments this fall. But, as has been the case throughout his 22-year career, he had his group playing as one and doing so on the season's last day. The No. 1 Hawks played Towson to a 1-1 tie to earn a share of the Class 3A state championship - the Hawks' fifth in eight seasons and Stara's 12th, with the seven others coming at Centennial. With players' roles identified and the necessary individual sacrifices made for the benefit of team success, everything fell into place for the Hawks. Stara has a 327-38-16 career record and an .896 winning percentage, which is tops for a state coach.
David Adams, River Hill
One of just two returning senior starters from last year's Class 3A state title team, Adams more than capably handled a number of assignments to provide stability at his center midfielder position. The two-year starter was apt at getting forward and just as committed to marking defensively in winning the middle of the field. The four-year varsity player scored 13 goals and had a team-high 16 assists as the No. 1 Hawks repeated as Class 3A state champs, sharing the crown with Towson.
Sean Ajifowobaje, Glen Burnie
The standout striker turned hard work into goals in a breakthrough senior season that helped lead the No. 12 Gophers (15-2-1) to the Anne Arundel County championship. After scoring three goals in his previous two seasons, Ajifowobaje racked up 22 this fall and added six assists to earn county Player of the Year honors. Ajifowobaje was a consistent source of offense, scoring goals in 14 games, including a four-goal performance and six two-goal games.
Andrew Appelbaum, Old Mill
The senior sweeper supplied a steady source of intensity, smooth play and vocal leadership as a key component of a tidy defense that led the No. 11 Patriots (15-4-1) to their first Class 4A state championship game. His poise, skills and ability to read the game brought confidence in the back. Seeking their first state crown, the Patriots fell just short with a 1-0 overtime loss to Kenwood.
Matt Beckman, McDonogh
No player in the area logged more quality up-and-back miles than the Eagles' junior defender, who provided strong marking on the right side and also made regular runs forward to score 13 goals and add eight assists. The repeat All-Metro performer brought a rare combination of physical play, finesse and smart field sense. With a heavy shot that had a knack for finding corners, he produced five game-winning goals for the No. 8 Eagles, who finished runners-up in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference for a second straight season.
Brian Chun, River Hill
The Hawks built up their attack through Chun, who worked in tandem with fellow first-team choice David Adams at center midfield and brought a tireless work rate and the ability to possess the ball and then effectively distribute.
His steadying influence and presence on the field had a major impact on his younger teammates. The two-year starter and four-year varsity player finished the season with seven goals and seven assists.
Matt Curran, Loyola
With an uncanny touch inside the penalty area, the standout senior striker continually delivered the necessary offense to lead the No. 5 Dons to a 17-2-2 season and a trip to the MIAA A Conference semifinals. Curran, a four-year varsity contributor, worked hard to get the ball and made the most of his opportunities, scoring 17 goals and adding two assists for first-year coach Kyle Swords.
Kenny Dotter, Sparrows Point
The senior striker played inspirational soccer over the course of a difficult but highly successful Pointers' season that was dedicated to fallen teammate Adam Parr, who died in a car accident in early October. With a blue-collar approach inside the penalty area, Dotter scored a whopping 31 goals and added six assists to lead the Pointers (14-2) to the Baltimore County championship and a trip to the Class 1A North region title game. Dotter scored all three goals in a 3-2 overtime win against rival Eastern Tech during the regular season, and had two goals in the Pointers' 3-0 win over Patapsco in the county championship game.
Akira Fitzgerald, Loyola
The standout sophomore goalkeeper built on a fine freshman season with reliable and often spectacular play in back that helped lead the Dons to the MIAA A Conference semifinals. Mostly in the right position but also quick to react when called upon, Fitzgerald anchored a defense that produced a school-record 17 wins, including seven shutouts. He made smart decisions in goal, knowing when to stay on his line and when to leave it to cut down angles. Fitzgerald, who also was effective in distributing the ball, saved 91 percent of the shots he faced.
Patrick Healey, Calvert Hall
The senior midfielder enjoyed a storybook ending to a solid four-year career, leading the No. 7 Cardinals to a surprise repeat of the MIAA A Conference crown. The Baltimore City/County co-Player of the Year was smart with his touches in controlling the middle of the field, finishing the season with 12 goals and 12 assists. Healey saved his season's best for last, finishing with three goals and two assists in three tournament wins - including a one-goal, one-assist effort in the Cardinals' 2-1 championship win over McDonogh. A four-year starter, he finished with 32 goals and 31 assists.
Bryan Moffa, Eastern Tech
Some of the area's most creative midfield work came from the talented senior, whose strong work rate and gifted ball skills helped carry the Mavericks (10-3-2) to the Class 2A state semifinals. Moffa was constantly around the ball, effectively finding his own shot or setting up teammates. Despite seeing extra defensive marks, he finished the season with 18 goals and 11 assists. Moffa finished his career with 48 goals and 21 assists.
Dan Rogers, Oakland Mills
Opposing offenses had a difficult time getting the ball past the 6-foot-4, 180-pound senior goalkeeper, who, along with his imposing size, also brought agility and smart decision-making to anchor the No. 2 Scorpions' defense. Rogers allowed just one goal over the course of Howard County play as the Scorpions (13-2) shared the county title with Class 3A state titlist River Hill.
Jeff Routh, Towson
The center midfielder was the sturdy field general of the No. 4 Generals, who earned a share of the Class 3A state title with River Hill and finished with a 16-1-2 mark. Savvy in the middle of the field and plenty opportunistic in the offensive third, Routh earned co-Player of the Year honors in Baltimore City/County with an exceptional 21-goal, seven-assist senior season that put a fitting exclamation on a four-year varsity career.
Josh Taylor, Archbishop Curley
In his third season starting on varsity, the junior defender took his game to a higher level this fall to become the glue of the No. 2 Friars' sturdy back line. Taylor was quick and aggressive with his marking and ability to get to the ball in anchoring a defense that posted 10 shutouts. Sidelined for the final three games with torn knee ligaments, Taylor, whom coach Barry Stitz called the team's MVP, was obviously missed. The Friars, who captured the MIAA A Conference regular-season crown with a 14-0-2 mark and were 22-1-2 overall, had an unbeaten season working until a 4-0 upset to eventual champ Calvert Hall in the semifinals.
Drew Yates, Archbishop Curley
Bringing a tireless work rate at his center midfield position, the talented sophomore was strong on the ball and made the most of his touches to help the Friars gain possession and do positive things. Yates became more of a take-charge presence this season, and as he raised his game, so did the Friars. Equally adept at finishing and distributing, he scored 10 goals and added 16 assists with a creative flow that got everyone involved. Moreover, Yates provided as much support defensively as offensively.
Name School Class Position
Shawn Houseknecht Arch. Curley Junior Forward
Jeremy Smith River Hill Junior Forward
Justin Turco Arch. Spalding Junior Forward
Tyler Zentz Towson Junior Forward
Ryan Callinan Calvert Hall Senior Midfield
Robbie Carper Mount Hebron Junior Midfield
Alex Douyon Oakland Mills Senior Midfield
Steve Romeo Century Junior Midfield
Eric Whisman Glen Burnie Senior Midfield
Jimmy Zabel Mount Hebron Senior Midfield
Zach Grubb Aberdeen Senior Defense
T.J. Jager Loch Raven Junior Defense
Dan Jones Patapsco Senior Defense
Justin Lichtfuss McDonogh Junior Defense
Tim Carrier Old Mill Senior Goalie
Note: Teams selected by Rick Belz after consultation with The Sun staff and area coaches.