It can be said that the playoff rivalry between the Oakland Mills boys soccer team and the Centennial boys soccer team from 1980 through 1990 was the greatest playoff rivalry the MPSSAA has ever seen. In any sport, in any era. Simply put, it was spectacular.

The meetings between these two futbol powerhouses over those 11 seasons were nothing short of epic. The two met nine times in 11 post-seasons, including eight times in the regional championship under the bright lights at Howard High School. In more than half of these matchups, many considered these two teams to be the best two teams in the state on the pitch, private or public.

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Including both the regular and post-season meetings between the two from 1980 through 1990, more often than not, one was ranked #1 in the Baltimore Sun, and the other, #2. The two juggernauts met 20 times over those 11 seasons, and 11 times it had the top two ranked teams in the Baltimore area squaring off. 

Over those 11 seasons, the Centennial Eagles finished among the top 5 – 10 times, while the Oakland Mills Scorpions finished among the top 5 – 9 times. Both teams finished among the top 3 in the Baltimore Sun final rankings eight times in those eleven seasons. Considering that in the nine seasons they played each other in the post-season over those 11 years that one or the other swept the two game set in eight of those seasons, the loser of the two matches that may have finished ranked #3, #4, or #5 that season, were likely the second best in the area, but the two losses dropped them only because of the two blemishes, without taking in reality. 

In eight seasons from 1980 through 1990, either the Scorpions or Eagles finished #1 in the Sun’s final rankings, and seven times #1 in the state of Maryland, per the Maryland Soccer Coaches Association. In two other seasons during that span, their fellow league rival, Wilde Lake, finished as the top team in the state, and in another, Howard High did. 

The rivalry had everything – two of the top teams in the state, more than a handful of the state’s best players in every matchup, and three Hall of Fame coaches that guided both teams through that stretch. And they were all played under the ‘Friday Night Lights’, before ‘Friday Night Lights’ was even a catchphrase. Howard High’s attendance reached four digits in each of the nine post-season meetings, including an estimated 2,500 in 1990, the last of the epic duels in that time, as the Scorpions dropped down a classification the following year.

If that wasn’t enough, it was the high drama in those twenty matchups from 1980 through 1990 that captivated the packed audiences, and the competitiveness and closeness of all but two of those games. In 13 of the 20 contests, the game was decided by one goal, whether it be a sudden-death shootout, a shootout, overtime, or in regulation. In 18 of the 20 meetings, the game was decided by two goals or less. Appropriately, of the 20 tilts, Oakland Mills won nine, Centennial won nine, and two ended in a draw. 

And the players, boy, did both sides have the players. During the span from 1980 through 1990, the two teams produced 74 All-Met selections, with the Scorpions boasting 27 1st team selections, and 19 2nd team selections, and the Eagles credited with 16 and 12, 1st and 2nd team All-Met selections, respectively. Between the two, from 1980 through 1990, the two teams had five Baltimore Sun and Evening Sun Player of the Year selections. 

Not to be outdone, the two teams were led by three of the best coaches to ever commandeer a side in MPSSAA history. Al Goldstein first made a name for himself at Laurel High in the early 70s, before taking over at Oakland Mills in 1978, when he led the Scorpions to the state title game. The following year, Goldstein guided the Scorps to their first of three straight state titles, the first led by Darryl Gee, who would go on to be the youngest player to ever be selected to the US Olympic team in 1980. The ‘Soccer Yoda’, as Goldstein was nicknamed, led the Scorpions to an undefeated season in 1985, culminating in his and the Scorpions fourth state championship in seven years, before calling it quits at the age of 40, taking a sales job in Florida, with a goal to retire by the age of 50. Goldstein finished with an impeccable 105-10-5 record in his eight seasons on Kilimanjaro. Coach Goldstein saw more than 100 of his players compete at the college level, and coached the Olympic Development boys team at the U-14 level. In 2019, Goldstein authored the book, ‘Concept Soccer – A Step by Step Method to Score Goals and Develop Players’.

