Broadneck boys soccer coach Kevin McMullen recalls seeing striker Chris Williams, a projected starter, go down with a broken arm in a preseason scrimmage.
"His season was over before it started," said the 10th-year coach, whose Bruins are defending Class 4A Region IV champions.
Then came the injuries to his defense.
In only the second gameof the season, a 2-0 loss to Severna Park, junior midfielder Brian Berger (concussion) and senior sweeper Dave Apple (knee) went down andhad to miss a 2-1 loss to Chesapeake the very next night.
Apple, who also had missed the Bruins' season-opening 3-1 victory over Annapolis, is done for the season.
The Bruins are not finished, however, thanks primarily to a revamped backfield.
Friday night's 2-0 winover visiting Old Mill (4-3) was Broadneck's fourth straight triumphand its third shutout, despite having outscored its opponents only 10-6.
With All-County players Matt Weimer (three goals, two assists) and Jeff Vincent (two, one) tightly and effectively marked by Patriots defenders, senior forward John Hanna broke free to score his first goals of the season -- one in each half.
The Bruins (5-2) were being outshot, 8-2, at one point in the first half, but were rescued by the stingy defense of seniors Mike Smith (goalkeeper), Brenden Collins (sweeper), Mark Patrick (stopper) and senior Josh Jefferds (left fullback) and junior Kevin Davis (right fullback).
"Up the middle is the heart of our defense; they've responded great. That's probablythe most consistent part of our team," said McMullen, named Anne Arundel County Sun Coach of the Year after leading the Bruins to a runner-up finish in the Class 4A state playoffs last season.
"We've hadto shuffle some people around. We moved Collins from outside fullback, Jefferds from midfielder and a sophomore, Josh Goode, to the midfield," McMullen said of a combination that kept both Meade and Glen Burnie scoreless in 1-0 wins.
"The changes put a little pressure on Smith, but his experience from last year has paid off. Every time we score a shutout, I tell the defense it's like each defender has scored a goal."
Against a Patriots' squad that had outscored its previous opponents, 15-4, Broadneck's back four deflected and diverted nearly every attack. So impressive were they that Smith (three saves) didnot record a save until the second half.
Nick Bedalian had the Patriots' best scoring opportunity midway through the first half, but Collins headed his 15-yard blast wide of the right post.
Hanna scored his first goal with 10 minutes left in the first half, shaping up the play nicely from just beyond midfield near the Broadneck sideline.
Taking a Jeff Vincent throw-in, Hanna touched the ball long pasta final defender. When keeper Brian Layman (eight saves) came running out, Hanna stepped up and ripped a downward-curling 30-yarder.
"We knew we could get shutouts and do better than even 1-0 wins," saidCollins. "We took a couple of hard losses in the beginning, but now we're rolling."