With a rookie head coach and a roster dominated by underclassmen, sixth-ranked St. Paul's will have to clear a lot of hurdles to match its success of the past several seasons.
Yesterday, the Crusaders jumped a big one with an 11-7 win over visiting and No. 9 Severn.
The victory was the first in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association for new head coach Rick Brocato, and it was an important one, too.
St. Paul's -- along with Severn and No. 2 Gilman -- plays in the toughest of the MIAA A Conference's three divisions. With two of the three teams in each division making the playoffs, any inter-division win is big, especially when it's the first of a career.
"It feels great," said Brocato, who took over for Mitch Whiteley, a legend at St. Paul's who in six years guided the Crusaders to two championships and a 35-game winning streak.
"We've got a lot of youth on this team, and the kids have been working real hard."
St. Paul's has just six seniors on its roster, and starts a goalie that was playing for the junior varsity last year at this time.
But it was a couple of seniors that got the Crusaders (4-1, 1-1) rolling early in yesterday's game.
Rob Uhlig and Tucker Radebaugh -- the only upperclassmen to score for the Crusaders yesterday -- combined for five goals in the first half to help St. Paul's to a 6-0 halftime lead.
Severn, which lost to Gilman by five goals Tuesday after hitting just three of 29 shots, again was hurt by poor shooting in the first half, missing on all 12 of its shots.
"I'm pretty upset," said Severn coach Mike Burnett. "The kids come in and play well, but we can't score."
Junior goalie Rich Yost was part of the reason, making seven of his 13 saves in the first half.
By the time the Admirals (1-3, 0-3) started to find the net in the second half, the game was virtually out of reach.
Each time Severn would cut into St. Paul's lead, one of the Crusaders' youngsters would answer.
Junior Chris Kakel had three second-half scores, and freshman Alex Poole and junior David deVillier also scored to put the game away.
"We still haven't had a game yet where everything has clicked," said Radebaugh, who in addition to his two goals also had two assists while switching between midfield and attack.
"But a lot of the inexperienced guys are starting to get some goals now and get their feet wet."
The younger St. Paul's players again will get their feet wet when the Crusaders play host to division rival Gilman on Tuesday.
"That's the only way you learn -- by game experience," said Brocato.
"They'll be out there working their tails off, and that's all I ask of them."