The last time Glenelg won the county championship in 2013, midfielder Mark Darden and attackman Nick Forrest were dominating for the league's best offense and led the Gladiators to the state championship game for the second straight season.
Since then, the Gladiators, despite a run to the last year's state final, have watched Howard reel off three straight titles are share one with River Hill and Marriotts Ridge take the championship last season, earning what they feel belongs to them. While the fate of this year's team is yet to be determined, one thing it will share with that 2013 team — aside from being able to score from anywhere in the offensive end — is being crowned county champions.
On Wednesday, Glenelg jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first five minutes and held off a late rally by host Centennial for a 10-7 victory. The Gladiators remain the only Howard County team unbeaten in league play at 7-0 and improved to 12-1 overall. A win against River Hill on Friday night would give them the county title outright.
"It's one of our goals and has been one of our goals since we sat down and talked before the season. I think these kids worked pretty hard to get there," Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker said. "There was some adversity along the way. We've played some big games and been down, but this team is a pretty focused group of kids. We intend it to be an outright, but they've earned everything they've got."
Junior midfielder Tyler Reiff did what he has done all season for Glenelg: score big goals in the biggest games. He had three first-half tallies, while Kyle Dry and Eric Gruber added two apiece in the first three quarters. Michael Doughty, who leads the team in points entering Wednesday's contest with 62, pitched in with four assists.
Centennial trailed 10-3 after Glenelg's Tyler Nalls found the back of the net 36 seconds into the fourth quarter but, like it did in a one-goal loss to Marriotts Ridge, roared back with a big fourth quarter. Charlie Hockersmith scored his fourth goal with 9 minutes, 35 seconds left and Peter Krawcyzk scored two goals in 16 seconds to cut the deficit to 10-6. Jeremy Wilson, who leads all county players with 70 points, added to his total with an unassisted goal with 2:54 remaining.
The Eagles (5-3, 9-4) had a two-man advantage in the final 35 seconds but couldn't capitalize and ultimately lost for the third time in five games.
"It wasn't the deficit as much as it was our own mistakes. We made a lot of silly mistakes and we knew we had to play a clean game and we didn't," Centennial coach Nick Kellinger said. "And then they dominated us in groundballs, which led to a lot of possession that we didn't want to give them."
Hatmaker echoed a similar statement following the victory.
"We turned the ball over too much. That was a huge part of it," he said. "We had opportunities early on and we were clicking, we liked what we were getting but we just turned the ball over."
The first five minutes of the contest proved to be the difference considering Centennial actually outscored Glenelg, 7-6, over the last three and a half quarters. Gruber and Dry scored 12 seconds apart within the first minute of action, and Reiff netted his first a little more than a minute later. All that came before the Eagles had their first touch in the offensive zone.
"When you get stretches like that and you have the momentum like that, you don't want to kill it, and a lot of times it's us killing it with our own turnovers," Hatmaker said. "We want to string them together — that's what championship teams do. ... A lot of times we talk about [how] the only team that can beat us is us and the mistakes we make."
Dry's second with 7:03 on the clock made it 4-0, and they took a 6-2 lead into halftime and extended the advantage to 9-3 after three quarters.