BANKING ON OFFENSE Neuberger, Swift hope to lead Severna Park to state level


If the Severna Park Falcons are going to "get out of the region," as the soccer players call it, they will doubtless do it on the scoring feet of Scott Neuberger and Matt Swift.

Getting out of the region means progressing beyond the regional playoffs into the state tournament. Severna Park lost to Rockville in the 1988 state final and to Whitman in the 1989 state championship game.

The Falcons haven't gotten out of the region since.

"We expect to win the rest of our games and win the region and go to the state finals," Neuberger said. "We haven't gotten out of the region for a while."

Neuberger, a junior striker, leads Severna Park in points (12) and goals (10). Swift, the senior captain, has seven goals and two assists. They have accounted for 17 of the team's 32 goals.

"I expected to do well, but not like this," Neuberger said. "I'm surprised."

Neuberger first commanded the attention of the Anne Arundel County soccer community early this month when he scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Annapolis and one in a 2-0 victory over Chesapeake. He was named a Baltimore Sun Metro Athlete of the Week.

Neuberger followed his brother, Steve, now a sophomore outfielder at Maryland, into baseball and soccer. He began in the Mountain Road soccer program at 5 and switched to the Severna Park Green Hornets at 6.

"Without Steve, I don't know what sports I'd be playing," Neuberger said.

Although Swift has been productive on offense, he regards defense as the team's strength. Until allowing three goals in a loss to North County last week, Severna Park was on track to break the school record for fewest goals allowed (six), set by the 1988 team.

"We'd rather shut a team out, 2-0, than win, 5-2," Swift said. "The defense takes it to heart when it gets scored on."

The Falcons' chief defender is Bryce Poland, a senior stopper, who, in coach Don Gregg's opinion, "could play for anyone." Poland also is a product of the Green Hornets' program and followed in Severna Park's boys soccer tradition by spending his freshman and sophomore years on the JV.

"Here, guys just don't make varsity as sophomores," Poland said. "The teams are really good."

Despite giving up three goals to North County and two in its next game, a 4-2 win over Meade, Severna Park is playing better defense than last year's team that allowed 22 and finished 11-2-0. The Falcons have allowed 10 in nine games.

"Coach Gregg preaches unselfish teamwork," said Kelly Harris, a junior midfielder. "No one person does all the scoring. Or ball handling. It's the whole team.

"We gave up way too many goals last season. The mentality of this team is not to give up goals. We don't like to be scored on. We just don't like it."

No one on the team has played more soccer than senior David Engstrom. He has played it to the virtual exclusion of other sports, starting at the age of 5 in Omaha, Neb.

His father, Peter, a colonel in the Air Force, brought the family to Maryland a few years later, then returned to Omaha again and moved to Severna Park once more when David was 12.

By Engstrom's calculations, he has played 78 seasons of soccer, counting summer and winter as well as fall campaigns in Omaha and Severna Park.

"We want to keep up Severna Park's reputation and be the tough guys in the county," Engstrom said. "That's how we can reach the states."

One of Gregg's guides is a Bob Knight film in which the Indiana basketball coach notes the similarities of basketball, lacrosse and soccer.

"All have give and go, passing and playing with and without the ball," Gregg said. "If we can keep it simple and execute, we're capable of being a good team."

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