Top-ranked Centennial extended its unbeaten streak to 24 games with a 3-1 victory over visiting Howard yesterday.
The Eagles, who are 21-0-3 over the last two seasons, took advantage of a strong wind at their backs to keepHoward (4-4, 1-2 in Howard County) on the defensive for most of the first half. Centennial freshman Brian West broke a scoreless tie 17 minutes into the game, kicking in a loose ball in front of the goal.
"We knew we had to get one goal in the first half, because we figured they would use the wind to pin us back on defense the second half," Eagles coach Bill Stara said.
Centennial (7-0-1, 3-0) outshot the Lions, 12-4, in that half.
The Eagles used a long-kicking attack style that emphasized quick movement out of Howard's offensive zone.
"Howard waits for you to make a mistake and then they punish you," Stara said. "We didn't want to make any mistakes and give up an easy goal."
Despite capitalizing on Centennial mistakes to move the ball into scoring position several times, Howard never got off a threatening shot in the first half.
That situation changed in the second half when Howard had the wind at its back. The Lions outshot Centennial, 10-3, in the half but were outscored, 2-1.
Ten minutes into the second half, Centennial sophomore Brad Terrill scored by kicking in a loose ball that Howard goalkeeper Jason Sheffrin dropped a few feet in front of the goal.
A few minutes later, Centennial's Chris Arcella had a breakaway, but Sheffrin came out and broke it up for the best of his eight saves.
Centennial's final goal came 22 minutes into the half. Mike Resau's cross glanced off Terrill to Rehan Gill, who made a back-post cut and tapped in a two-footer. Howard's Jason Yancey scored off Mike Bagrosky's direct kick 23 minutes into the second half. Yancey made a back-post cut and headed the ball just inside the far post.
Four minutes later, Yancey barely missed another goal off a direct kick.
"We played pretty well and kept it about as close as we're capable of," Howard coach Rudy Storch said.
Howard is the only team to have a winning record against Centennial in recent years. The Lions are 2-1-1 since 1989, but have not been able to win at Centennial.
"Everyone hates to play us here," Stara said. "There's an aura about this field. The Centennial fleas just jump up out of the grass and bite you."
Since 1987 the Eagles have a home record of 34-2-2, with the only losses coming to Oakland Mills.