One big monkey is off Centennial's back. The Eagles defeated Mount Hebron twice this season, finally silencing critics who said it couldn't be done.
Now the Eagles, a state finalist in 1994 and semifinalist in 1992 and 1993, will try to earn the ultimate respect by winning a state championship.
No. 14-ranked Centennial will challenge Towson's low-yielding defense with a high-scoring offense when the teams meet tonight for the Class 1A-2A state title at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
It would be Centennial's first official state championship, since the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association didn't recognize state champions until 1990 when a greater percentage of counties began playing the sport. But the Eagles won state/region titles in 1980 and 1981.
Centennial (14-1), winners of a school-record 14 straight games since a season-opening loss to Annapolis, has posted the team's best record ever. It has outscored its opponents 255-100, averaging 17 goals and giving up 6.6 goals.
Towson (13-4), has won seven straight games and outscored its RTC opponents, 139-70. The Generals are giving up four goals per game.
Part of that low Towson yield is due to a deliberate offensive style that attempts to control the ball and run the clock. That's the ideal style needed to stop Centennial.
"Tempo is the key," Centennial coach Mike Siegert said.
To slow it down, the Generals first must win the faceoffs, a facet they have been successful at 61 percent of the time.
Centennial, led by P. J. Paolisso who has won 99 of 143 faceoffs (69 percent) is also strong in that aspect, and its deep, experienced midfield excels at preventing transitions, is adept at coming up with groundballs and can score. Paolisso leads the team with 116 groundballs.
Centennial's "red" midfield consists of Paolisso (41 goals, 24 assists), Drew Cothran and Ben Calvert (22 goals, 13 assists). It's white midfield is composed of Justin Vettori, Eric Jones and Justin Worley. All are seniors except for Jones and Vettori.
"Centennial is legit. A very good team," said Glenelg coach Rick Kincaid after his team lost to the Eagles. "If you run the field they'll kill you."
The attack consists of Joe Iannarino (46 goals, 27 assists), Ben Ryan (30, 42) and Taylor Fields (27, 27) -- all seniors.
The defense, the only question mark when the season began, consists of Drew Enstice, a converted midfielder, Chad Orzechowski, Jason Hikel and John Anacker -- all seniors.
The goalkeeper is a sophomore, Mike Schmidt, who gradually won the starting job from junior Pete Armanas as the season progressed.
It is an experienced team. Ryan, Paolisso, Iannarino, Worley, Cothran and Orzechowski have started since their sophomore seasons.
"We've been on the threshold the past few years," said coach Siegert, a 24-year veteran, 21 of them at Centennial. "We'll need sharp stickwork, because it's artificial turf so the ball will roll quickly out of bounds. Our hustle and athleticism won't be as big a factor as on a grass field."
Towson has tradition in its favor, having won four official state titles and another four state/region titles.
The only common opponent has been Hereford. Towson defeated the Bulls, 7-6, and Centennial topped Hereford 13-6 in the state semifinals.
The Eagles have only one returning first-team All-County player, Paolisso. But they have four second-team players in Iannarino, Ryan Calvert and Worley.
"We have unselfish players," Siegert said. "It's hard to get All-County recognition when you have 11 guys scoring."
Pub Date: 5/19/98