Meade boys soccer coach Mike Dey says the comparisons to the Mustangs' 1987 season are "unavoidable."
That's the year the Mustangs lost the Class 4A Region IV championship game to Arundel, the eventual co-state champion with Bowie.
Before Broadneck defeated Severna Park in last year's Class 4A Region IV semifinal en route to the title, the Mustangs were the last county team to beat the Falcons in the postseason -- a feat they also accomplished in 1987.
The Mustangs repeated that feat in last Saturday's 1-0 overtime regional championship victory (9-7 in penalty kicks) over the Falcons.
Also this year, Meade's Rodney Rawlinson scored his fifth goal -- one of just six allowed by Severna Park keeper Jason Zaks (eight shutouts) -- in a 1-0 regular-season victory over the Falcons that snapped their regular-season winning streak at 35.
The loss was the Falcons' first in the regular season since the season finale against the Mustangs in 1987.
"There's only one difference," said Dey, who is in his first season. "This year, Severna Park (11-3) had the same record as we did in '87, and this year we had the same record that Arundel did in '87. The results were similar. Arundel beat Meade in a shootout, just like Meade did against Severna Park this time."
Unlike in Arundel's miracle season of 1987, Meade mustface Bowie one game earlier.
The fourth-seeded Mustangs (11-3) meet Prince George's County's top-seeded Bulldogs (13-0) in tonight's 7:30 state semifinal game at Arundel High. In the other semifinal, Baltimore County's No. 2-seed Dulaney (12-0-1) plays Montgomery County'sNo. 3-seed Churchill (12-2) at 5 p.m.
Bowie, the Washington area's top-ranked team, finished at 16-0 a year ago after winning its sixth state title, 2-1, in overtime over Broadneck. The Bulldogs, who scored 93 goals last year, enter tonight's game having outscored their opponents, 82-6, with eight shutouts.
A Mustangs victory would be the first loss for the Bulldogs since the 1989 state semifinal game against Montgomery County's Walt Whitman.
"I think these are two teams that are going to match up well," Bowie coach Rich Kirkland said.
Five of his Bulldogs play with Meade sweeper Bryan Mitchell duringthe off-season on the three-time State Cup champion Bethesda Mustangs club team. They are senior midfielders Mark Jonas (19 goals, five assists), Andy Moore (12, six), Todd Hicks and David Briles and seniorsweeper Greg Sexton.
Few teams have gotten by Sexton, stopper Greg Ossont and fullbacks Luke Benedetti and Jesse Buggs. And the Bulldogs have balanced scoring, with senior forwards Steve Wandzilak and Byron Tena and senior midfielder Jerry Shukert.
Kirkland, however, has plenty of respect for the Mustangs' defense. In both of Meade's victories over the Falcons, the Mustangs employed an effective five-manbackfield to silence the county's second-most productive offense, which had outscored its opponents, 30-8.
"Surprisingly, I think it'sgoing to be a defensive game," Kirkland said. "I was impressed with their goalie. He was very physical and quick to react. We're going tohave to do some early testing to see where we can break through. I hope it doesn't come down to a shootout -- I don't favor those."
Meade's 6-foot-3, 170-pound keeper, John Gratson (five shutouts), has allowed just 0.92 goals a game behind a defense that includes left fullback Rob Azzara, stopper Rick Baur and alternating right fullbacks Jason Reese and Mike Remy.
Severna Park striker Brian Peterson had school records for career goals (42) and assists (19) but was held scoreless by the Mustangs -- first by midfielder Eric Washington and then by Reese.
Can the Mustangs hope for similar success against Jonas, the Bulldogs' national team member?
"He's dangerous, and I don't know how we're going to handle him yet," Dey said. "But I know he just kind of roams the midfield and we just can't let him go that way. Plus Hicks is a left-footer and Wandzilak is fast up front."
Kirkland is wary of the Mustangs' offense, which has produced a county-high 33 goals.
"They have two good forwards and a decent midfield,"Kirkland said. "I think it's going to come down to a breakaway, withthem trying to catch us off guard, or else --the penalty kicks."
Heading into the regional semifinal against Chesapeake, Dey made an adjustment designed to strengthen the attack. He moved his skill -- midfielders Washington and Jim Dey -- to the front line and switched his speed -- strikers Rawlinson and Luis Morales -- into the midfield. The results was a 3-1 victory over Chesapeake in which Washington hadthree assists.
But as a result of an eye injury Mitchell got colliding with a Chesapeake player with four minutes left in the game, the alignment had to be revised for the championship against the Falcons.
Washington was moved back to replace Mitchell, who needed 20 stiches to close a deep laceration over his right eye.
Doctors advised Mitchell to head the ball as little as possible for the next month, so Dey moved him to midfield, where head balls are made less frequently.
There, Mitchell teamed with midfielders J. J. Grewe and Bo Lepinsky -- both of whom are capable dribblers and distributors.
"If Bryan says he's ready to play Friday and it's all right with his parents, he'll be back there on defense. But he might play in the middle -- we just can't do without him," Dey said. "Oral Roberts once said'Expect a miracle, and something good will happen to you.' "