Centennial's 45-game winning streak and hopes for a third straight state Class 3A championship ended at Catonsville Community College last night under appropriately unsettling atmos- pheric conditions.
During the game there was lightning, thunder, sleet, rain and hail.
In the end it was Thomas Stone goalkeeper Chris Stark's three saves during a shootout that decided the state semifinal contest, 2-1. Thomas Stone (16-0) won the shootout, 7-5.
"I knew we were the only team in the state that could beat them," Stark said. "But I thought we'd lose if it went to a shootout.
Thomas Stone coach Tom Parker said: "This is our finest moment. Chris played a great game."
The Eagles (14-1), ranked No. 1 in the Baltimore area and No. 3 in the nation, had plenty to second-guess, including two goals that were called back by the officials for offsides and obstruction, and a two-on-one breakaway that they failed to convert.
But they took the loss like champions, with heads held high and nary a tear.
"It had to happen sometime," Centennial midfielder and national team player Matt Laycock said. "This was one of the better games we've played this year. We controlled the game but just couldn't finish."
Laycock was one of five Eagles who missed their penalty kicks during the shootout.
"I haven't missed a penalty kick in I don't know how long. But those things happen. Shootouts aren't fun. They are a terrible way to end a game, but you can't play on forever."
Thomas Stone took Centennial to a shootout last season in the state semifinals as well, so the Eagles weren't surprised by the quality of play from the Charles County squad. Stone had lost three previous playoff games to Centennial in recent years.
"They are good. You are never undefeated for no reason," Laycock said. "You can't win every day, even though you'd like to. We gave our all and just came up short this year."
Centennial scored first in the 28th minute, when Matt Stephenson (19 goals, 10 assists) gathered a pass to his feet from Laycock, slipped two defenders on the left side, dribbled to the center of the field at the 20-yard line and kicked it by the keeper, who had come out to the 18-yard line.
Later in the half, Thomas Stone scored on a defensive breakdown, as two Centennial defenders and goalkeeper Christian Lewis came out on the right wing to stop an offensive thrust by Ricky Brown. His shot bounced away from all three and rolled dead eight yards in front of the goal. Joey McCall, slipped through and kicked it in. McCall ran 50 yards downfield and dove head-first, sliding 10 yards on the slippery grass in celebration.
With 2: 30 left in the half, thunder boomed and lightning lighted up the skies, but the officials did not stop the game.
Pub Date: 11/10/96