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Soccer: Francis Scott Key, Century coaches trying to lead alma maters to state finals

Francis Scott Key goalie Nathan Perry anticipates the direction of a penalty kick by a Century player at the conclusion of combined practice/scrimmage for the two schools, on a turf field at Western Regional Park in Woodbine on Tuesday, November 5.
Francis Scott Key goalie Nathan Perry anticipates the direction of a penalty kick by a Century player at the conclusion of combined practice/scrimmage for the two schools, on a turf field at Western Regional Park in Woodbine on Tuesday, November 5. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Two Carroll County boys soccer teams remain in this year’s state tournament, and each squad features a coach trying to lead his alma mater to a championship.

When Larry Haines came to Francis Scott Key in the late 1980s to play soccer, then-coach Granville Hibberd told him he’d learn to kick with his left foot or else. Haines said the result wasn’t pretty, but it shaped him into a more well-rounded soccer player. Haines graduated from FSK in 1991 and said he developed a love for the game that hasn’t gone away.

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Haines is sending Key (8-5-2) into the Class 1A state semifinals Friday night at Northeast-Anne Arundel High School, where the Eagles face International High School at Langley Park (16-1) at 7:30.

The sixth-year coach replaced David Storey, another Francis Scott Key product who played for Hibberd, a Carroll County Sports Hall of Famer that led the Eagles to state titles in 1985 and 1986. Hibberd’s 1992 team reached the state semifinals, the last to get there before this season.

Haines’ team went 2-4 in Carroll County Athletic League play this season, but the wins came against county champion Liberty and Westminster. A challenging regular season has the Eagles in position to end a long championship drought, and Haines said a crop of 10 seniors is determined to lead the way.

Francis Scott Key head boys soccer coach Larry Haines talks to his players during a combined practice/scrimmage for Francis Scott Key and Century, on a turf field at Western Regional Park in Woodbine on Tuesday, November 5.
Francis Scott Key head boys soccer coach Larry Haines talks to his players during a combined practice/scrimmage for Francis Scott Key and Century, on a turf field at Western Regional Park in Woodbine on Tuesday, November 5. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

“I’d definitely say I’m taking it slow, just trying to soak it all in because we’ve never had this kind of experience before,” said senior midfielder Jakub Mihulka, who has eight goals and six assists.

“The maturity has always been there with these guys, but they’re taking it to the next level,” Haines said. "They’re setting the bar, setting the mark of what they want the program to be. I’m a coach, I put the foundation in place. They put the blocks in place on that foundation.

“These guys are so mature for their age, that’s the part that blows my mind. And it translates onto the field.”

Carter Shipley, a junior forward, leads Francis Scott Key with nine goals. The Eagles’ defense is veteran-laden, and Mihulka said tight-knit.

“Our friend group, just our back line including our keeper [senior Nathan Perry] and me, are friends that hang out every weekend,” Mihulka said “All over the team, we’ll be hanging out all the time. This is kind of standard for us to be together. ... This team has been all smiles.”

Mihulka and Haines agreed FSK’s turning point of the year took place in its first game, a road contest against St. Paul’s in Baltimore. The Eagles scored within the first 30 seconds of play, then held on to forge a 1-1 tie.

“We celebrated that game like a win because we knew they were so good,” Mihulka said. “Something special about this team.”

The Eagles gathered at Western Regional Park earlier this week for a scrimmage against county rival Century so each team could get some time on artificial turf ahead of their state tourney games. The Knights (13-4) take on Oakdale (13-0-3) on Saturday at Montgomery Blair High in a 2A semifinal.

Francis Scott Key head coach Larry Haines, left, and Century head coach Trey Howes watch players progress during a combined practice/scrimmage for the boys soccer teams of the two schools, on a turf field at Western Regional Park in Woodbine on Tuesday, November 5.
Francis Scott Key head coach Larry Haines, left, and Century head coach Trey Howes watch players progress during a combined practice/scrimmage for the boys soccer teams of the two schools, on a turf field at Western Regional Park in Woodbine on Tuesday, November 5. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Century coach Trey Howes remembers being part of the Knights’ 2009 team that reached the final four but fell short of playing in a title game. The first-year coach now has a chance to guide his alma mater to its first finals appearance since 2003.

“I want it just as much as they do,” Howes said. “I want it for them and I want it for our fans, for our parents, for our kids, for our school.”

Senior midfielder Alex Grasso paces Century’s offense with 36 points (14 goals, eight assists), and senior midfielder Jackson Glenn (24 points) is coming off a two-goal performance in the Knights’ 5-0 win over Lansdowne in the state quarterfinals. Kyle Kropfelder, a senior forward, has 10 goals and 11 assists.

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Century’s defense has been stout as well, with seven shutouts.

Oakdale is the reigning 2A state champion, but their opponent’s status doesn’t seem to faze the Knights.

“A lot of our kids just don’t want it to end,” Howes said. “We just want to keep having fun and keep doing family things. We’ve kind of evolved into that family we set out to be.”

Francis Scott Key goalie Nathan Perry dives in an attempt to stop a penalty kick by a Century player at the conclusion of combined practice/scrimmage for the two schools, on a turf field at Western Regional Park in Woodbine on Tuesday, November 5.
Francis Scott Key goalie Nathan Perry dives in an attempt to stop a penalty kick by a Century player at the conclusion of combined practice/scrimmage for the two schools, on a turf field at Western Regional Park in Woodbine on Tuesday, November 5. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)
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