After a year assisting Goldstein for the Scorpions and helping lead them to a state championship and undefeated record in 1980, Bill Stara went over to Centennial to take over that program, and take over he did, eventually leading the Eagles to seven state championships, including a trio of titles during the era featured in this article. Following this period, Stara would win four more state championships in five years at Centennial, before moving on to River Hill, where he won seven state titles in his 10 years there. Stara won a state record 14 state championships in his 25 years between the two schools, and 18 regional titles. In his 25 years, Stara’s teams won 343 games, lost just 40 times, and tied 19 contests. Stara helped lead a pair of Columbia area club teams to national titles, including the Columbia Kick in the US Youth U-16 National Championship in 1982, and the Columbia Jays squad to the U-19 National Championship, winning the McGuire Cup. 

Don Shea was tasked with filling the shoes of Goldstein on Kilimanjaro, who recommended him for the job, after the former found success at Elkton, winning a state title at the Cecil County school. Shea had twice been on the wrong side of lopsided playoff losses to Goldstein’s Scorpions, before going on to win eight state titles at the Columbia school, including his first in his first season there, giving the ‘Kilimanjaro Kids’ back-to-back state titles. Coach Shea, who has more than 350 wins, led the Scorpions to state titles in ‘86, ‘88, and ‘90, in this era. Shea’s teams have won 17 regional titles, and his nine state championships rank second only to Stara in MPSSAA history. While there’s Stara’s six degrees of separation with Goldstein, having coached under him once before, Stara’s and Shea’s separation may be two degrees, as the latter served as the former’s ‘Best Man’ at his wedding, two months before taking over the job on Kilimanjaro in 1986. Shea and Stara played on six club teams together in the Pittsburgh area, including a ‘Steel Town’ all-star team that served as an exhibition opponent for the US Olympic team. 

After highlighting these two legendary programs – Oakland Mills owns a state record 12 state titles (all under Goldstein and Shea), and Centennial owns 7 (tied for 5th best, all under Stara), acknowledging the 74 All-Mets these two teams put out over this 11 season period, and honoring the three coaches that have won a combined 27 state championships and 42 regional crowns, here’s a year-by-year look at the rivalry between the two Howard County powerhouses on the pitch from 1980 through 1990.

1980 – After a 1-0 battle between the two in the regular season meeting, the undefeated 1980 Scorpions found themselves tied for just the second time all season in the regional final, when the Eagles squared it at the 10 minute mark in the second half, before John McIntyre scored his second, which proved to be the game-winner. Doug Southall assisted on both goals. The Scorpions would go on to win their second state championship in two years, finishing with a perfect record (16-0), outscoring opponents 46-3. Considering that dominance, it showed what was about to come in the rivalry. The Scorpions won a pair of one goal games over the Eagles, and outscored everyone else 43-2 in 14 games. Forty years later, the ‘80 Scorpions side may be the greatest team to take a field in Howard County, led by All-Mets McIntyre (8g, 8a), Tommy Farran (15g, 6a), Kenny Heydt, and keeper Ken Bernstein (13 shutouts), among others. To boot, Coach Goldstein had Bill Stara on his side, as well as first year coach Reg Hahne, the longtime county coach who won a state title with Reservoir 32 years later, in 2012. The Eagles finished 5th in the Sun’s final rankings. Goldstein was selected as the Baltimore Sun Coach of the Year for a second time. 

