Oakland Mills coach Don Shea publicly predicted in August that the Scorpions boys soccer team would win a state title this season. And in the end, the team didn't let him down.
Oakland Mills trounced Franklin, 6-0, Saturday at Old Mill High School to win its seventh state soccer title -- the most for any school.
But when you're high man on the totem pole, nothing is quite as easy as it seems.
The team was confident it would beat Franklin for the Class 3A title, its third in five years under Shea.
But on Thursday, just 48 hours before the game, Shea's father, Dennis, died of a heart attack in Pittsburgh.
Shea went to Pittsburgh on Friday, leaving the team with assistant coach Rick Bantz. Shea, whose father's funeral was scheduled Monday, flew back for the game on Saturday, and returned to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
The season had already been marred after only four games when three starting players were suspended 15 days for drinking beer at a school dance. But the hard knocks just kept on coming for Shea.
Even minor things went wrong. The bus that was to bring the team to the game Saturday broke down before it reached Oakland Mills High School, and a second bus had to be dispatched.
"Luckily, I ordered two just in case," Bantz said.
That threw the team a half hour off schedule, but it didn't much matter.
Malcolm Gillian (3 goals, 2 assists), Clint Peay (1 goal, 2 assists) and the rest of the Scorpions simply crushed Franklin.
Shea substituted early and often.
Lopaka Trout scored first in the 22nd minute from 5 yards out off a cross from Gillian.
Gillian scored on a penalty kick in the 25th minute following a handball violation, banging a low shot to Franklin goalie Paul Rogers' right side.
Peay made it 3-0 in the 33rd minute from 18 yards away off an assist from Gillian. Peay's kick was just below the crossbar in the center of the net.
Reserve Jay Holmes scored the fourth goal in the 34th minute from a yard away off a pass from Peay.
It was a virtual shooting gallery on the field, where the Scorpions, who outshot Franklin, 20-5, also put on a passing display that should have delighted all soccer purists.
"Leading up to Gillian's penalty shot we strung together 11 passes," Shea said.
In the past, he has been criticized because his teams used mainly a long-ball attack that scored from the air off set plays. The Oakland Mills state championship team in 1988 scored 37 times that way.
But with a much shorter team this year, Shea designed a game plan that kept the ball on the ground and took advantage of highly developed ball skills from an all-senior starting squad.
Those skills frustrated Franklin to the point where the Baltimore County team began playing with questionable sportsmanship.
Especially in the second half, during which Gillian scored two more goals, both in the 73rd minute, Franklin seemed to allow its highly physical style to get out of hand.
Shea thought Franklin was going after his players, and that the officials were not protecting them as they should have.
"We could have retaliated, but I told my players to just keep playing their nice passing game and keep the spectators happy," he said.
He also was displeased that one official would not allow his players to lend jerseys to some younger players so they could get into the game.
Oakland Mills did not have enough orange-and-black uniforms for all 33 players at the championship game.
As for the game itself, Shea and his players saw it as anti-climatic.
"The real state championship game was against Centennial in the regional final," Gillian said.
"This game was anti-climatic as soon as we saw from game films that Franklin used a three-man backfield," Shea said. "All we had to do was run diagonals and let big No. 4 come through."
No. 4 was Peay, who destroyed Franklin in the middle at the top of the box. Peay was amazed at Franklin's defense.
"You have to have that fourth man back for support," he said. "What they did was suicidal."
Peay (11 goals, 9 assists), a senior midfielder and national team player, who was chosen as one of the state's two All-American selections by the Maryland Association of Coaches of Soccer (MACS), was the leader of this team all year, especially when Gillian went down with a broken foot and missed two games.
He helped the team by moving back to sweeper during several crucial late-game situations when the Scorps were nursing one-goal leads.
But it was Gillian's scoring spree following Oakland Mills' second loss in its sixth game of the season that created the most excitement this season.
In the team's final 10 games, Gillian scored 18 goals, including six game-winners. He scored nine of the team's 12 goals during the four playoff games and had two assists.
He scored both goals in 1-0 wins over Howard and Centennial in the regional playoffs.
Gillian was helped immensely by forward Ike Roh's ability to use his speed to draw defenders away from Gillian. Roh, who had one assist Saturday, had 15 for the year.
The team's defense was powerful all year with Ryan Burke at sweeper, Sean Wray at stopper, Dan Bickell and Jason Kasoff at outside fullback.
Burke is a superbly skilled player whose contributions this year were underrated.
Scorpion goalie Tony Richmond also made a large contribution. His 6-3 height, good hands in the air and long punting ability provided ample coverage against corner kicks and throw-ins.
Also not forgotten Saturday was Trout, an outside midfielder who contributed 10 goals this season. And Wallace Chandler, whose long throw-ins created many scoring opportunities, also played a key role.
Mike Fitzgibbon and Mike Foschetti joined Peay and Trout to create a better-than-solid midfield.
Oakland Mills outscored its opponents, 55-9, this year and recorded 12 shutouts. Only four teams, Bowie, Centennial, Howard and Wilde Lake even scored against them.