In the 11th-ranked Glenelg Gladiators, host Centennial faced a high-powered offense and a defense which had allowed one goal in four previous wins. The unranked Eagles, meanwhile, had an underclassman goalie among five returning starters to a team Glenelg beat last fall.
But a tough early-season schedule and the sheer will to win can work wonders in high school soccer, as it did in Centennial's 2-0 Howard County League upset of the Gladiators yesterday.
Sophomore keeper Andy Wilhelm, coming off his nine-save scoreless tie with No. 1 River Hill, made 15 saves behind defenders Keith Fischer, J.R. Test, Willie Pippen and Stephen Jayanthan. And first-year starters Ryan Oates and Jeff Wainger one-timed Centennial's first two shots into the net. The scores came five minutes apart for a 2-0 lead in the game's 18th minute.
The Eagles (3-1-1 overall, 2-1-1 league) had blown a lead in an earlier 2-1 loss to No. 15 Oakland Mills before tying River Hill. Glenelg is 4-1 and 0-1.
"Withstanding River Hill for 80 minutes got us more organized in terms of our defensive responsibilities," said Centennial coach Jim Zehe, whose Eagles now have twice avenged losses of a year ago. "We're not as talented as last year, but we have more of a team concept. And Andy's more confident about when to collect the ball and when to send it."
In the final 10 minutes of the first half, Wilhelm twice dove to his right for point-blank stops. He often rose above crowds to bat down throw-ins. But Wilhelm got help from teammates such as Randy Collins, who redirected one goal-bound ball deep into Glenelg's defense.
On a rare occasion when Wilhelm was out of position early in the second half, Glenelg's Lars Hill missed to his left from within 5 yards of the far post. Centennial might have scored a third time moments later were it not for a series of diving stops by Glenelg's Mike Binns (eight saves).
A doorstep header by Devin Keeney came in the 50th minute, but the Eagles would allow no more goals.
"We've scored a lot of goals," Keeney said, "but today, we couldn't finish off our opportunities."