Through all of last week, River Hill coach Bill Stara had his top-ranked team practice on the Columbia school's asphalt tennis courts.
It wasn't any new training technique, but rather the best way he could think of to prepare the Hawks for the challenge of playing the Class 2A state final on the artificial turf of UMBC Stadium.
Game, set and match to River Hill.
In a physical battle, River Hill broke a tie with three unanswered goals in a 4-1 win over Patapsco, giving the Hawks (19-1) their second straight state championship. They defeated Easton, 5-1, in last year's final.
It also gave Stara his ninth state championship, extending his own record. He won seven as coach of Centennial.
The Hawks have been to the finals each of their three years in existence.
After playing their entire season on grass, players said that working on a hard surface proved invaluable.
"It helped us to adjust to the speed of the ball, and it made us play the feet like we had to in the game," said River Hill midfielder Adom Crew. "If we didn't, the ball would run."
Crew, a first-team All-Metro selection a year ago, proved most adept at keeping the ball under wraps, scoring one goal and assisting on another.
River Hill took a 1-0 lead 9: 27 into the game when Crew headed in Brett Endler's corner, beating goalie Eric Lloyd to his left.
Patapsco, however, didn't take long to answer, tying the game 5: 50 later on Greg Hooper's shot from 20-yards out off a feed from Darren Sprouse.
"Last year, we played them in the [state] semis and they intimidated us really badly," said Patapsco coach Dave Ingle, whose team lost last year's semifinal, 3-0. "We went out to play them tonight. You can't take anything away from River Hill, but I was just proud of the way my kids went out to play soccer."
Patapsco had a number of prime scoring chances, and outshot the Hawks, 10-8.
For some River Hill players, Patapsco's strong early play came as a bit of a surprise, but one they knew they were capable of outlasting.
"They hemmed us in for a little bit, keeping possession, but we knew if we just bent and didn't break on defense that we'd eventually got back to the way we've been playing," said Crew.
The Hawks again took the lead with 12: 22 to play before halftime, when Randal Brown picked a cross by Elliott Marquis out of the air and scored on a low liner, making it 2-1.
They extended their lead to 3-1 on an own goal. The play started when Crew took a throw-in from the corner and got the ball to teammate Todd Tedrow, in front of the goal. Tedrow flicked it backward and it hit a Patapsco player and rolled into the net with 20: 46 to play.
DeForest McDuff iced it with 8: 36 left, scoring off a pass from Clif Jackson to make it 4-1.
That was all River Hill needed to ensure yet another state championship.
"They're both pretty sweet, but this one means more," said Crew. "Last year's seniors were really good, and we had to overcome them and work even harder."
Stara hopes this is just another championship banner in the River Hill dynasty.
"We tried to go in and build a program instead of a team, and the great thing about it was the kids bought into it," said Stara. "Obviously, now they're reaping the benefits of believing in what we're trying to do."
After a slow start on UMBC's AstroTurf yesterday, Oakland Mills adjusted and rallied to win its ninth state soccer championship -- the most by any school.
The 4-1 victory over Williamsport of Washington County completed No. 5 Oakland Mills' winningest season at 17-2, but seemed in doubt until Trevor Shea scored the game-winning goal in the 61st minute.
Shea (nine goals, seven assists) scored from the 4-yard line on a pass from Kyle Farmer.
"The goal started with a corner kick and hit a couple of bodies and I touched it to Shea," Farmer said.
The Scorpions, in erasing the frustration of back-to-back losing seasons, outshot Williamsport 17-6. They took seven corner kicks to none for Williamsport.
Pub Date: 11/22/98