Second-ranked Centennial hopes that yesterday's 3-0 victory over seventh-ranked Atholton did more than clinch the top seed in the Class 3A, Region III soccer playoffs.
"We also wanted to send some sort of message in case we meet them again in the playoffs," Eagles sophomore midfielder Doug Ulman said. He scored visiting Centennial's third goal, his seventh of the season.
Centennial (9-0-2, 5-0-1) earned the home-field playoff advantage and extended its unbeaten streak to 27 games and clinched a tie for the county championship.
Ulman and his teammates probably never dreamed the victory would come so easily. Centennial scored two goals in the first 18 minutes.
"After the second goal I said to myself, 'Whoa, we've really come to play,' " Ulman said. "I'm real happy."
Centennial, whose normal pattern is to attack from the corners, concentrated its attack down the middle against Atholton (8-2-1, 4-2). The Eagles avoided one-on-one confrontations with Atholton's star outside fullback, Alex Denno.
And on the few occasions when Denno was near the ball, Centennial made sure he was marked tightly and unable to get off one of the long kicks for which he is noted. A frustrated Denno drew a yellow card for kicking the ball out of bounds near the end of the game. That yellow quickly turned into a red card after he said something to the official.
The uncustomary focus of Centennial's attack resulted in 10 direct kicks from the middle of the field. The Eagles had only a few dangerous throw-ins and four corner kicks.
Sophomore striker Brad Terrill, who started his first game when Centennial's regular starter, Rehan Gill, was switched to midfield, scored the Eagles' first goal in the 10th minute. From 18 yards out, he kicked a shot past Atholton goalkeeper Josh Seidman's right side into the upper net.
In the 18th minute, Gill scored Centennial's second goal by kicking in a high-bouncing ball from the 6-yard line. He had intercepted a pass and slipped through three defenders, as Atholton attempted to push upfield.
Ulman's goal came off a throw-in from Allen Alejandro in the 29th minute. "We're shocked," said Atholton coach Reg Hahne, whose team has clinched a playoff spot. "We thought we'd at least make a game of it."