Severna Park's Brian Peterson is a marked man on the soccer field.
In his third season as the Falcons' midfielder last year, Peterson scored 11 goals with four assists. This year, Coach Don Gregg has moved him to striker, where he's even more dangerous.
"His best place on the team is up front," said Peterson's goal-keeping teammate, Jason Zaks. "He could attack from the midfield last year, but up there, he's a real weapon. Everything revolves around him."
Peterson enters tonight's game against visiting Broadneck with 32 career goals and 12 assists, and he's going to draw a lot of attention from Bruins' coach Kevin McMullen.
Then again, he's getting used to being the focus of most defensive strategies by the opposition. Coaches try to analyze his tendencies, but they find he's got well-balanced skills that pose numerous problems.
"In my mind, he's thebest in the county," said McMullen, a 10-year coach.
A natural left-footer, Peterson, 18, has been ambidextrous since his father, Joe Duca, taught him as a rec league player 10 years ago. Since then, he's become a master of juggling chicanery.
The returning All-County player can beat his opponent in a number of ways, including relays tonewcomer striker Peter Joergensen, of Copenhagen, Denmark, or returning midfielder Mike Crawford (five goals, five assists last year), among others.
"If you try to mark him out of the game, you'll be making a big mistake," said Gregg.
The 5-foot-11, 165-pound striker might push the ball to the left end line, juke the defender and serve a crossing pass to a teammate charging to the center of the penalty area for a goal.
"Coach plays a 4-5-1 and pretty much leaves me up front so I can distribute," said Peterson. "I feel I have more room to roam and I can catch someone breaking through."
If a coach triedto match up Peterson against a physical player, he might decide to simply out-run his opponent using his 4.6 speed in the 40-yard --.
"He's got a tremendous sense of where he is and where his teammates are," said Zaks. "And he'll find them or find the goal himself. You can't give him much space."
As a member of the Olympic DevelopmentalProgam's stateteam for the past four years, Peterson has seen and played alongside some of the nation's best -- and they're all in college now.
Peterson's under-19 state team was widely viewed as one of the nation's most talented this past summer. Of the 11 players on thesquad, nine made the regional camp and five made the national team, including Howard High graduate Todd Haskins, The Sun's 1989 Player ofthe Year.
Peterson's exclusion from the national and regional teams might have been more due to the numbers game than his talent.
As is often the case when skill levels are evenly matched in ODP soccer, the difference might have been just one mistake. Or perhaps politics.
"Our coach said that we were the best team in the state. He thought every one of us should have made it," said Peterson, a four-year starter for Severna Park.
The five national team players are allplaying for highly ranked Division I colleges.
Peterson began playing soccer as a 5-year-old living in Dallas, Texas. He moved to Alabama when he was 12. Had he been in either one of those states, he speculates, he might have gone farther along in the ODP's selection process, because the competition is stiffer in Maryland.
He moved to Severna Park as a freshman.
"I really thank Coach Gregg for playingme as a freshman. A lot of college coaches have seen me since then,"says Peterson, who played in the Falcons' 4A state final appearancesagainst Rockville (a 2-1 loss) and Walt Whitman (a 2-0 loss). "For skill, being on the state team really helped me, but for national recognition, it kind of hurt."
Apparently, it didn't hurt that much.
Peterson is being recruited by schools like Nebraska's Creighton and Richmond, ranked No. 4 and No. 16, respectively, in a recent national collegiate soccer coaches' poll.
Tonight, however, he's focusing on the Falcons' game against Broadneck in a rematch of last year's Class 4A Region IV championship game won by the Bruins, 2-1, in an overtime penalty shootout.
The loss to Broadneck, which was last year's state runner-up after losing to Bowie, 2-1 in overtime, was the first time the Falcons had lost to a county squad in the playoffs since 1987.
The Falcons have won 29 straight regular-season county league games, and Peterson wants to help make it an even 30.
"That's what's really important to me right now," said Peterson. "I just wantto do anything I can to keep that going."
With schools closing two hours early because of the heat, the Broadneck-Severna Park boys and girls soccer games were postponed until today. The boys game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Severna Park, followed by thegirls game at 7:30 p.m.
Also, the Broadneck-Severna Park field hockey game was moved to 9 a.m. Saturday at Severna Park.