It's always risky to call any team a dynasty, but the Oakland Mills soccer team, top-ranked and going for its seventh state title in 12 years, has earned that designation. Like Dunbar in basketball and Poly in football, the Scorpions are expected to win it all.
The word for Franklin -- which lost 17 seniors from last year's regional runner-up and returned only two starters this season -- is revelation. The young Indians (12-1), developing gradually and gaining confidence all year, have made it all the way into Saturday's 5 p.m. championship game against the Scorpions (13-2) at Old Mill.
"They have more to lose," said Franklin's senior co-captain, Danny Santoro. "We're the underdog and we're going to go out strong."
Even Santoro, though, is surprised to be there. "Very. Losing 17 seniors you'd expect to barely make .500. No one thought we'd be where we are."
Coach Bob Herring laid the groundwork after looking at his young squad of just six seniors, nine juniors and three sophomores. "After I saw what we had at the beginning of the year, I put in a new system," Herring said. He switched from four men back to three and put in a fourth midfielder.
Seniors Randy Eckrote and Martin Johansson, an exchange student from Sweden, and junior Marty Zombro lead the midfield. Defender Mike O'Brien, a senior co-captain, said, "The key is we have four excellent defensive halfbacks . . . If they're going to score they're going to have to beat three men: our halfback, fullback, and whoever is sweeping. And our conditioning is so good, it's like we have 12 men on the field."
That conditioning, which includes 20- to 30-minute runs at least twice a week, has helped fifth-ranked Franklin outscore opponents 50-5. Senior Brent Horter's 14 goals led Baltimore County's 3A/4A division, and Santoro has added 11 goals and six assists. Goalie Paul Rogers, a senior who was a backup at midfield last year, has recorded nine shutouts. "Technique-wise, a good keeper," said Herring. "He just doesn't have much experience."
Things started to click for the Indians in their third game, against a veteran Catonsville team, O'Brien said. "We went to their field and beat them, 2-0. We didn't think we could really play, but when we beat them it made us believe we could play with the better teams."
But the Indians lost a tough, 1-0 game to Dulaney their next time out. "Losing to Dulaney was the turning point for me," Santoro said. "I thought we were going to go downhill, but we just pulled together."
If senioritis kept last year's team from reaching its potential, the adaptability of youth has helped this year's play with discipline. "The last two years everyone was out there mostly for themselves," said Santoro. "This year everyone wants to win for the team and for Mr. Herring because he's a real good coach . . . This year everyone is playing their position."
Now they're in position to upset a dynasty.
In Saturday's other boys finals at Old Mill, Atholton (11-3-1) faces Fallston (11-1-3) for the Class 2A title at noon. Havre de Grace (9-5-1) meets Brunswick (12-2-1) for the 1A title at 2:30 and Broadneck (10-2-4) goes against Bowie (15-0) for the 4A championship at 7:30 p.m.
In girls action Saturday at Arundel, Severna Park (15-0) tests Oakland Mills (13-2) for the Class 4A/3A championship at 1 p.m., and Patapsco (13-1) meets Middletown (13-2) for the Class 2A/1A title at 4.