Bill Stara, whose coaching has helped to lift Centennial's soccer program to a consistently high place in the Baltimore-area and national rankings, said an emotional goodbye to his Eagles soccer team last Thursday.
After 15 years at Centennial, Stara will teach next fall at River Hill, one of two county high schools scheduled to open in September.
"I have mixed emotions," Stara said. "I'm happy to be opening a new school and building a new program. But telling the kids that I'm leaving was difficult."
Centennial will return a strong nucleus from last season's Class 3A state championship team that went undefeated (17-0). Centennial's winning streak is at 31 games. Its league unbeaten streak is 37 games (34-0-3), dating to 1990. The Eagles have won seven state titles under Stara, including four in the past five years. They have been unbeaten in four of those five seasons, going 73-2-7 during that time. They were ranked No. 5 in the nation by UMBRO at the end of last season.
Stara's career record is 196-20-10. He was voted one of four regional Coaches of the Year for 1995 by UMBRO.
"I'm glad I got the chance to be coached by him," said first-team All-Metro striker Matt Stephenson. "I've been coached by all kinds of guys from regional to national level, and I respect him more than all of them combined. I learned more from him. It will be weird to play against him."
Stephenson will be one of three returning first-team All-Metro picks, along with his twin brother, Ben, a sweeper, and midfielder Matt Laycock. Centennial also has two first-team All-County performers back, goalkeeper Christian Lewis and stopper Brian Otten.
"We're disappointed, but we don't have any hard feelings, because he told us at our end-of-the-season meeting that it was an option. We've had time to get used to the idea," said Laycock, a U.S. under-17 national team member last season. "It's tough to lose such a great coach, but people have to move on. We're lucky we'll be seniors, so no matter who we get as coach we should be mature enough to play like we did last season."
River Hill principal Scott Pfeifer said that all the formal procedures haven't been completed, but it is virtually certain that Stara will be the new soccer coach.
"He's an excellent teacher and an excellent coach," Pfeifer said.
Stara teaches science. His wife, Arden, who teaches social studies at Oakland Mills, will be joining him at River Hill. They moved into the River Hill school district last year and have one son, Matt.
"The first year will be difficult, but there's a lot of potential at River Hill," Stara said.
River Hill will be a technology magnet school. As such, students who wish to enroll in that special program, and who live west of Route 29, may attend River Hill. Long Reach will provide the same program for those east of Route 29. Neither school will have a senior class its first year, but each will play normal varsity schedules.
River Hill has named Don Van Deusen as athletic director. Earl Lauer is expected to coach cross country and wrestling.
Long Reach has hired Chuck Struhar as athletic director and softball coach. Pete Hughes will be its first football coach. Tim O'Brien will coach baseball and Ed Ashwell wrestling.
Pub Date: 3/13/96