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COACHES GIVE CENTENNIAL A LEG UP IN SOCCER CHASE

THE BALTIMORE SUN

By unanimous acclamation of the eight high school coaches, Centennial ranks as the clear-cut choice to be the county's top boys soccer team this season.

If Eagles coach Bill Stara gave much credence to some of the glowing comments floating around about his team, he might start making room in the school's trophy case for 1991 county, regional and state soccer hardware.

Defending state Class 3A champion Oakland Mills coach Don Shea described Centennial as "heads above the rest."

Reg Hahne, coach of defending state Class 2A champion Atholton, described Centennial as "tops by far."

But Shea is a veteran coach who knows that titles are won and lost on the field, not in pre-season talk, and that opposing coaches sometimes try to over-praise to make other teams overconfident.

Stara admits his team will be extremely competitive. But onlywith reluctance is he willing to take on the burden of being proclaimed the early favorite.

"I think we're No. 1 by default because wehave the most lettermen back," Stara said. The Eagles return a loftytotal of 14 players, but in that department they are actually secondto Glenelg, which returns 16.

Stara predicts that his team will not win by big scores.

"We're not senior-heavy like Oakland Mills was last year," he said. "Overall, we're just a little-bit-above-average team."

Stara may have good reason to talk conservatively this early.

Oakland Mills returns 13 lettermen from a 14-2 season. One is Lopaka Trout, who scored 12 goals.

Atholton returns 10 lettermenfrom a 12-3-1 season, including first-team all-county striker Tony Dedmond, who produced 15 goals and 11 assists.

Howard, which has lost just one game in two years for the best record in the metro area, returns 10, including the always-dangerous junior midfielder Jason Yancey.

Wilde Lake returns nine and has three talented transfers forits best team since it won four straight state titles in the early 1980s.

The 'Cats have two players with U.S. Olympic Development Program national team experience -- senior forward Hamisi Amani-Dove andsenior midfielder Matt Nesbitt.

Hammond returns 12 lettermen, including second-team All-County fullback Brian Thierrin, from a team that won only three games. But the Bears tied three and lost twice in overtime.

Glenelg returns 16 players from its best team ever, including its ODP state-team goalie, Russell Payne.

And Mount Hebron, last year's forgotten team that won three games including an upset of Hammond, returns 10 lettermen for the county's only first-year coach,Ron Martin.

All of this means there will be no easy games in the county this year. Every team will be respectable or better. And any of them could make the playoffs.

This year's re-classification of state public high schools by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association has led to three noteworthy changes in the playoff structure.

Oakland Mills has dropped from Class 3A to 2A. Atholtonhas moved up from 2A to 3A. And Wilde Lake has dropped from 2A to 1A. Classifications are determined by enrollment.

The other county schools and their classifications are: Centennial (3A), Glenelg (2A), Howard (3A), Hammond (2A), and Mount Hebron (2A).

County teams wontwo of the four state titles last year. This year they have a good chance to win three.

Here's a closer look at each team in the most competitive soccer league in the state:

ATHOLTON

The talent pool at Atholton grows richer year-by-year.

This season coach Reg Hahne even had to cut a player who was on last year's state championship squad, which compiled Atholton's best-ever record of 12-3-1.

"We have a lot of quality players," Hahne said. "And hopefully we're starting a tradition of winning. Now that we've won a state title, we know what we need to do to repeat. And repeating would be wonderful."

The main monkey wrench in Atholton's plan seems to be its new classification. The Raiders have moved into the tougher 3A class that includesCentennial.

Atholton also faces the tough challenge of a significantly upgraded schedule that includes respected teams from Bethesda/Chevy Chase, Kennedy and Loyola.

"It was time now to upgrade the schedule because that's the only way to improve," Hahne said.

The Raiders defeated highly touted Bowie in a scrimmage this year, and thatwin helps build confidence that this will be another outstanding season for Atholton.

CENTENNIAL

The Eagles compiled a 22-4-2 record the past two years without ever winning a county, regional or state title.

Now they are expected to take it all, despite losing eight starters to graduation.

Senior midfielder Josh Baer is a second-teamall-county player and team captain. The speedy state-team player wasinvited to ODP regional camp but won't hear if he made that team until December.

Tod Downen is a flashy, 6-foot-2 senior midfielder who covers a lot of ground. He's the closest thing the Eagles have to asuperstar, and was a first-team All-County pick last year when he had eight goals and four assists.

Cullen Meade, the alternate captain, is a senior sweeper who is a quiet, workmanlike player on a team that always stresses defense. He was second-team All-County last year.

Centennial has a good blend of young and old, skills and speed, that all meshes together to make them No. 1.

Centennial, like Atholton, also defeated highly touted Bowie in a scrimmage this year.

GLENELG

Coach John Bouman, who served an apprenticeship with Bill Stara at Centennial, moves into his third season as Glenelg's varsity coach.

In his first season, the Gladiators won three games. Last yearthey improved to 6-6, the best record in school history.

This year he envisions nine wins.

