Coach Dave Gehrdes shudders to think what life in Annapolis High soccer would have been like without Dave Winegrad this season.
"He was almost irreplaceable," Gehrdes said, recalling that Winegrad missed one game with the flu and Annapolis surrendered a season-high four goals.
That Annapolis managed to finish 4-8 was due in large part to Winegrad's defensive skills. The senior sweeper is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, "a one-man wrecking crew," according to South River coach Greg Carroll.
"If we hadn't had Dave," Gehrdes said, "we wouldn't have been in as many close games as we were. We lost five by one goal. North County won on a penalty shot. Northern [Calvert County] beat us in overtime, 2-1."
A first-team All-County defender last year as a junior, Winegrad is a likely repeater. As brilliant and valuable as he has been, Annapolis never has reached the playoffs in his three years on the varsity.
He has to be content now with watching teammates on the Arundel Strikers play for their high school teams, as he did the other night when Old Mill met Severna Park in the playoffs.
"Four of my Arundel Strikers friends were on those teams," Winegrad said. "I play with those guys all year and against them once when our schools meet. It was good to just watch them. I miss being in the playoffs, but there's not much I can do."
It is with the Arundel Strikers that Winegrad plays his serious soccer. The under-18 Strikers, who play a full schedule in the spring and tournaments in the fall and summer, compete in the National Capital Soccer League's Division I. With six levels of play in each age group, the league is one of the strongest in North America.
"All the kids are of my ability or better," Winegrad said. "We could beat any high school team in this area, and every
guy on the team could play at some level of college soccer."
More than 150 colleges will scout the Capital Cup. All the players will be noticed. Many will be courted.
Armed with a 3.7 grade-point average and first-team All-County honors in lacrosse as well as soccer, Winegrad is being wooed by Dartmouth, Princeton, Virginia, North Carolina and Duke. Coaches at those schools have told him it's possible to play both sports, but not realistic. Winegrad knows he'll have to settle on one.
He spent last summer not only playing for the Strikers but working in the George Washington Science and Engineering Apprentice Program at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Annapolis. Out of 2,000 applicants, only 450 were chosen.
Winegrad began playing soccer at the age of 6 with the Annapolis Soccer Club, coached by his father, Dan. He was a goalie until he was 12, then got restless and wanted to play in the field.
Still, he wound up as the goalie on the Annapolis High JV team as a freshman. The following year, Gehrdes had All-County goalie Jack Karl returning and put Winegrad on defense, first as a fullback, the last two years as the sweeper.
"At 6-3, he's so dominating in the air, such a good header," Gehrdes said. "He's the sweeper, the deep defensive back, and he takes over the high balls and dominates."
South River's Carroll likens Winegrad to a "double-edged sword," able to beat teams with his brains as well as his body.
"He's one of the premier players as far as using his head in concerned," Carroll said. "He's intelligent -- sees the field so well -- and can score goals and pass with his head. Every place we'd put the ball, his head was there to get it out.
"He controlled the middle of the field. I told our offense to use the wings and try to keep the ball away from him."
Carroll has not seen the last of Winegrad, for he also coaches South River's lacrosse team.
"I have double duty against Dave Winegrad," Carroll said. "I'm not sure which is his best sport."