Centennial turns back Bennett, 2-0 No. 1 Eagles move into state semis Boys soccer

November 07, 1993|By Chuck Acquisto | Chuck Acquisto,Contributing Writer

The Eastern Shore's J. M. Bennett did not travel three hours by bus to be intimidated by two-time defending Class 3A state champion and No. 1-ranked Centennial in the East Region final at Howard High last night.

After holding second-seeded Centennial scoreless for 64 minutes, fourth-seeded J.M. Bennett (11-2-1) succumbed to the relentless Eagles attack as Centennial (10-1-1) earned a 2-0 victory over the Clippers.

"We started to get a little caught up in the lights and the atmosphere to the point where it became rock 'em, sock 'em robots out there," said Centennial coach Bill Stara. "But once we settled down and started doing what we're supposed to do, we created some dangerous opportunities."

Centennial (38-1-5 during the past three seasons) took another step toward three-peating and winning a sixth state soccer championship since 1981 by advancing to the 3A state semifinals.

Centennial's first goal, with 15:20 left in the game, was the result of senior midfielder Morgan Kershner's fourth corner kick of the second half. Kershner's kick deflected off a Clippers defender and bounced across the goal line before J.M. Bennett senior keeper John Sturgis (eight saves) could grab it.

Moments earlier, Sturgis denied consecutive shots by Centennial sophomore striker Brian West and freshman striker Matt Stephenson with diving deflections. Clippers defenders Tommy Insley and Alex Gacifanakis held in check West (15 goals) and Stephenson (11 goals) for all 80 minutes.

"We controlled the game for much of the first half, but I think fatigue got to our team in the second and we became a little lackadaisical," Sturgis said.

Centennial's insurance goal was the result of Stara's substituting junior Chris Donohue for a direct kick by Kershner with 12 minutes left in the game. Kershner's shot over a wall of J.M. Bennett defenders was stopped by Sturgis' diving save, but Donohue was in the right corner-post position to put the rebound into the net with 11:45 left.

Stara said the fact J.M. Bennett, in its first year in Class 3A, rarely played on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge did not prevent him from knowing what the Clippers had on offense.

Thanks to Eagles defenders Ben Stephenson and Chris Kurtz, J.M. Bennett's top scorer, junior Gary Corrigan (16 goals), was denied until the game's final moments when he sent a shot just over the crossbar.

Centennial's East Region championship keeps alive the top-ranked Eagles' hope of getting another crack at Walt Whitman High, the Washington area's No. 2 team and winner of the West Region.

The Vikings (13-1) of Montgomery County handed Centennial its only loss earlier this season, ending the Eagles' 36-game unbeaten streak.

"But we're still in a prehistoric playoff system based on points that hopefully someday somebody will have enough sense to change," Stara said, "but right now we're going to get ready for Thomas Stone."

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