Centennial boys soccer is an experienced group with 15 seniors on its roster. That experience came in handy Wednesday.
Trailing Glenelg by one just before halftime, the Eagles turned to their veterans. Sophomore Noah Kantsiper’s corner kick came to senior Hassan Helal on the near side of the box. Helal delivered a perfect header to fellow senior Riley Senisi on the back post for a chip-in volley to tie the game.
That goal gave the No. 4 Eagles momentum as they ultimately defeated Glenelg, 2-1.
“It was huge because we came into the halftime talk with a little more hope, a little more positivity knowing that we could get something today,” Centennial coach Justin Thomas said. “Getting a goal right before halftime completely changes the momentum. They’re not coming into halftime with their heads down, they’re coming with their heads up ready to fight and keep going.”
The opening 15 minutes were a defensive battle as neither side was able to generate strong chances. However, that quickly changed in the 18th minute as Glenelg converted defense into offense.
After clearing an Eagles corner attempt, forward Vaughn Sines sprinted up the sideline delivering a precise pass to forward Siji Jolayemi. He quickly corralled the pass and after a couple of touches beat Eagles goalie Kartik Sullivan low.
Despite the deficit, Centennial (5-1, 3-1 Howard County) didn’t flinch. The Eagles won more 50-50 balls as the half progressed creating more opportunities. Senior Miles McCanna played an integral part in that effort.
“Miles McCanna doesn’t start and hasn’t played many minutes this year,” Thomas said. “He played almost the entire game and was just everywhere, I thought he was fantastic. He’s a senior but not one of those guys that has a lot of experience. He’s just working so hard.”
Just before the half, that physicality and persistence paid dividends with Senisi’s tying goal. Early in the second half, Centennial controlled much of the possession. Their second goal was once again created by a pair of seniors.
Forward Adam Fowble delivered a throw-in to the box where midfielder Kodee Karcher elevated above several Gladiator defenders for the strong header that gave the Eagles their first lead of the game in the 50th minute.
“I’m just following the ball, looking to win the ball over other players and just put it in the back of the net,” Karcher said.
Looking for the tying goal, Glenelg (3-2) began having more success winning some of those 50-50 opportunities. However, the Eagles did a strong job of closing off the middle of the field, quickly pressing out onto the Gladiators’ attackers.
“I think that we had some time and space in the midfield, but that second and third option just weren’t coming open,” Glenelg coach Joey Osborne said. “Centennial did a great job of closing things down and putting pressure on us quickly. So, we were trying to get people to work a little bit more off the ball so that way we had the option sooner, keep the ball moving and try to go past that high pressure they were putting on us.”
Pushing the ball out wide, Glenelg created multiple corner kicks in the final 10 minutes. The first corner, Sullivan delivered a strong save as the Eagles defense quickly rallied to clear the ball. On the Gladiators’ final corner in the 78th minute, Fowble beat a Gladiators attacker for a diving header to clear the ball away, helping the Eagles secure the come-from-behind victory.
“We’re always working hard in practice and to be able to get from practice and put it in the game it really shows,” Senisi said. “We’ve just got to keep doing it.”