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Two sports in one season not too much for Century High athlete

Justin Brietenbach heads to his team's football game with his mother, Theresa, after a 2-1 shootout loss in the playoffs ended the season for the Century High junior and the Knights' soccer team on Oct. 24.
Justin Brietenbach heads to his team's football game with his mother, Theresa, after a 2-1 shootout loss in the playoffs ended the season for the Century High junior and the Knights' soccer team on Oct. 24. (Photo by Phil Grout)

Justin Brietenbach is a soccer player, a football place kicker and a prince, albeit one who missed a royal greeting at halftime of Century High's 13-7 victory over Winters Mill High on Oct. 24.

The Century High junior had been named by his classmates as the junior class prince but missed being introduced to the home team crowd at halftime of the Monacacy Valley Athletic League football game, leaving his girlfriend, Taylor Castaneda, to reign supreme and alone as the junior class princess until the couple attended the school's homecoming dance together the following night.

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Brietenbach was absent through no fault of his own, however. He and his teammates on the soccer team were involved in a Class 2A West Region playoff game at Winters Mill at the same time his football teammates were taking on Winters Mill about a 20-minute drive away.

Brietenbach might have had an outside chance of reaching the halftime festivities in Sykesville, if not for a goal by Century teammate Colin Serio in the 79th minute that knotted the score at 1-1 and mandated overtime. After two 10-minute overtime periods, it took eight shooters to snap the deadlock and send Brietenbach and his soccer buddies off the pitch with a disappointing 2-1 shootout loss.

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Brietenbach already had decided before the season began which varsity team would take precedence should a conflict develop.

"My understanding is, the one I practiced more [soccer] would be the primary sport," Brietenbach said, noting that he only had one full football special teams practice per week, usually on the Thursday before a Friday night game.

Brietenbach is one of only three county athletes — along with Westminster High's Alex Trery and Francis Scott Key High's Jacob Gosselinare — to take advantage of a new rule this year that allows participation in multiple sports in the same season.

"It was a topic of conversation in the past," said Jim Rodriguez, Carroll County Public Schools supervisor of athletics, who said the time was right for the rule change. "We had a meeting with our athletic directors and principals and decided to make a change."

The reason Brietenbach felt comfortable in doing double duty this fall is because he had already played both sports at the junior varsity level in successive years — soccer as a freshman and football as a sophomore.

"We knew he had the possibility of playing dual sports in the fall, so he reached out to his coaches," said his mother, Theresa, who expressed some concern about the logistics of practices and their impact on her son's studies.

As a student who has compiled a 4.2 grade-point average, Brietenbach has given his parents few worries in that aspect of his schooling.

Yet another consideration was his size — he's 5-feet-4 and 150 pounds. That would have to be considered small by almost any gauge for a high school football player.

However, Brietenbach, who also is on the Knights' tennis team in the spring, rejects that theory by saying, "I'm pretty short, but I'm not necessarily a small guy."

In fact, he said that on the soccer field he has been known to bulldoze opponents on his way to the goal or a 50-50 ball.

"I keep track of how many guys I knock over on the field, and it's more than the times I was knocked down," he said.

With those potential roadblocks aside, it was a natural fit for Brietenbach to try both in the same season once the new rule was implemented and all parties agreed to certain stipulations and restrictions.

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That meant getting the OK from varsity football coach Jim Holzman and varsity soccer coach Scott Booker, his parents and Century athletic director Randy Pentz.

"Both coaches need to agree on the practice times and the language of the contract," Rodriguez said.

The next step was for Craig Brietenbach and his son was to sign a contract confirming the agreement.

So far, Rodriguez said the rule is working.

"The feedback has been very positive," he said, "and it may give a kid a chance to play at another level because they would have a chance to be scouted [in a sport in which they wouldn't ordinarily be allowed to play]."

For Brietenbach, the opportunity to be scouted did not arise this season as a place kicker, though it's a position he would like to play for the University of Maryland in a couple of years.

To that end, he has attended kicking camps in which one of his counselors was current Terps kicker Brad Craddock. He has also had one-on-one instructions from Matt Stover, whose mentoring includes critiques of videos Brietenbach submits to the former Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl kicker.

"Ultimately, if I have a chance to kick in college, that's what I want to do," said Britenbach, who is enrolled at a kicking combine at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla. in mid-January.

Still, Brietenbach was hoping that his soccer season, and double duty, would have lasted longer this fall.

His solace is that even as one season concluded, the other continues. The Knights complete their 2014 gridiron campaign by hosting the annual showdown with archival Liberty High at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7.

His joy would be to kick the winning field goal, or extra point, for that matter, against the Lions.

So far this season, Brietenbach's lone opportunity for a three-pointer was blocked, leaving him wanting more opportunities and better timing between the long snapper, holder and kicker.

In soccer, his legs were more productive. He scored two goals and added four assists for the Knights, who finished the season with a 4-10 mark.

"Justin is a hardworking and competitive athlete," Booker said. "He has great speed and a nose for the goal that makes him dangerous in the offensive end. He is very coachable and willing to do whatever is asked of him to make the team successful."

As for next fall, Brietenbach plans to try the multiple approach again.

"I like looking forward to playing in three games a week," he said. "Instead of just having soccer [games] on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have football [games] on Fridays. It's fun."

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