What would the oddsmakers make of these facts on the Centennial vs. Thomas Stone 3A state soccer championship Saturday?
The last 16 Howard County boys soccer teams to reach the state playoffs have won state titles. County teams have won 17 state titles in all, and only one county team has lost a state final -- the 1978 Oakland Mills team. Centennial has won three, the last in 1987.
Thomas Stone has lost five state semifinals, most recently in 1989, and is making its first championship game appearance. The team is the first from its Southern Maryland Athletic Conference to reach a state final.
The teams will play for the title at 5 p.m. Saturday at Old Mill High School.
Based on history, Centennial should be a cinch to win, right? Maybe.
Both teams are unbeaten. Centennial (13-0-2) and ranked No. 1 in the Baltimore area, tied strong county rivals Atholton and Wilde Lake and has otherwise been invincible. Wilde Lake is a Class 1A finalist.
The Eagles handed second-ranked Calvert Hall its only loss. And they beat Whitman, 2-1, among their better efforts. They have seven shutouts and have outscored opponents, 46-12.
They are led by captain and All-State striker Josh Baer, who has18 goals and seven assists, including a goal in each playoff game sofar.
Thomas Stone (14-0-1) is ranked No. 4 in the Washington metro area and would be perfect except for a controversial 1-1 tie with Poly (Baltimore) that ended prematurely because of a fight among the players.
The Cougars bumped off Whitman, 2-1, in the state 3A semifinal. They've outscored opponents, 67-8, have nine shutouts and are led by All-State keeper Jason Fleetwood.
"Thomas Stone is quick andaggressive and has three quality players up top," Centennial coach Bill Stara said. "Those three are our main concern."
The three are sophomore David Hayes (22 goals, nine assists), senior Willie Morris (18 goals, 12 assists) and sophomore Dan Villigran (seven each).
Morris scored Stone's first goal against Whitman from 25 yards out on a chip shot. Hayes scored the second on a minibreakaway.
"They look like a challenge," Stara said. "We'll try to deny them the ball, but I doubt if we'll mark them because that seems to give us problems when we do."
Stara says Stone reminds him of Atholton, a team that gave Centennial fits in the regional final before losing, 4-3, in a shootout.
"The only difference is that Stone's forwards play a little differently," Stara said. "Atholton's tried to get in behind the defense; Stone's forwards collect the ball, look you in the face and then go."
Thomas Stone coach Tom Parker coached Stara when he played keeper on an under-19 club team near Pittsburgh. Like Stara, Parkerstresses defense.
"I think the strongest defense will win," said Parker, who has coached at Stone since 1976.
Centennial has a strong sweeper in Cullen Meade. And Tod Downen (10 goals, two assists) isa dominant force in Centennial's midfield -- both offensively and defensively.
Rehan Gill has stepped into a more prominent offensive role in recent weeks, scoring two goals against Atholton in the regional final and one in the state semifinal.
Midfielders Eric Tischer, Mike Resau, Evan Peverly, and fullbacks Paul Badawi and Werner Krueger have started most games this season.
The Eagles' Brock Yetso has quickly developed into a star freshman keeper.
Parker calls this team his best ever at Thomas Stone. Stara says his team is above-average for Centennial but not his best.
But the Eagles have had only one other undefeated team -- the 1987 state champions, who went 15-0. So this year's squad needs only one more victory to put itself among an elite group of unbeaten state champions.
The Eagles never give up and always seem to pull off a big play when they need one. Theyare adept at scoring off dead-ball situations.
And no one can deny the Eagles' long winning history -- the team under Stara is 126-17-5 in a highly competitive soccer county.
Meade summed up the confident feeling that surrounds this year's team in a statement he made after the regional victory over Atholton.
"We have tradition," he said. "When we pull on the Centennial uniform we feel we're going to win."
BOYS CLASS 3A FINAL
Date: Saturday, Nov. 16
Time: 5 p.m.
Place: Old Mill High School
Records: Centennial 13-0-2, Thomas Stone 14-0-1.
Coaches: Centennial -- Bill Stara, Thomas Stone -- Tom Parker
Key: Defense will decide this game. Stone has allowed eight goals. Centennial has allowed 12.