Playing against Centennial's boys soccer team is an unsettling experience for almost any team.
The No. 1 Eagles (9-0-2 overall, 6-0 league) have four players in national pools and another one in a regional pool. The skill level and experience level of nearly every Centennial player is high.
Centennial, after defeating visiting Oakland Mills 1-0 yesterday, hasn't lost to a county team in 29 games (that includes three ties) and has lost only three league games since 1987.
Overall, only Whitman has beaten Centennial in four seasons, during which the Eagles are a combined 50-2-7.
This season the Eagles have allowed only five goals.
So it was no surprise that No. 11 Oakland Mills (9-2, 5-1), a team with no national players and few high-level travel players, started yesterday's game against the Eagles a bit nervous.
Every time the Scorpions gained possession in the first half they'd kick the ball toward the middle of the field -- just where Centennial wanted them to. They were afraid to kick it down the sidelines to try to create a scoring threat.
"We kept imagining there were more [Centennial] players down the sides than there really were, which was just a symptom of our lack of experience under pressure," Oakland Mills coach Don Shea said. "Skills under pressure summed up the game. Centennial had the players with skills and experience in pressure games."
Centennial's lone goal was another example of the Scorpions cracking under pressure.
The goal came in the 36th minute on a header by Matt Laycock off a long throw-in by Steve Otten. Scorpions goalkeeper Aaron Dane (five saves) made the mistake of leaving his line on the play.
For Laycock, a tall sophomore midfielder and member of the under-17 national pool, it was his third goal this season, but his first on a header.
For Otten, a senior fullback, it was his first assist this season. Neither Laycock nor Otten started.
"They were more skilled than we were," Oakland Mills striker Zuri Barnes said. "That's what it came down to."
Barnes, a speedster who runs at will against most teams, was checked by Centennial marking back Doug Ulman, who normally plays midfield. Even had Barnes gotten free, he would have had few chances because Oakland Mills had trouble getting the ball past Centennial's midfield.
Centennial outshot the Scorpions 17-4, and created several dangerous chances in the second half.
"We played well in the first half and not as well in the second half," Centennial coach Bill Stara said.
Shea was pleased with the second half that his team played once it relaxed and settled down.
That half the Scorpions created several potentially dangerous long throw-ins taken by Jason Gotis, but Centennial goalkeeper Brock Yetso and his defenders were always up to the task.