Today's key matchups will help decide county boys soccer title

Howard notebook

October 15, 1997|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Today will go a long way toward deciding the Howard County boys soccer champion.

Third-ranked River Hill plays at No. 8 Mount Hebron, and No. 4 Wilde Lake plays at No. 9 Centennial. All four teams have just one league loss.

River Hill (8-1 overall, 5-1 league) and Mount Hebron (5-1-1, 4-1) are young teams with excellent speed and technical skills. Wilde Lake (6-1-1, 4-1) and Centennial (7-2, 5-1) are older, more physical teams that rely a lot on their midfields and defense.

River Hill has six shutouts and has outscored its opposition, 23-4. Wilde Lake has five shutouts and a 21-5 scoring edge. Mount Hebron has three shutouts and 18 goals to five for its opponents. And Centennial has five shutouts with a 21-7 scoring edge.

Mount Hebron defeated River Hill, 2-0, last season, but graduated a large nucleus; River Hill returns nearly intact.

Centennial nipped Wilde Lake, 1-0, last season but graduated almost all of its starters; the Wildecats returned most starters.

What kind of crowd could the county have drawn if it had played these two games as a doubleheader under the lights at Howard?

Seven Wildecats at Wesley

The chance to see seven former football players perform for one team lured Wilde Lake coaches Doug DuVall and Mike Harrison to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., last Saturday -- the only Saturday off for the Wildecats this season.

"Damon Hamblin was really happy to see us. You'd have thought his dad had showed up for Christmas. He gave us both a great big hug," said Harrison, the Wildecats defensive coach.

Four former Wildecats played defense for Division III Wesley College of Dover, Del. -- defensive tackles Tony Farace and Dubois Kelly, outside linebacker Nate Casella and free safety Donald Gibson.

Casella is an ECAC pre-season All-America and also plays a tight slot on offense. Other former Wildecats are Pat North, Matt Shannon and Hamblin.

"It was tremendous to see seven former Wildecats on the field again. This has been a nice situation for these kids, four of whom are seniors. It's a small school of 3,000 students and they've been able to achieve academically," Harrison said. "Casella is talking about coming back here and teaching."

Wesley (4-2) won Saturday's game against Wilkes College, 31-17.

Atholton's soccer shocker

Atholton coach Roch DeFrancis said it was a surprise. That was an understatement.

"I think we surprised ourselves and Oakland Mills," said DeFrancis. "We kept it close until the second half and then turned it on a bit."

DeFrancis was talking about Atholton's 2-1 upset of Oakland Mills last week. The Raiders were 0-9 at the time, had been outscored 39-6 and shut out four times.

Oakland Mills, ranked 11th at 4-4, was coming off a 2-1 upset of then-No. 1 River Hill. It had also upset a ranked Hammond squad and taken two other ranked teams, Wilde Lake and Centennial into double overtime before losing both by 1-0.

"They must have been looking past us. That's what you get from a young team like Oakland Mills," DeFrancis said. "Our guys seemed to take this game more personally than any other. They knew Oakland Mills coach Don Shea better than any other. I think some of them have played for him."

Oakland Mills led 1-0 at halftime, but Atholton took control of the midfield in the second half with Danny Dworkin, Brian Campos and Ross Laidig.

"We put together some decent passes for Justin Pak, and there's no one faster than him in the county," DeFrancis said. "He can turn the corner on anyone and it is just a question of getting him quality balls."

Pak scored the tying goal, and then freshman Nick Zaron, playing his second varsity game, scored his first off a Dworkin cross.

"Then we pulled it back. We were bigger. They were the first team that hasn't pushed us around a lot. It's good to get a win like that."

Pub Date: 10/15/97

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