Centennial, No. 1 last year, may be better

September 13, 1994|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Sun Staff Writer

Any team that makes formal application by Oct. 1 can participate in this season's state championship soccer tournament.

The change in the playoff format has been applauded by most soccer coaches, because teams that want to play tough schedules no longer will be penalized.

The previous system assigned points for victories based on the size of the school. And some teams purposefully downgraded their schedules to enhance their chances of making the playoffs, which accepted only the top four teams per region.

One team that would not have to worry about making the playoffs this season under any format is Centennial. The Eagles (12-3-1) started three freshmen and four sophomores and finished last season ranked No. 1 in the metro area. They should be much improved this season.

They graduated only three players from a team that lost to Walt Whitman in the state Class 3A final, and have quality replacements for each graduate.

Howard County Player of the Year and All-Metro forward Brian West (15 goals, 7 assists) returns, along with All-County forward Matt Stephenson (11, 3). Both are members of U.S. national team pools.

All-County fullback Ben Stephenson, a regional team pool member returns. In place of graduated All-Metro goalkeeper Dan Christine, the Eagles have Brock Yetso, a national team pool member who missed the past two high school seasons, but was All-County as a freshman.

Fullback Doug Ulman and midfielder Kris Dramby also are back for their senior year after missing last season. In addition, speedster Brad Terrill, who missed four weeks last season with an injury, returns at forward and midfield. And Kumi Walker, an outstanding defender, has transferred from Howard.

Centennial is 41-2-5 the past three seasons and has lost only to Walt Whitman, a team that again figures to challenge Centennial for the state title. The two teams meet in a regular-season game Sept. 22 at Whitman.

"On paper we're extremely good, but paper doesn't mean anything," coach Bill Stara said.

Glenelg returns eight starters from a team that lost in the state semifinals to Fallston.

In addition the Gladiators have picked up an outstanding striker from El Salvador, Luis Diaz. Top returnees are All-County midfielder Jeff Cline (8, 3), speedy forward Reg Brown (3, 9) and forward Tony Marchegiano (5, 3).

Glenelg is inexperienced at goalkeeper with two sophomores up from junior varsity. But the Gladiators have four seniors starting on defense.

Glenelg had a 6-1 record in games decided by one goal last season.

"We have the potential to win a state title," coach John Bouman said. "Our goal is to win the county title."

Glenelg won a state title in 1992. It will play a much tougher schedule this season that includes Calvert Hall, North Hagerstown and North Harford.

Atholton (6-5-2) returns 10 seniors and will start eight so the Raiders will be mature. They have seven returning starters, so they'll be experienced. They'll keep 24 players so they'll be deep, especially at goalkeeper, where three seniors will vie for a starting role. And they were second in the county last season with 38 goals, so they'll be a strong offensive team.

The team's three best players are senior forward Richard Buehler (9, 2), midfielder Damian Kapcala (8, 2) and fullback Ryan Rees.

Two transfers figure to start, including senior fullback Staffan Thelander, an exchange student from Sweden, and midfielder Naa K. Ewool-Robotham, a sophomore transfer from Wilde Lake.

Atholton won its only state title in 1990 and has never won a county title. Coach Reg Hahne has been building this team for four years and is hoping for another season like 1990.

Hammond (4-6-2) returns seven starters from a team that lost four games in overtime.

The problem was offense. The Bears scored fewer goals than any other county squad, 21. Junior Jabari Richardson (6, 4), the team's leading scorer, is back. And so is sophomore Kamil Quander (3, 2). They'll both have to pump up their scoring levels if Hammond is to improve.

Another key is the goalkeeper, junior David Tollick. He's up from two years on the junior varsity.

"We'll play solid defense and be competitive," coach Rich Corkran said. "If our goalkeeper comes through, we'll be in solid shape."

Howard (5-6) returns seven starters from a team that gave up only 15 goals last season. The Lions lost five games by one goal, including 1-0 to Centennial.

A ball-control team that should be a contender for the county title, the Lions were playing as well as any team at the end of last season.

"We're a better team than last year, and a county title would mean a lot to us," Kelley said. "Ten kids who played a lot are back, and we have a lot of potential."

Mount Hebron (4-8) returns seven starters. And outstanding goalkeeper Shane Ardo, who missed all of last season with a back injury, is healthy again.

The Vikings have most of their scoring back with Scott Baughman (6, 5), Gordon Overbey (6, 5) and Pat Halter (3, 1).

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