Brock Yetso might not have to carry the Centennial soccer team's ball bag to the practice field this week, a job he was assigned as a freshman member of the team. In fact, maybe someone should carry Yetso'spersonal equipment bag to practice. It only seems fair that he receive some special treatment after the game he played Saturday.
Yetso, starting only his second varsity game, made 13 saves, including 11 in the second half, as the Eagles defeated Calvert Hall, 2-1. He ultimately was the difference between winning and losing.
This wasn't just any soccer game. Both teams were unbeaten. Centennial entered the game as The Sun's top-ranked Baltimore Metro-area team with a 2-0 record. Calvert Hall ranked No. 2 with a 3-0 mark, including wins over Oakland Mills and Howard.
In a larger sense, Centennial represented Howard County and its proud soccer tradition. Calvert Hall represented the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference. As the winner of Saturday's game, Centennial earned bragging rightsprobably for the rest of the season -- unless there is an upset. Theteams won't meet again this year.
Beyond the rankings and league rivalries, Calvert Hall had another incentive to beat Centennial.
"We had beaten them two straight, and they thought this was going to be their payback year," Eagles stopper Tod Downen said.
But at least one Cardinal made the mistake of providing extra fuel to fire up Centennial.
"Their sweeper, Mike Barger, talked some stuff before the game saying this would be our last day as No. 1, and that stuck inour heads," Downen said.
Yetso came out to make saves. He stayed back to make saves. He dove. He leaped. He dug shots out of the turf.Yetso made every kind of save imaginable. And he did it with style. He did it with a cool that belies his freshman status.
All that, and he wasn't even certain he would start until game day.
"Yetso was the man today," Centennial coach Bill Stara said. "But he still hascompetition for a starting spot, because we have an excellent seniorkeeper in Mark Corierer. The hardest decision I had to make coming into the game was which goalie to play. I guess I guessed right."
If starting Yetso was just a lucky guess, then Stara should have bought some Lotto tickets Saturday.
Calvert Hall coach Bill Karpovich assumed that Centennial started its senior. His jaw dropped incredulously when informed that the No. 1 thorn -- no, make that a dagger -- in Calvert Hall's side was a freshman.
"Their goalie was super," Karpovich said. "He came out when he should have, and he never backed down. He was a freshman?"
"It was one of my better games," Yetso said quietly and matter-of- factly, as though he was accustomed to being the hero in such an important game. "We expected Calvert Hall to come hard in the second half, because they have a lot of good players."
Yetso made two particularly sensational saves. During a diving one-hander, he pushed the ball up and over the crossbar in the 25th minute of the second half. That save followed one in the opening minutesof the second half, when he made a one-handed, finger-tip push save at the upper left corner of the goal off a long shot by Eric Branham.
Of course, Yetso didn't do it all alone. The Eagles defense was superb all over, especially seniors Tod Downen, Cullen Meade, Eric Tischer, Paul Badawi and junior Werner Krueger. And the offense got the job done. The Eagles built a 2-0 lead in the first half on two goals by senior forward Josh Baer.
"Before the game we said if we scoredtwo goals, we'd win," Baer said.
Baer's first goal came in the 22nd minute off a 30-yard pass from stopper Downen. The ball actually bounced off the head of Calvert Hall defender Anthony Adams from about15 yards out, then
sailed directly into the net. Baer was credited with the goal because he was the nearest offensive player.
"Thattook a little bit out of us," Karpovich said.
But the two teams continued to play a highly physical game at a furious pace.
Cardinals striker Jeremy Baker had a good chance to tie the game shortly after Centennial's first goal, but his header from in close at the far post was kicked away by Krueger.
"Krueger normally plays halfback, but we asked him to switch to outside fullback to help stop (Bryan) Bulgarin," Stara said. Bulgarin, a striker, is a top-scoring threat for Calvert Hall, and Krueger marked him the entire game.
Centennialalso marked Baker with Badawi.
"Yeah, they marked our strikers and shut both of them down," Karpovich said.
Baer scored Centennial's second goal off a head pass from Downen in the 41st minute. Baer's header from a few yards out on the right side found a wide opening. The play developed off a corner kick by outside fullback Tischer.
Calvert Hall returned fired-up for the second half, and pelted theCentennial defense with shots. But Yetso, Downen, Krueger, Tischer and sweeper Meade met the challenge. Calvert Hall didn't score until just six minutes remained in the game.
Branham, a sophomore who took sixshots in the second half, banged in a follow-up shot immediately after Downen kicked away Bulgarin's 10-yarder.
Centennial played withfive midfielders and just one striker in an effort to stop Calvert Hall's strong midfield, especially the skillful J. J. Kremer.
"Calvert Hall put on a passing clinic and pushed us back in the second half," Stara said. "We got a little tired at the end and had to play with two sophomores at midfield."
Calvert Hall outshot Centennial 22-7 overall and 15-2 in the second half. Cardinals' goalie Larry Rohleder was forced to make just four saves.
"I thought we outplayed them and had the better team," Karpovich said.
Yetso saw it differently.
"On paper they may have more good players, but we outplayed them," said Yetso.
Who could disagree? After all, didn't the scoreboard have Centennial on top?