"Realistically, we can beat any team we play," Bouman said. "We should be 5-0 out of county, and all of our county games should be close."

He hopes the Gladiators will break into the upper echelon of county soccer this season. He thinks they have the talent to do it, but he realizes that psychology is important and that his team must get off to a fast start or risk losing confidence and disintegrating.

"We don't have a reputation yet, and untilwe win a lot of games we won't," Bouman said. "But this is our most talented team ever. We have skilled, experienced starters."

GoalieRussell Payne is perhaps the best-known Glenelg player. The junior started every game last season, when Glenelg allowed 23 goals.

The team has only four seniors but 12 juniors among 16 returnees, so if the Gladiators don't break through this year, Bouman is certain they will next year.

HAMMOND

The Bears have fallen on hard times. They've won just two league games in two years and just six games total in that time.

But second-year coach Rich Corkran forecasts some improvement this year.

He points to last year's three ties and two overtime losses as an indication that things could have been quite different with a little luck and a couple more good players.

He's hopingsophomore fullbacks Tucker Peterson and Ryan Pollock will be the newplayers he needs because he has 12 lettermen back.

Of those 12, sophomore goalie Adam Beach is a standout.

HOWARD

Lions coach Rudy Storch sees changes in the wind for Howard.

"It's going to be tough for us to play a possession game this year," he said. "When you have dominant talent you can do that. We're going to have to adjust to other teams."

What that means is that Howard's talent pool is lowerthan for the last two years, when the Lions won two county titles, aregional title, a state title and lost just once.

Howard's 26-1-2record was the best in the Baltimore metro area.

With less talent, Howard will have to play a style that features longer kicking and physical defense.

"We'll stress defense," Storch said.

He will miss the superstar sweepers and strong goalies he's had the past two years, however.

Senior James Morrow inherits the keeper's job. And senior Mark Osterman moves into the sweeper slot. A lot depends on how well they play.

The Lions are still a dangerous team, although some people think they have dropped off tremendously in talent. They may just surprise a few teams.

MOUNT HEBRON

First-year coach Ron Martin's initial impressions are positive.

"We have a lot more talent here than I was led to expect," Martin said. The Vikings dominated their first scrimmage against Lackey, which Martin knows is a weak team.

"But we moved the ball well," he said.

He thinks that overall his team lacks quickness. "We have some speed, but that's not the same thing as quickness," Martin said.

One player with both quickness and speed, as well as good skills, is sophomore center midfielderJett Nilprabhassom.

Last year was one of Mount Hebron's poorest seasons ever. It won just one league game and three overall.

OAKLAND MILLS

Scorpions coach Don Shea's players are so small that he likesto call them "The Fighting Smurfs."

But Oakland Mills last year proved that size isn't everything when it won 14 games and a state title. Twelve of those wins were shutouts. Oakland Mills outscored its opposition, 55-9.

One thing that normally is important, however, isexperience and senior leadership, and the Scorpions may be a tad short -- there's that word again -- on both.

Oakland Mills has only three senior starters among 13 returning lettermen. And one of its captains is a junior; the other is a sophomore.

That, and the fact that Oakland Mills has maintained a jaw-busting schedule of heavyweights in a rebuilding season, indicates that the Scorpions are aiming foranother state title next year, not this year.

Shea's teams won in1986, 1988 and 1990. So 1992 looks good.

In the meantime, the Scorpions will gain some valuable experience and try to win as many games as possible.

Oakland Mills' tough schedule includes Kennedy, Bowie and Calvert Hall -- all on the road. The Scorpions play Loyola at home.

WILDE LAKE

Christmas came in August for third-year Wildecatscoach Dave Nesbitt. The exact three players he needed to make his ailing soccer team healthy unexpectedly showed up on his doorstep the first day of practice Aug. 15.

The names Corey Sautter, Phillippe Inskeep and Todd Bradford may just be names to some people.

But to Nesbitt they represent hope. They have him smiling an "It's A Wonderful Life" smile again after back-to-back losing seasons for the once-powerful Wildecats.

All three are transfer players, neatly wrapped gifts that Nesbitt accepted with glee. All three will start.

Sautter is a junior sweeper from the Eastern Shore. Inskeep is a junior forward from New Hampshire. Bradford is a senior goalie/forward from Atholton.

Nesbitt desperately needed a proven goalie like Bradford, since George Bradford (no relation) again opted not to play this year. As a sophomore, George Bradford was sensational for Wilde Lake, butlast fall he played golf and this fall he's playing football.

Nesbitt also needed a sweeper to avoid switching his son, Matt Nesbitt, from midfield to sweeper as he did many times last year.

And he needed a forward to take the pressure off superstar striker Amani-Dove.

The transfers have Wildecats fans as excited and as hopeful as they been since the team won four straight state titles from 1981-1984.

Last year Nesbitt described his team as rebuilding. Last week he said, "We're rebuilt."

