South Carroll on rise Liberty starting over

September 13, 1994|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Sun Staff Writer

Take a look at the numbers.

The defending county champion Liberty Lions, which went 11-0-1 during the regular season last year, have lost eight starters to graduation. Among the departed are last year's All-Metro goalkeeper Josh Gursky, county scoring leader Jason Dunbar and four-year sweeper Travis Foote.

The South Carroll Cavaliers, which went unbeaten in its last six games last year (4-0-2), have 13 varsity players returning along with three foreign exchange students who will contribute.

The North Carroll Panthers are looking to turn around their fortunes with the help of some young talent from last year's 11-1 junior varsity squad.

In Uniontown, the Francis Scott Key Eagles have had their best turnout ever with 58 players out for varsity and junior varsity. There aren't too many teams in the metro area that can boast having three individual state champions on its roster. With wrestling champs Zac Yinger and Randy Owings, along with high jumper Steve Wright, the Eagles can.

As for the Westminster Owls, coach Chuck Beaver is giving no clues as to how his squad will look. One thing's always certain: They'll be competitive.

North Carroll coach Ed Powelson, entering his 34th year as Panthers head coach, put it best in his familiar, straight-to-the-point way: "It's going to be a dog fight."

The Lions dominated the county last season and were the only team to qualify for postseason play. Their bid for a state title fell short when they ran up against a strong Middletown team in the region finals.

The new rule stating anyone who applies can enter in the region tournament will benefit Westminster. The county's only 4A school won the county title two years ago, but the Owls didn't have enough points to finish in the top four of their region. South Carroll's 6-4-2 record of a year ago also wasn't good enough to reach the region playoffs and Key didn't qualify last season after three straight previous appearances.

In years past, it was always a case of reloading rather than rebuilding at Liberty. Coach Lee Kestler isn't sure that will be the case this season, leaving the door wide open. With all the inexperience, Kestler went back to two-a-day practices during the preseason camp, something he hasn't done since 1984. He's also experimenting with a starting formation of five midfielders, bringing veteran Mark Ozgar to midfield after playing up front last year and also relying on returnee Geoff Gursky.

"We could be a sleeper, losing as many players as we have," Kestler said. "South Carroll and Westminster both look like they're loaded."

The Cavaliers would like nothing better than to pick up where they left off last year. They appear to have what it takes, looking a bit like Liberty's team last year with a similar wealth of talent returning. The one thing South Carroll doesn't have is Liberty's winning tradition, something that could be starting to develop.

"Last year's team was very good, but didn't have the depth and one year's worth of experience this team has," coach Charles Fazenbaker said. "Everything's clicking and we have some high goals this year."

The Cavaliers have gotten off to slow starts the past two seasons, something Fazenbaker hopes will change this season. The defense was about the only area hit hard by graduation, but Fazenbaker will be able to plug those holes with Trond Fozen, one of the three foreign exchange students who are from Norway, and Chris Balog, a transfer from McDonogh. Jason Petroski will have some tough shoes to fill in goal with the graduation of Brian Peltier.

A strong defense and senior Jason Hewett making things happen up front make Westminster a dangerous team. After claiming the county title in 1992, the Owls fell under the .500 mark last season at 5-6-1. A must for the Owls will be for someone to take control of the midfield and feed Hewett. Seniors Paul Binetti and Chris Santella are candidates.

When Powelson first began coaching at North Carroll in the early 1960s, there were no throw-ins, five attackers on the field at the same time and the players wore steel-plated shoes. The Panthers have enjoyed their share of success over

the years, but have fallen on some hard times of late.

If the Panthers are to turn things around this season, it will be with a lot of inexperienced juniors who have had their share of success at the junior-varsity level. Expect a competitive team which will play hard and improve as the season progresses.

As for the Central Maryland Conference, the three Frederick schools -- Thomas Johnson, Linganore and Frederick -- will be competitive, but there are no real standouts.

A good start by South Carroll and it could be the team to beat.

Before winning a second straight state title in wrestling, Owings scored eight goals and six assists on the soccer field for Key last fall. It was good for second in the county and makes him the top scorer back.

Yinger will see a lot of time at center midfield, and Wright is a big influence on defense at his stopper position. All three are a vital part of how much success the Eagles will enjoy this year.

"It just speaks of the type of athletes we have here," coach "Gee" Hibberd said. "They obviously have to have a lot of discipline and dedication to enjoy the success they've had in the other sports and we hope they can carry it over to this sport and push the other guys."

Middletown looks again to be the strength of the Monocacy Valley Athletic League with Key around the middle of the pack.

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