By Brent Kennedy
There were essentially 13 reasons why Centennial fell short in the 3A-2A state final game Wednesday afternoon against Hereford .
The Bulls lived up to their reputation as having one of the area’s most prolific offensive attacks in a 13-8 victory at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Stadium. It was the 15th straight game in which Hereford has scored at least 10 goals and it was more than enough firepower to earn the program's second straight state title.
But, in truth, there were three Hereford goals in particular that decided the game.
Tied at four late in the second quarter, the Bulls strung together three straight goals in the final three minutes before halftime. Considering neither team had led by more than a single goal until that point, Hereford’s run, sparked by Nick Pompa’s two goals, was a game-changer.
“It definitely swings a team’s momentum if you can get three, or even two, unanswered goals (right before halftime),” said Centennial’s Harrison Chaires. “It kind of hurts your team a little bit emotionally, and it’s definitely a little frustrating.”
That frustration carried over into the second half for the Eagles, as Hereford outscored Centennial, 5-0, in the third quarter to take a commanding 12-4 lead. Centennial not only failed to score in the 12-minute period, but managed only a single shot –- an attempt by Greg Edmonds that glanced off the post.
It wasn’t until 9:03 remained in regulation, on a goal from Patrick Downey, that Centennial found the net again.
“Early on, we had possession, we had the ball. But for the first five minutes of the third quarter, they had the ball the whole time, so that’s putting pressure on our defense,” Siegert said. “The offense, the few times that they’d get it, they’d want to try to make something happen quickly. They’re feeling the pressure to take some of the heat off the defense.”
Pompa (four goals and an assist), along with Rustin Bryant (three goals) and Sean Konkolics (one goal, three assists), put the pressure on the Eagles’ defense for much of the day.
The Bulls used a swarming defense of their own that Centennial’s Shane Jaeger said was “relentless and all over us” to steal possessions. Then once it got the ball, Hereford’s offense methodically wore down the Eagles.
“We watched a lot of film, knew what they were trying to do. We came out early and kind of took them away from their offense,” said Hereford defender Matt Dusek. “The defense played well and then the offense obviously got it done with the 13 goals scored.”
Early on, Centennial was doing what it needed to do to stay in the game. Alex Danner, Chaires and Jaeger (two goals) all scored to put the Eagles into the deadlock at four late in the second quarter. But once things went south, the game got out of hand quickly.
“At first, there were people moving and we had good ball movement,” Jaeger said. “Maybe we stopped moving the ball around, or it got stationary and that could have changed things.”
Centennial outscored Hereford, 4-1, in the final quarter to create the five-goal margin. In addition to Downey, Danner notched his second goal of the game and Preston Schryer and Adam Castelbaum each found the net for the Eagles.
Centennial finishes the season 16-4 and was back in the state finals for the first time since 2005.
“We had goals to win counties, regions and states, and we got two of the three,” Siegert said. “They were a fantastic group of young people to work with.”