Century shuts out slow start



Century boys soccer coach Scott Smith said that his Knights are a different team than the one that struggled through the early weeks of this season.

With the postseason scheduled to begin Friday, that could be bad news for teams in the Class 2A West region.

Through Monday, Century (8-4-1) had won six straight games, five by shutout. Included in the stretch have been back-to-back 1-0 wins over county rivals Westminster and North Carroll.

In fact, the team hasn't allowed a goal in nearly a month - a scenario Smith could not have envisioned after his team won just two of its first seven games.

"In the last couple of weeks, they've grown up," Smith said. "They've experienced losing and they've experienced winning, so now they know both sides of the ball. We seem to be coming together at the right time. Over the next couple of weeks, I guess we'll find out."

The difference has been the improved play of the defense, led by seniors Josh Schwartzman and Anthony Daniels and junior Cory Chapman. Not only have the Knights been stopping offenses, but they've also been more effective in transitioning out of the back, setting up offensive opportunities for themselves.

"In the beginning of the season, they were just very young and inexperienced, and playing at [junior varsity] speed," Smith said of his defensive players. "Now, I think they've adapted to the varsity level."

To make it out of the region, however, Century may have to get past two other local powers in county champion Liberty and Winters Mill. Earlier this season, the Knights played to a scoreless tie with the Lions and lost to the Falcons, 1-0.

Liberty loss revisited

Following the Liberty volleyball team's 17-25, 15-25, 24-26 loss to Thomas Johnson Thursday - its first loss since 2002 - several of the Lions' players were overcome with emotion.

To coach Dave Trumbo, however, the team's 49-match winning streak - a metro-area record - was a mixed blessing. The same streak that helped the Lions capture consecutive Class 2A state titles and earn the reputation as an area powerhouse also put undue pressure on this year's less experienced squad.

"These guys had a lot of things put on them that they didn't ask for," Trumbo said. "They walked in the door having to win. At the end of every match, they're on their cell phones calling the seniors from last year saying, `Hey, we still won.' "

Thomas Johnson coach Jim Dorsch, whose team had lost to Liberty at its home tournament in Frederick earlier this fall, said that part of the Patriots' plan was to turn up the heat on the Lions from the outset, something they did by taking advantage of uncharacteristic mistakes by Liberty in the early stages of the match.

"That's one thing we had talked about," Dorsch said. "We wanted to put them under pressure because maybe the win streak and all that would just add to it."

Trumbo also said that several "lifting" calls against his team helped to throw off its passing game. On a number of occasions, the Lions chose not to receive balls with their open hands, instead opting to pass them in ways that were less precise but wouldn't draw the ire of the officials.

Trumbo said that he's considering possible lineup changes in an attempt to improve the team's passing before the start of the playoffs.

Liberty survived close calls against South Carroll and Westminster earlier this season, winning each in five games. This time, however, the deficit was just too big.

"To win all those matches in a row, how many times did we pull it out?" Trumbo said. "We were this close in the third game, and I thought if we would've won the third game, we were going to win the match."

Soaring Eagles

Regular-season struggles have yielded the first sign of postseason success for the Francis Scott Key boys cross country team.

The Eagles, who hadn't finished better than fourth in an invitational this fall, scored their first victory Friday when they successfully retained the Monocacy Valley Athletic League's Piedmont Division championship they captured last year.

Sophomore Arthur Leathers paved the way by winning the individual title in 16 minutes, 20.9 seconds. Additional efforts from junior Jared Welsh (third place in 16:36.0), sophomore Jordan White (eighth, 17:08.1), junior Colin Fearns (13th, 17:19.0) and sophomore Zach Holz (14th, 17:19.6) paced Francis Scott Key to 39 points and its first defeat of Liberty (second with 47 points) this season.

"We've been waiting for a big win," Leathers said. "It shows that even if we've been struggling at the little meets or invitationals, we can step up at the important meets at the end of the season."

With only one senior in the varsity's top seven, coach Dan Replogle said the squad's youth has been a benefit rather than a hindrance.

"We keep thinking long-term," he said. "It's a long process of training, and if we keep at it, it'll pay off for us."

Playoff bound

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