Horn loud, clear and out on limb


Jim Horn has broken rule No. 1 of the coaching manual.

The South Carroll girls soccer coach has publicly predicted his team will beat Centennial Friday night in the first round of the 3A-4A West regional tournament at South Carroll.

Almost every coach at every level usually avoids at all costs any words that might inspire an opponent. These same coaches also try to put a lid on what their players say.

But Monday night Horn, standing on the edge of the South Carroll soccer field, said: "It's too bad Centennial's season will end Friday night here. We are going to beat them and you can put it in the paper."

South Carroll (11-1) is ranked No. 8 in the Baltimore metro area and Centennial (11-0) is No. 5.

Centennial, of course, is from Howard County, a hotbed of high school soccer. And the Eagles have knocked the Cavaliers out of the regionals the past three years.

There was a day when Horn never would have muttered a word publicly about a South Carroll team beating a tough Howard County squad.

But the Cavaliers scored their first victory over a Howard County school (Glenelg) this season, and South Carroll does have a rare performer on the field in senior Amber Clutter (70 career goals).

Horn's brash comments came moments before his team took the field for a regular-season-ending game against Westminster and shortly after he took full blame for the Cavaliers' only loss, 1-0 to neighborhood rival Liberty.

"That loss to Liberty was my fault," said Horn Monday night. "I didn't have my team ready to play. That game should have never come down to a 35-yard shot [Michelle Clawson's goal]."

Maybe Horn believes it is time to light a fire under his players by departing from his usual low-key manner, and he is willing to take the risk of pumping up Centennial even more.

Certainly, a loss for a fourth straight time to Centennial in the playoffs would be a disappointing way for Clutter to end her four-year career at South Carroll.

Also, a setback would close out the outstanding careers of goalkeeper Kendra Pulis, midfielders Sara McGinley, Danielle Picker, Roxanne Paull and Erin Nauyalis, forward Anne Schaeffer, and defenders Heather Hopple and Heather Jacobson.

It also would be the final game for midfielder Pam Dempsey.

Those seniors were all honored Monday night before South Carroll turned back Westminster, 4-2, behind four goals from Clutter.

"There wasn't a dry eye in the place tonight," said Horn of the farewell to the seniors in their final regular-season game at home.

Horn's promise of a South Carroll victory over Centennial has overshadowed some of the controversy surrounding the state's decision to have a blind draw for seeds in the first year of the open tournament for soccer.

A blind draw means that an 0-12 team could be the top seed in a region and a 12-0 team could be No. 14. It doesn't make sense to throw out everything that happened during the regular season.

Under such a theory, why not play scrimmages for four weeks, then start the tournament and spread it out over a longer period of time to allow teams to recover physically and mentally after each round?

At least, four teams should be seeded in a region if the idea is to conduct a regular season.

The idea to conduct an open tournament is fine, with every team getting in the regionals as long as it sends in an application.

An open tourney allows teams to schedule opponents they really want to play instead of just setting up games that will gain them qualifying points for the regionals.

For instance in Carroll County, an open tournament in all sports would allow 1A Francis Scott Key to compete for a true Carroll County championship, with football being an exception because the Eagles are locked into playing nine Monocacy Valley Athletic League opponents.

Right now, 4A Westminster, 3A South Carroll and 2As North Carroll and Liberty aren't all that excited about playing the 1A Eagles because they don't get many tournament points for beating them.

But that should change next year when all sports in the state, except football, will conduct open tournaments.

Hopefully, the powers-that-be will learn from this year's soccer experience and decide to seed some of the teams.

Centennial girls soccer coach Dave Greenberg, whose unbeaten team is seeded 10th and last in the 3A-4A West, said: "I have no problem with everybody getting in [the tournament], but there ought to be some reward for the regular season. I said that when we were 0-0 but nobody listened."

Even though the South Carroll girls are stuck with a seventh seed, Horn has no problem with the blind draw.

"If you don't have a blind draw, teams will still schedule games to get a higher seed," said Horn. "We would have to beat Centennial some time to win a state title, so we might as well do it now as later."

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