After 34 years, there's changing of soccer guard HIGH SCHOOL BOYS SOCCER PREVIEW


The numbers, as staggering as they are, have never been a big thing with former North Carroll boys soccer coach Ed Powelson.

He'll discuss them -- only when urged -- and when he does, everything is mostly rounded off to his best estimations. He would much rather talk about the players that have come and gone, his longtime assistant, Charlie Hook, and how the game of soccer has changed in the 34 years he coached at North Carroll.

"When I first came here, the kids played with steel toes in their shoes. Back then, the shin guards were like weights to protect from those things," he said.

Thursday afternoon, minus the steel toes, the North Carroll boys soccer team traveled to Hereford under first-year coach Denny Snyder and came away with a 2-1 win. Powelson stayed behind at North Carroll, taking care of his duties as the school's athletic director with the freshmen and junior varsity football teams opening its seasons.

"He was the best high school soccer coach there ever was in the state of Maryland," said Hook. "No one got more out of his kids than him and he taught them so much more than the game of soccer. He treated all of his players like they were his own son."

Boys soccer in Carroll, once dominated by Powelson's teams decades at a time, will never be quite the same.

"The question is 'How is Ed going to stay off the sideline?' " said Westminster coach Chuck Beaver. "I've often said I'll believe it when I see it. It's gonna be different, gonna be strange for a while."

The thought of stepping down was something Powelson had been pondering the last several years and one he completely decided on in April.

"Last year I had an inkling that maybe this was it," he said. "I'm glad I made the decision. I enjoyed doing it, was blessed for many a year and it was time for me to go."

He certainly made his mark and it goes far beyond the 260 career wins and 20 county championships.

"He was a fantastic motivator first and foremost," said Snyder, who played for Powelson in the early '80s. "Aside from my parents, he is my biggest role model and a big reason why I'm still around here teaching and coaching in the North Carroll system. You just can't say enough about him."

The word "motivator" comes up more than any other when talking to former players and opposing coaches about Powelson.

"The biggest thing with him was you always knew when you faced a Powelson-coached team they would play like they were running through a brick wall until the final whistle blew. It was a fact of life," said Liberty coach Lee Kestler. "For years and years they were the team to beat and nobody could do a good job of doing it."

There were times during Powelson's tenure when winning became such a way of life, his players almost feared losing. There was a string of 47 straight regular-season wins during the late '60s and early '70s and an amazing string when the Panthers didn't lose on their home field. The Panthers went 10 years without a regular-season home loss. After moving to Hampstead-Mexico Road in the mid-1970s, the Panthers continued the dominance, rattling off another eight straight years of winning at home.

Playing soccer at North Carroll was a privilege and a responsibility the players cherished.

"When you came out for the team, you didn't just get a uniform, you worked hard and earned the right. Putting on a North Carroll uniform -- junior varsity or varsity -- was something special," Powelson said. "It was a situation where no one wanted to lose. We won the 47 straight games and when we finally lost, it was like a morgue around our school the next couple of days."

All of North Carroll's winning left a lot of frustrated opposing coaches. Francis Scott Key's G. Hibberd was one of them. "I played against him when I was at Key and he was a pretty fierce motivator back then. And then I spent 13 years worth of losing to North Carroll [as a coach] before winning last year. I wanted to beat North Carroll so bad, a lot of times more than my players, and I had to make a point of getting away from that," he said. "I'm not sure a stronger motivator of athletes has existed than that man. He didn't have the word lose in his vocabulary."

Right there with Powelson every step of the way for the past 28 years was Hook, who also stepped down from his junior varsity post after last year. "He had more wins than me," said Powelson. "We just get along so well. What a guy and what a coach. You couldn't ask for more of a dedicated person. What other man would coach junior varsity for 28 years? That's loyalty."

"It was the Ed & Charlie Show," said South Carroll coach Charlie Fazenbaker. And quite a show it was.


The county crown this year is there for the taking.

Last year's dominant teams -- South Carroll and Westminster -- both lost the majority of starters to graduation. Both teams have plenty of new talent and an advantage Westminster may have at the start is that they used more bench players last year. Those Westminster players will be the ones stepping up and playing a more vital role this season, while most of South Carroll's new faces will have the task of adjusting to the varsity level from the JV. Some answers will be found tonight when South Carroll travels to Westminster.

Another big early season county match has the Liberty Lions traveling to Francis Scott Key tonight. The Eagles have the county's top scorer returning in senior striker Robbie Green.

At North Carroll, Snyder got what he was looking for in a 2-1 win over Hereford on Thursday. A good nucleus returns from last year and some early success could make the Panthers a dangerous team.

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