There is a fundamental reason why Overlea's boys soccer team is outscoring its opponents by a 32-7 margin.
The Falcons are using their heads more this season.
Even after yesterday's 3-2 overtime loss to Catonsville, Overlea's record stood at 7-1 overall and 6-1 in the Baltimore County Class 2A-1A league. Hereford, the three-time defending Class 2A state co-champion, looms ahead. The Bulls are 5-0 in league play and 6-0-1 overall and will play host to Overlea next Wednesday.
Overlea's success this year actually began back in fifth grade for the present crop of seniors. That's when several were tabbed for advanced gifted and talented courses in the classroom.
"We had 14 of 20 players with a 3.0 or better grade-point average last year," said coach Doug Eisenhauer, who spent part of his summer at former Blast goalkeeper Keith Van Eron's camp.
"Working with the little kids on fundamentals helped me re-focus on the value of practicing restart situations," said Eisenhauer.
The Falcons, who are making head balls pay off in those situations, scored five of six goals off restarts against Owings Mills earlier this week.
They are led by center striker Ralph Boarman, who already has 12 goals this season, all but two coming off a header from a throw-in, corner, or direct kick.
Ironically, Boarman is not one of the Falcons' all-academic standouts.
"I haven't played for two years because I was ineligible," said Boarman. "Every spring, I would get involved with baseball, my favorite sport, and didn't study as much as I should have. Then I was ineligible for soccer."
Overhearing Boarman's admission, Eisenhauer smiled. "Ralph has come a long way, on and off the field," he said.
When Boarman isn't scoring, other heady Falcons -- Mike O'Keefe, Jim Benzing, Dave Filipkowski or Mark Parker -- are capitalizing on the restart passes from the likes of Lyle Diamond, Beau Diepold and Steve Newberger.
Eisenhauer substitutes readily. Fresh legs afford more leaping ability, and that spells more goals on head balls. And getting more goals takes the pressure off goalkeeper Scott Burgess and the rest of the Falcons defenders, who boast four shutouts.
Eisenhauer figures the imminent return of senior starter Rick Stevenson from torn ankle ligaments will only help.
"Rick has been out, but there has been no drop-off in the level of play," said Eisenhauer. "Others such as Mike Dunkleberger, Patrick McBurney and Ricky's brother, Greg, have come off the bench to give us quality time."