BOYS VARSITY SOCCER SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 Thursday ..Mt. St. Joseph at Howard .. .. 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 6 .. ..Friday .. .Spalding at Glenelg .. .. .. ..3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Arch. Curley at Wilde Lake .. .3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Loyola at Oakland Mills .. .. .3:45 p.m.

Sept. 11 .. .Wednesday .Wilde Lake at Mt. St. Joseph ..3:15 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Glen Burnie at Atholton .. .. .3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. South Carroll at Hammond .. .. 3:45 p.m.

.. .. . .. .. .. .. .. .Oakland Mills at Calvert Hall .3:30 p.m.

Sept. 12 .. .Thursday ..Liberty at Glenelg .. .. .. .. 3:30 p.m.

Sept. 13 .. .Friday ... Howard at Calvert Hall .. .. ..3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Mt. Hebron at Catonsville .. ..3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Centennial at Mt. St. Joseph ..3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Curley at Hammond .. .. .. .. .3:45 p.m.

Sept. 16 .. .Monday .. .Glenelg at Have de Grace .. .. 3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Oakland Mills at Bowie .. .. ..3:30 p.m.

Sept. 17 .. .Tuesday .. Aberdeen at Mt. Hebron .. .. .. ..3 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. CM Wright at Centennial .. .. .3:30 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Fallston at Wilde Lake .. .. ..3:15 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Hammond at Thomas Stone .. .. .. .7 p.m.

Sept. 19 .. .Thursday ..Atholton at Kennedy .. .. .. ..3:15 p.m.

Sept. 20 .. .Friday .. .Glenelg at Bel Air .. .. .. .. .. 4 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Mt. Hebron at Fallston .. .. ..3:30 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Howard at Lingamore .. .. .. ..7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 .. .Saturday ..Calvert Hall at Centennial .. .. .1 p.m.

Sept. 23 .. .Monday .. .Atholton at Meade .. .. .. .. .3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Wilde Lake at Cardinal Gibbons 3:45 p.m.

Sept. 24 .. .Tuesday .. Centennial at Whitman.. .. .. .. 7 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Howard at Bel Air .. .. .. .. .. .4 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Oakland Mills at Kennedy .. .. 3:30 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. North Harford at Hammond.. .. 3:30 p.m.

Sept. 25 .. .Wednesday .Glenelg at Edgewood .. .... .. ..4 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Wilde Lake at Good Counsel.. .. .6 p.m.

Sept. 26 .. .Thursday ..Bel Air at Oakland Mills .... 3:30 p.m.

Sept. 27 .. .Friday .. .Edgewood at Mt. Hebron .. ....3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Atholton at BCC .. .. .. .. .. .. 7 p.m.

Oct. 1 .. .. Tuesday .. Centennial at Linganore .. .. .. .7 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Hammond at Aberdeen .. .. .. ..3:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 .. .. Wednesday .Mt. Hebron at Laurel .. .. .. .3:45 p.m.

Oct. 4 .. .. Friday .. .Wilde Lake at Oakland Mills .. 3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Centennial at Howard .. .. .. .7:30 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Hammond at Glenelg .. .. .. .. 3:45p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Atholton at Mt. Hebron .. .. ..3:45 p.m.

Oct. 8 .. .. Tuesday .. Glenelg at Wilde Lake .. .. .. 3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Howard at Mt. Hebron .. .. .. .3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Oakland Mills at Atholton .. ..3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Centennial at Hammond .. .. .. 3:45 p.m.

Oct. 11 .. ..Friday .. .Wilde Lake at Centennial .. .. 3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Oakland Mills at Howard .. .. .7:30 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Mt Hebron at Hammond .. .. .. .3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Glenelg at Atholton .. .. .. ..3:45 p.m.

Oct. 15 .. ..Tuesday .. Mt. Hebron at Wilde Lake .. .. 3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Hammond at Oakland Mills .. .. 3:45 p.m.

.... .. .. .. .. .. .. Howard at Atholton .. .. .. .. 3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . .Glenelg at Centennial .. .. .. 3:45 p.m.

Oct.18 .. ..Friday .. .Howard at Wilde Lake .. .. .. .3:45 p.m.

.. .... .. .. .. .. .. Hammond at Atholton .. .. .. ..3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Glenelg at Mt. Hebron .. .. .. 3:45 p.m.

Oct. 19.. ..Saturday ..Centennial at Oakland Mills .. ..10 a.m.

Oct. 22 .. ..Tuesday .. Wilde Lake at Hammond .. .. .. 3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Howard at Glenelg .. .. .. .. .3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Oakland Mills at Mt. Hebron .. 3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .... .. .. .. Centennial at Atholton .. .. ..3:45 p.m.

Oct. 25 .. ..Friday .. .Oakland Mills at Glenelg .. .. 3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Mt. Hebron at Centennial .. .. 3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .... .. .. Atholton at Wilde Lake .. .. ..3:45 p.m.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Hammond at Howard .. .. .. .. .7:30 p.m.

Oct. 29, 1991 1st-round Regionals

Nov. 2, 1991 Regional Finals

Nov. 9, 1991 State Semifinals

Nov. 16, 1991 State Finals

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