It took less than two minutes for the Brian West Show to get officially under way.
West made his final high school game one to remember, as he scored three goals in leading top-ranked Centennial past Bel Air, 4-1, in the Class 3A championship game at Old Mill yesterday. It completed a 16-0 season for the Howard County school, which won its second straight title and fourth in the past five years.
West made it look easy when he got to a looping pass from junior Matt Laycock, raced past two defenders and beat goalkeeper Ian Minnichbach from 16 yards away. Just one minute, 45 seconds had elapsed.
It stayed that way through the half, as each side had momentum for a while, but could not convert scoring chances.
Ryan Zimmerman, a senior midfielder, got the tying goal for Bel Air (10-5-1) six minutes into the second half, getting an open
shot off a perfect pass from senior forward Nick Stratigeas.
"It was a nice pass, and there wasn't any defender within a couple of feet of me," Zimmerman said of his shot from the top of the box.
Aside from the scoreless tie with Thomas Stone in a state semifinal that had to go to a shootout last week, this marked only the second team to get as much as a tie during any game against Centennial. Mount St. Joseph had scored first in the third game of the season, but the Eagles ended with a 5-1 win.
This time, the tie lasted five minutes before Laycock drilled home shot from 25 yards out. "That was the killer," said Bel Air coach Bill Jefferson. And Centennial coach Bill Stara pretty much said the same thing when he expressed the opinion that he thought it would be very hard for a team to score three times against his squad.
Not surprising, because the Bobcats were only the fourth team to score against the Columbia group. The goal margin wound up 62-7, with West accounting for 18 goals and 17 assists.
West's other goals came with 18 minutes left and eight minutes left, although perhaps one he didn't get was an even more spectacular effort.
NTC Breaking loose, he rocketed a shot that hit the goal post and rebounded some 35 yards into the playing field. It brought oohs and aahs from spectators on both sides of the field.
West went out in style, generating his final goal by himself. He sent a ball through about 20 yards, sped past three defenders and caught up with the ball, paused, and deposited it in the upper left corner of the net. That was what he would refer to later as, "My goal-hungry gear."
It was a gear for which Bel Air had no answer.
"They were just too fast for us," said junior sweeper Billy Nelson.
This marked the first time Bel Air had reached the state tournament, and, like Centennial, it needed to win a shootout to reach the final.