Fallston resident Mike Barger first donned a Calvert Hall soccer uniform as a freshman midfielder. From there, you might say, he regressed -- to the defensive backfield, that is.
"He came to me as a big forward -- not strong or quick," said Calvert Hall coach Bill Karpovich, who is in his 25th season.
"But for his sophomore year, I put him in the midfield. He playedthere for two years and had nice skills -- but he only scored about one or two goals last year."
Entering this, Barger's senior season, Karpovich made a deal with the 16-year-old athlete. "I said, 'Look,I know you want to play offense, but let's try you in the back on defense,' " said Karpovich. "Since then, we've reached a happy medium."
Thursday that deal paid off big. Barger, a sweeper, anchored the metro area's No. 2-ranked Cardinals' defense to a 5-0 victory over 14th-ranked John Carroll.
With the win, which came in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference tournament semifinal, Calvert Halltied the school record with its 13th shutout. The Barger-led defensehas also limited the opposition to just five goals -- one less than the school record.
If the Cardinals (16-1) can blank Mount St. Joseph in today's 2 p.m. MSA championship game at Essex Community College, they will set new marks in both shutouts and goals allowed. A victory would capture Karpovich's 10th MSA A title of the last 12.
"All the records -- it's just hard to believe I've had a part in it," said Barger, who maintains a B average at Calvert Hall. He hopes to continue his schooling at either the University of Maryland at College Park or UMBC.
While the Cardinals' athletic success is near-legendary in the Baltimore area, Barger is a county legacy in his own right.
Like his three older brothers, Tim, 21, Joe, 24, and Greg, 25, Mike grew up playing soccer, lacrosse and basketball for the Fallston Recreation Council. Their father, George, a former two-time soccer All-American at the University of Baltimore and semipro player, was actively involved as a coach in the rec council.
You might say Mike broke a family tradition by attending Calvert Hall instead of Fallston High, where his brothers went to school. Barger says he was persuadedto make the switch while playing on the under-14 Baltimore Spirit club team during the summer before his freshman year.
"I got to be good friends with a lot of the guys on that team, and a lot of them were coming to Calvert Hall," said Barger, who should hear soon whetherhe has made the Olympic Developmental Program's regional squad for his age group.
So far his story nearly parallels brother Joe's.
In Joe's sophomore season at s Loyola College, Coach Bill Sento movedhim from striker -- where he had five goals and seven assists as a freshman -- to sweeper.
During his sophomore and junior seasons, Joe led the Greyhounds to nine and 12 shutouts respectively. In Joe's tenure from 1983 to 1987, Loyola became a national power, going 59-16-4 and was ranked as high as No. 4 nationally.
As a defender, Joe later played for the Major Soccer League's Baltimore Blast and helped the Maryland Bays win the 1990 American Professional Soccer League crown. He will enter his third season with the Bays next spring.
Sento once said, "Joe was an offensive threat because of his scoring ability and had some important goals for us."
Similarly, Karpovich calls Mike Barger a "nice weapon offensively." The 5-foot-11, 145-poundplayer has contributed six goals and two assists to an offense whichhas scored a school-record 88 goals. Five of Barger's goals have come off of dead-ball situations.
"I move him up on set plays, like corner kicks and throw-ins," said Karpovich. "It's worked out great, because he's an offensive-oriented defensive back."