Meade senior striker Mike Cheman spent a hot August afternoon in the middle of the Mustangs' home field, just he and a soccer ball.
A proper gauge as to how far Cheman has come in the sport he picked up 10 years ago can be found with the 15 or so minutes he was out there sweating. Touch after touch after touch -- an amazing 1,505 in all -- before the ball finally found earth.
"When I was little growing up, I'd go out in my front yard and juggle with the ball. I'd get 10 and that would be a big deal," he said. "Soccer has always been there for me. When I want something to do, I just go out to the front yard. When you get older, you get other priorities, but the one thing I can always turn to is soccer. It's like second nature to me."
A rocket for a shot, speed with the ball at his feet and good vision of the field provides Cheman with the necessary tools. But it's his dedication -- all the time spent going from 10 touches to 1,505 -- that has helped most in making him one of the county's most dangerous strikers.
"He's happy to have a uniform on and it's a pleasure to have a guy like that. He's always been willing to put in the time and has the same enthusiasm as a senior as he did back when he was a freshman," said Meade coach Mike Dey.
That freshman season provided Cheman his biggest moment to date when he scored his first career goal on a header with 13 seconds left in double overtime in a 2-1 playoff win against Calvert.
"Our team was full of guys a foot taller than me. I didn't even know why I was on the field for the overtime," he said. "It was a corner kick that bounced around in the middle for a while. The keeper was out and I just sent a floater over him."
The Mustangs finished 8-6 that season, but haven't enjoyed a winning season since despite Cheman producing 11 goals and 12 assists in the two seasons. In their 3-8-3 season last fall, Dey moved Cheman all over the field trying to get the most of his abilities.
With more experienced support around him this fall, Cheman is staying put up front and opposing defenses are paying the price with his consistent finishing.
The Mustangs are off to a 3-0 start and their senior leader has provided the game-winner in each effort. Outscoring those opponents by a combined 7-0 margin, Cheman has been in on every score with four goals and three assists.
"He's our leader, the core of our offense," said junior sweeper Dustin Pierce. "When we have a scoring opportunity, we want him at the end of it and fortunately that's how it usually is. He just never slows down, raising his level above what he's going up against. I feel sorry for the defenders who have to mark him. This is his senior year and he's really stepping up his game to help us be successful."
Said Cheman: "The entire team has played together a couple years now and we're bringing a positive attitude. Every day in practice these guys make me work harder to keep up. There's confidence, a lot of pride on the team and the level of play has risen."
After playing area rec ball as a youth, Cheman advanced his game after attending the Chesapeake Soccer Academy camp the summer before his freshman season. Through that, he hooked up with the Baltimore Football Club and then the Severna Park Sting last year, playing with and against some of the state's finest competition at the club level.
"He's strong, quick and determined with a nice first touch. And he hammers the ball," said Glen Burnie High coach John Camm, who also coached Cheman with the Sting. "He played anywhere we asked him and did well. It was good exposure for him."
Exposure that will hopefully land Cheman a college scholarship. He said a number of smaller schools have inquired, but he has his goal set on playing for a Division I program.
Dey says: "I think he can be a capable player at the Division I level -- he has that ability. Someone will be happy to have Mike on their college team."
Pub Date: 9/16/99