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Rec Sports Spotlight: Central Carroll claims another CSMA title

Top row (L-R): Francesco Liberatore, Jack Heefner, Anthony Wallace, Riley Morsberger, Josh Lindenstruth, Jack Wivell, Izzy Redding. Bottom row: Tanner Reyes, Brandon Taylor, Britton Henline, Jack Elkner, Jimmy Gogol, Daniel Wojtkowiak, Shane DiLeonardi. Not pictured: CJ Wasmer.
Top row (L-R): Francesco Liberatore, Jack Heefner, Anthony Wallace, Riley Morsberger, Josh Lindenstruth, Jack Wivell, Izzy Redding. Bottom row: Tanner Reyes, Brandon Taylor, Britton Henline, Jack Elkner, Jimmy Gogol, Daniel Wojtkowiak, Shane DiLeonardi. Not pictured: CJ Wasmer. (Courtesy photo)

Brian Henline’s boys wanted to win another Central Maryland Soccer Association championship this spring just as they had done in the spring and fall of 2018.

That was very much on their minds when their Central Carroll Force team stepped on the turf at Northwest Regional Park on May 23. It was also on the minds of coach Henline and his assistants Bobby Centofanti and Mark Gogol.

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Only this time, they were after more than just another first-place trophy. As an under-15 team, the Force was playing its last game in its last year of youth soccer. Fourteen of the 15 move on to high school this fall, most of those to Westminster.

“I could tell you that a lot of the boys, particularly the core, played with a lot of emotion,” Henline said.

And their drive paid off when they shut out Northwest Soccer Club that evening to win the title. The seven players who form the core of the team began playing there when they were only 7. They had been with the Force for eight years and had formed a solid base. Others were added as needed.

Three new ones came on this spring; all had soccer experience. Most of the team’s 15 players come from the Westminster/Finksburg area.

The team had quite a winning tradition. In addition to that pair of titles in 2018, they had also won two CMSA crowns in 2016 and 2017.

However, besides maintaining their winning tradition, they also had another goal this year.

"They wanted to train hard because the next step was high school," Henline said.

And they wanted to be ready for that.

Rain took a big bite out of the season, though. Weather forced the rescheduling of some games and the outright cancellation of another when the coaches were unable to re-schedule. Force played only five of its scheduled six contests.

It opened this final season on the last day of March with a 4-1 win over AFC. The following week, it blanked the Catonsville Cobra 2-0. The rains then took over and Henline’s team didn’t play again until May 5. The Force won 3-0.

After more rain, CC Force nipped A3 Soccer 2-1 on May 19 in its closest game of the year. That left Northwest four days later with both teams being undefeated at that point.

Northwest was a high-scoring outfit that had averaged almost five goals per game over its five games. CC Force had averaged a little over three in compiling a 4-0 record.

"We'd played them before, although not this season, and we knew their strengths. A good team has to adjust to the team it plays against. We had to adjust or lose," Henline said.

Henline said Northwest liked to gain possession around midfield and then shoot long passes to its speedy strikers. The way to stop that attack was to keep the ball away from them.

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“We focused on possession and a strong defense,” Henline said. “Our boys knew how fast their team was. We focused on their strikers and controlling at midfield so they couldn't go on top with the long passes.”

That defensive scheme worked and stopped the high-scoring Northwest squad. While the coach said he would shift the defense mid-game if needed, there was no need to do it this time. Central Carroll led 3-0 at halftime.

Instead, it was CC’s strikers who were the big scorers, not those from Northwest. Each of the forwards scored two goals.

The win gave Henline’s team a 5-0 record while Northwest ended 5-1. CC Force didn’t need to play the make-up game because even if it lost and tied for first at 5-1, it owned the tie breaker by virtue of winning over Northwest.

The Force ended as a three-time champion in CMSA. Nevertheless, Henline described the win as “bittersweet.” Yes, his kids had won the championship, but they had also played their final game.

But there is always next year. There are a number of year 2005 players in the Central Carroll club, and they will form another under-15 team in the fall.

Meanwhile, Henline says goodbye to this current edition of Central Carroll under-15 boys soccer.

“I've been with some of them for seven years, and I'm excited to hand them off to the next level,” he said. “A lot of them will play high school soccer.”

And judging from what they’ve done over the past year, it appears that most of them are ready.

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