The moment of truth came with 19 minutes left in the first half.
Two-time All-Metro Giuliano Celenza of Archbishop Curley took a pass from Edward Cruz near the top of the penalty box. McDonogh's All-Metro sweeper Pablo Webster stood his ground, about two yards in front of Celenza.
The two stars froze for an instant, poised for action, each awaiting a move from the other. What happened next sparked No. 4 Curley (8-1, 4-1 MIAA) -- and crumbled their third-ranked visitors emotionally in a 4-0 rout.
Suddenly, Celenza took off, gaining a step with two dribbles to the left. Webster was in pursuit, but Celenza (16 goals, five assists), showing why he may be the best goal-scorer in Curley history, froze keeper Bob Benson with a blistering left-footer to the net's lower opposite corner.
"I thought Pablo'd come to me. But when he forced me left, I just took it on the ground. The keeper stayed right in the middle of the goal, so the corner was wide open and I just tucked it away," said Celenza.
His 65 career goals (25 assists) have him three goals shy of the school's scoring record.
"I respect Pablo for being a great sweeper, but he made one mistake, and he paid for it."
With the Eagles mentally wounded, All-City/County stopper Jamie Becker said "our killer instinct took over." In order, Tony Tamanini, in his third game back from a foot injury, Becker and Chris Howard scored against their Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference rivals. It was 2-0 at half.
"Becker and [midfielder] Steve Novak had a lot of space over the midfield line. We were surprised they gave us that much," said Tamanini, whose 15-yard shot to the goal's near corner got past a defender and Benson.
But it was Celenza's dazzling effort -- against a national team pool player -- that seemed to fracture the Eagles' confidence.
"Our offense starts in the back. But Curley attacked so well that we had no time to build. They totally neutralized us," said McDonogh coach Bill Seal, whose squad was outshot, 8-2, in the first half (17-11 for the game). "We were so concerned about Giuliano that our marks got mixed up. We were on our heels, and they earned their goals by forcing us into mistakes."
Curley defenders Becker, Matt Kerr, Matt Perzinski, Brian Rosenberger and Matt Walters were equally superb, silencing McDonogh's top scorer Dave Buehler (seven goals). Keeper Jason Muffoletto (nine saves) smothered a late threat at Webster's feet.
Meanwhile, Webster, the point man in McDonogh's 3-5-2 formation, was too often drawn from his position, and defenders Vinny Ciarpella and Cap Poklemba, were unable to compensate.
"We got Pablo to commit wide, make some early decisions, and without him back there, we went right through," said Dave Ball, assistant to Curley coach Pep Perrella.
"Once we worked it back in, you saw some nice baseline goals."
Pub Date: 9/27/96