1997 All-Howard County boys soccer team


Player of the Year

Sam Salganik, River Hill, senior, defense: He led his team to a 16-1 season, 10 shutouts and the No. 1 ranking. Hawks coach Bill Stara called Salganik his team's "most important player, the cornerstone of it all." Salganik, one of four River Hill seniors, steadied a young team by playing sweeper early in the season. When the starting goalkeeper was injured the first game and the Hawks employed a field player in goal, pressure was added. Stara gradually worked Salganik into stopper, where he could create and push up into the offense. He scored eight goals (4-for-4 on penalty kicks) and had five assists. One of the PKs won a 1-0 nail-bitter against No. 6-ranked Wilde Lake. Salganik was a second-team All-County selection last season. He is a first-team All-State selection by the Maryland Association of Coaches of Soccer.

Coach of the Year

Ron Martin, Centennial: County coaches predicted a precipitous collapse for Centennial soccer this season because the Eagles had just two starters back. But Martin, who took over a year ago after the school's legendary coach, Bill Stara, left for River Hill, patched together senior and junior returnees, two foreign players, two sophomores and a freshman on a starting team that surprised everyone by finishing second in the county behind River Hill. Centennial went 14-3-1 and ended up ranked fifth after starting the season unranked. The Eagles lost only to No. 1-ranked Class 2A state champion River Hill twice in close games and to state Class 4A champion Whitman once, a 4-3 thriller that was one of the season's most exciting games. The Eagles also tied No. 6-ranked Class 3A state champion Wilde Lake, 1-1, after allowing a goal in the final minute. Martin knew that Centennial lacked depth and would wear down late in games, so he made the team do an extraordinary amount of conditioning before the season began. He was Stara's assistant coach for five seasons. His low-key style worked well, and his two-year record at Centennial is 28-5-1.

The first team

Billy Allen, River Hill, senior, forward: A dynamic 5-foot-5 player, he switched from being River Hill's leading scorer last fall to its leading assist man this season. He led the county with 15 assists, and scored seven goals -- none bigger than the powerful header in the closing minutes of a regular-season double-overtime victory against Mount Hebron. His speed and intensity enabled him to turn the corners to feed teammates. He was a first-team MACS All-State pick and a second-team All-County player last season.

Lars Berg, Wilde Lake, senior, defense: He was the county league's biggest player at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds and also one of the best, finishing close behind Salganik for Player of the Year honors. The sweeper led No. 6-ranked Wilde Lake to a 13-2-2 season and the Class 3A state championship. Thanks to his leadership and skill, the Wildecats recorded nine shutouts and surrendered only 11 goals. The Wildecats lost to No. 1-ranked, Class 2A state champ River Hill, 1-0, on a penalty kick and to No. 9-ranked Hammond, 2-0. Berg is a first-team MACS All-State pick and was first-team All-County last season.

Adom Crew, River Hill, sophomore, forward: A dangerous threat all season, he became more dangerous after Salganik moved to stopper. Crew scored nine goals in five playoff games and finished with 16 goals and five assists. His biggest goal was the game-winner, a header, in a 4-3 regional championship victory over Mount Hebron. He scored a hat trick that game. Crew has enough speed, poise and skill so that some people compare him with former Centennial great Brian West. Crew is second-team MACS All-State.

Andres Conejo, Centennial, senior, midfield: This Costa Rican's size and skills made him stand out. At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, he was a formidable opponent who was tough in the air. He was a patient, sly dribbler who easily shed defenders and set up many Centennial scoring opportunities with his crosses. He scored six goals and had five assists for the county's second-best team.

Matt Hewitt, Centennial, senior, midfield: One of two returning starters for the Eagles, he created many scoring opportunities -- with his skilled passing and hard-nosed hustle. Hewitt scored seven goals and had nine assists. He scored the game-winner in a 1-0 double-overtime win over Oakland Mills, and assisted on the game-winner in a 1-0 win over Howard.

Stuart Kessler, Centennial, senior, midfield: He was an excellent playmaker who could take control of a game from center midfield. Strong in the air and skilled with his feet, Kessler showed good field vision and team leadership. He scored one goal and made seven assists.

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