Centennial reinforced its position as a state Class 2A title contender and denied No. 1-ranked Oakland Mills its first Howard County championship since 1988 by tying the Scorpions, 1-1, in double overtime yesterday at Oakland Mills.
The tie, coupled with River Hill's 3-0 victory over Howard, allowed the defending champion Hawks to claim the county title outright instead of sharing it with Oakland Mills.
Centennial (7-4-2 overall, 6-1-2 league) could have won the county title outright had Oakland Mills and River Hill both lost yesterday.
The No. 13-ranked Eagles, whose season started on a dissonant note with the suspension of 14 players because of a hazing incident, displayed a state-championship-game brand of intensity during the first 25 minutes -- whenthey established the type of fast pace beneficial to their style, that of a quick counter-attacking team.
Oakland Mills coach Don Shea chose to honor his team's strong tradition of Senior Day, however, and started all seniors, four of whom are substitutes.
It was one of those subs, a fullback who is normally the backup goalkeeper, who was beaten for Centennial's only goal.
Sophomore Vincent Chan scored from the 18-yard line in the 21st minute on a cross from Greg White. Midfielder Greg Kiracofe created the opportunity with a dribbling run.
"It was a beautiful ball," Chan said of White's cross. "It was easy to finish over the keeper. I like going down the right side."
Chan also kicked a rocket from the 18-yard line in the first minute on which Scorpions goalkeeper Chris Ebeling made a diving save.
The Eagles almost scored again in the 17th minute, but Oakland Mills made five kicks off the line during that minute -- three in one flurry and two in another.
Centennial is the only team to have beaten No. 2-ranked River Hill. And the Eagles' only league loss was a 2-1 heartbreaker to No. 5-ranked Mount Hebron.
"We showed we could play to River Hill's and Oakland Mills' level and we had an outside shot at the county title today." said Chan. "We've been through a lot. It's been hard getting our players together after the suspensions, and we have a new coach [Jim Zehe], but he's done a good job putting us together."
Brian Grund scored Oakland Mills' goal in the 38th minute off a short corner kick. Grund's shot ricocheted off a Centennial player into the upper part of the net.
Oakland Mills (12-1-1, 7-1-1) began regaining control of the tempo after its entire normal starting team returned in the 25th minute.
The Scorpions had numerous other good scoring chances. Centennial goalkeeper Paul Krausman made a great save at the post off a shot by Jeremy Catlin in the 34th minute. Kyle Farmer was tackled on a breakaway but no penalty was called. And Oakland Mills missed two open headers at the back post.
Centennial nearly won it in the 74th minute, but Ebeling barely got a hand on Todd Sajauskas' shot and deflected it up and away.
"It's the curse of the county title," Ebeling said. "We just can't win one. We had to switch from a short-passing game to long ball because our field is destroyed from football. They kept giving us the throw-ins, but we couldn't finish."