TOSS THE NAMES of Howard, Oakland Mills and Centennial in a hat along with Calvert Hall, Dulaney, Broadneck and Severna Park and try reciting the oldest of sports cliches: "On any given day, . . . ."
Well, that adage won't work this season if area coaches are to be believed. With nary an exception, Oakland Mills is the team to beat. The Scorpions return 15 seniors and appear as strong as any team in the state.
Defending state 3A co-champion Howard will push Oakland Mills as much as any team and soccer fans will have a chance to compare leagues and levels of competition since perennial Maryland Scholastic Association power Calvert Hall met Howard last night, losing 2-1, and will face Oakland Mills tomorrow and Centennial next Tuesday.
Severna Park, co-favored along with Broadneck in Anne Arundel County, dropped a 4-0 decision to Centennial on Tuesday and Oakland Mills strutted to a 3-0 victory yesterday over Loyola, the MSA's runner-up last fall.
North County and Arundel will challenge the leaders in Anne Arundel County, while Bel Air and Fallston should battle for the Harford County title.
Dulaney and Perry Hall are the class of the Baltimore County 4A/3A league and three-time defending state co-champion Hereford is the team to beat in Class 2A/1A.
Liberty and North Carroll appear the best bets in the Central Maryland Conference, which combines the teams from Carroll and Frederick Counties.
But through it all look for Oakland Mills to maintain its hold on the No. 1 position in The Evening Sun Top 20 from wire to wire.
The 1990 Top 20 teams have been ranked after consultation with many area coaches. Last year's records and final rankings are listed in parentheses.
1 Oakland Mills (8-3-1, No. 4)
* Coach Don Shea expects a big season with 15 seniors among 23 returning players plus an unbeaten JV squad to choose from. There's no question the Scorpions have the depth. They are led by All-Metro midfielder Clint Peay and four-year performers Ryan Burke and Ike Roh. Shea has such confidence in this group, he has installed the Dutch Swirl offense (his own version of the Dutch Whirl), where players are free to roam as the defense dictates. It does tend to confuse defenders and produce more goals. The key showdown will come Oct. 5 when the Scorps face Howard.
2 Howard (15-0-1, No. 1)
* The Lions lost Player of the Year Todd Haskins, now at North Carolina, but a strong nucleus returns, including national team and All-Metro player Steve Sietsema, All-Metro keeper Joe Wilson and four-year performers Chris Smith, Jon Armstrong and Josh Smith. Coach Rudy Storch has some holes to fill, and admits Oakland Mills and Centennial stand squarely in the way of another run at the state title. Striker Erin Reid, a transfer from North Carolina, will boost the attack and the defense should be as strong as last season.
3 Centennial (10-2-1, No. 2)
* Coach Bill Stara welcomes back 14 players, including seniors John Bratiotis, Teddy Oh, Stu Amateau and Austin Groves on defense. Roger Stott and Roger Lewis will lead the attack and Ton Lam will anchor the rebuilt midfield. Stara figures to run six or seven different players at midfield until he finds his first unit. "We have a lot of good players but lack a bonafide star," said Stara. The fact is, the Eagles may be a year away from knocking off Howard and Oakland Mills again.
4 Calvert Hall (6-8-1, No. 17)
* Look for the Cardinals to rebound from last season's rare losing season. Coach Bill Karpovich still has a relatively young team, but it will be talented. National (under-17) midfielder J.J. Kremer leads the squad that also returns Larry Rohleder in goal. The defense is bolstered by Adam Eagen, Tony Nugent and Brian Smith, all of whom saw little or no action last year. Sophomore Jeremy Baker, off the Cardinal championship JV, will boost the attack at striker. "The kids are hungry, eager to get last year out of their system," said Karpovich.
5 Dulaney (11-1, No. 5)
* The Lions should lead Baltimore County again and face only one stiff non-league test (Centennial). Coach Craig Laferty will rely on four-year starters Chas Zimmerman and Chris Steer to lead his squad to the regional playoffs again. Junior Mason Ray will be in goal, supported by sweeper Mark Conklin and stopper Scott Bailey. Seniors Clark Ledbetter and Craig Laferty, the coach's son, will help at midfield. Sophomore Tim Speno, up from the county champion JV squad, will step in at wingback. "We're reloading and have more depth," said Laferty.
6 Broadneck (8-4, No. 14)