Player of the Year
Matt Stephenson, Centennial, senior, forward: He accomplished the rare feat of scoring a goal or assist in every game this season. His 19 goals and 10 assists were both career highs, as he led an Eagles team that tried but was unableto win its third straight state championship after losing longtime coach Bill Stara to River Hill. Centennial lost to Charles County's Thomas Stone in a shootout in the state semifinals, ending a 45-game winning streak. Stephenson, 5-foot-9, 150 pounds, scored Centennial's only goal in that game, ending his career with 27 assists and a school-record 50 goals. Centennial went 59-3-3 during Stephenson's four-year career, in which he was four times named first-team All-County and twice named first-team All-Metro. He's Maryland Association of Coaches of Soccer first-team All-State. He scored the goal in a 1-0 win over No. 10 Wilde Lake and was credited with the assist on the winning goal in overtime in the regional championship game against No. 4 Mount Hebron. Stephenson got a hat trick against No. 7 Bel Air and two goals against No. 8 River Hill. He's aggressive and tenacious, both during games and at practice, where he pushed his teammates to work harder every day. "He was nice to have around at practice," coach Ron Martin said. "He was a marked man all season and still scored a bunch of goals. He would have scored a lot for any team." Stephenson plays club ball for Columbia United, 1996 national under-17 champion.
Coach of the Year
Bill Stara, River Hill: He gave up a veteran team and a chance to win a third straight state championship at Centennial for the opportunity to start a soccer program at first-year River Hill in Clarksville. And despite having no seniors and starting four juniors, two sophomores and five freshmen, the new team nearly pulled off the unthinkable -- a state title. The Hawks (14-4) lost to Williamsport in the state Class 1A final, 2-1. Eighth-ranked River Hill's only other losses were to Howard County rivals -- No. 2 Centennial, No. 4 Mount Hebron and No. 10 Wilde Lake. The Hawks recorded 10 shutouts and allowed just 17 goals, despite having to use a field player in goal after losing their starting goalkeeper for the season with a broken nose in the third game. Stara, a goalkeeper during his college playing days, thought the season's turning point was the team's overtime win Sept. 28 in its first Howard County league game against Hammond. The Hawks tied the game, 1-1, in the final 30 seconds of regulation and won in the first minute of overtime, 2-1. "At the beginning of the year, I thought it'd be a great story if we won a state title our first season, but in reality, I said there's no way," Stara said. His teams have won seven state titles and he has a lifetime record of 220-26-10.
The first team
Jamey Becker, Curley, senior, defense: A repeat All-Baltimore City/County pick, the Friars' 6-0, 200-pound stopper was a polished defensive player who also scored eight goals and had eight assists. He sometimes played a roving midfield role. He contributed to seven shutouts for No. 3 Curley (18-3). Hard-nosed, smooth and very skilled, he played a critical role in stopping Calvert Hall's air attack in the second and third meetings with the Cardinals, after Calvert Hall scored off two headers in the first meeting.
David Briefel, Wilde Lake, senior, midfield: An accomplished playmaker with strong technical skills and superb knowledge of the game, Briefel, 5-foot-11, 148 pounds, scored a career-high 16 goals and had seven assists. He led the No. 10 Wildecats (11-5-1) to the state finals for the second straight year and third time in his four-year career. He developed the ability to score off headers this season. He was second-team All-Metro last season and first-team MACS All-State this season.
Giuliano Celenza, Curley, senior, forward: Co-Player of the Year for Baltimore City/County, Celenza capped a brilliant career with 29 goals and nine assists. In four seasons he scored 77 goals -- 10 above the school record. He had 29 career assists. He was a four-time All-Baltimore City/County pick, as well as two-time All- City/County Player of the Year. This is his third first-team All-Metro selection. The 5-foot-7, 140-pounder was first-team MACS All-State this season. With him in the lineup, Curley reached the Maryland Interscholastic Association finals all four years, winning twice. Coach Pep Perrella credits Celenza for his team scoring a school-record 65 goals this season. "He's the only player in the league who, when he got the ball, [sent] some defenses into a panic mode. He can win a game in a split second, and I can't say that about any other high school player this season."