Greg White's diving header off Greg Wallace's cross provided the game's highlight as well as the clinching second goal during Centennial's dominating 3-0 upset of No. 10-ranked Bel Air yesterday.
A cold, torrential, windswept rain that lasted the entire game eventually submerged parts of the field at Bel Air, made the footing treacherous and was favorable for Centennial's long-ball style of play.
"It was trap, turn, hit [for Centennial] while we short-passed," said coach Bill Jefferson, whose Bobcats dropped to 3-2-1. "The second goal was the killer. We were slow setting the defense. These games you always remember. It got so cold the kids said they couldn't feel their hands."
Many of the players blew hot breath on cold, curled hands attempting to warm them.
Centennial's offense finally connected after three straight 1-0 losses. Two of those games were played mainly by second stringers and junior varsity stand-ins, however, as 14 Centennial players sat out as part of the punishment for an Aug. 31 hazing incident that injured two freshmen.
Seven-time state champion Centennial (2-3), considered only a dark horse among an exceptionally strong group of Howard County teams this season, outshot Bel Air, 24-2.
The Eagles, who had the wind at their backs the first half, led 1-0 at halftime on a goal by Phil Kiracofe, whose ground-hugging, right-footed kick from about 10 yards out in the 25th minute easily beat Bobcats goalkeeper Mike Unkelbach to his left.
Centennial's second goal, started by Vincent Chan on a short corner kick to Wallace, was rung up in the 65th minute.
And the Eagles added a third goal in the 70th minute when Nate Zachman dribbled about 25 yards down the center of the field and beat Unkelbach one-on-one.
Unkelbach made 15 saves, a couple on dives.
"Our goalkeeper had a good game. You wonder how much different it would have been if we had the wind in the first half," Jefferson said. "Our center midfielder Shane Justis' speed was nullified by the rain."
Centennial coach Jim Zehe said: "We put things together offensively. The field held up well in the first half, but the second half it was ridiculous. Both teams showed class in the way they played considering the adverse conditions."