Regular Season; OM 2 CEN 1

Regional Final; OM 1 CEN 0

1981 – This was one of the two years over this era where the two didn’t meet in the post-season. In the regular season, the Eagles posted the only slight blemish on the Scorpions resume, tying the two-time defending champs, who played the majority of the game with ten men, 1-1. The Scorpions would complete their ‘three-peat’, finish 15-0-1, and take the top ranking in the state for the third year in a row. McIntyre (12g, 11a) and the fullback Heydt would repeat as All-Met 1st team picks, joined by Rob Ryerson (18g, 6a), who had to sit out his junior year, due to transfer rules. Junior forward Rich Ryerson (16g), and seniors John Szostak defender Rich Morrell were selected to the All-Met 2nd team, giving the Scorpions a half dozen All-Mets. The Scorpions beat Class A champion #2 Wilde Lake 3-0. As for Centennial, in their first year under Stara, they missed the playoffs by half of a bonus point, and instead Great Mills faced the Scorpions in the first round, before getting slobber-knocked, 12-0, by the side with the orange and black. This was the only season from ‘80 through ‘90 that the Eagles finished outside the Sun’s top 5, at #9.

Regular Season; OM 1 CEN 1

1982 – They say a rivalry isn’t a rivalry until the other team wins. In 1982, this became a rivalry. Four four years, the Scorpions reigned supreme on the pitch, going 54-2-1 versus opponents in the Baltimore area, with its only two losses coming to Old Mill in ‘78, and Wilde Lake in ‘79. The Eagles brought that reign to a halt in the regular season meeting, snapping the Scorpions 42 game unbeaten streak, notching a 2-0 victory, thanks to o pair of Dave Brunett headers, coming off the ‘chimney’ set piece play. In the rematch, in the playoff opener, the Scorpions struck first, before the Eagles ran off three straight goals to go up 3-1, with Reid Storch scoring a pair. The Scorpions Kevin Sloan cut the deficit to one just before half. The hard fought game – literally, with four yellow cards, broke open when the Eagles junior Steve Dragasics put it away midway through the second half, and the Scorpions bid for a fourth straight state title was extinguished. 

The Eagles were upset by Fallston in the state semifinals, making 1982 the only year from 1979 through 1988 the only one where either the Scorpions or the Eagles did not win a state championship. Dragasics and fellow junior Matt Kern joined Ryerson and midfielder Matt Smith of the Scorpions on the All-Met 1st team. Brunett and the Scorpions John Hardwick were selected to the 2nd team. Goldstein had coached Brunett for four years at the club level, while Stara had coached six of the Scorpions, along with seven of his Eagles, on the Columbia Kick U-16 team that had won the national championship that summer. Wilde Lake won their second straight Class C championship, while the Eagles and Scorpions finished ranked 4th and 7th, respectively, in the Baltimore Sun’s final rankings. The Scorpions only losses were to the Eagles, having tied the Wildecats and Sun Player of the Year, Danny Carr, 4-4.

Regular Season; CEN 2 OM 0

Regional Semifinal; CEN 4 OM 3

1983 – This is where the rivalry gets good. Real good. Well, where the post-season rivalry gets good, as the Eagles handed the Scorpions a stunning 6-0 loss in their regular season match, handing the three-time champions their worst loss in the program’s history. The regional championship was a different story. With smoke coming out of their ears, the Scorpions fought tooth and nail with the top ranked Eagles, battling to a scoreless tie through 80 minutes and the first overtime. Then, with 38 seconds remaining in the second overtime, the Scorpions had a prime opportunity to avenge their humiliating loss in October, when Storch was called for a hand ball. Scorpions sophomore Darryl Simpkins was called on to take the kick, but Eagles goalie Mark Hendricks dove right and guessed right and batted Simpkins away, sending the game to a shootout. The Scorpions took a 4-2 edge in the penalty kick frame, before Kevin Thomas cut the deficit to one, and Hendricks came up with two stops. The Eagles tied it, and in the last of 11 kicks, Kern provided the game-winner, to give the Eagles a 7-6 edge in the penalty round, and send the Eagles faithful into a frenzy.

This would be the first of six straight meetings between the two in the regional final at Howard High. The Eagles would win the first of their seven state titles. Meanwhile, for the second straight year, both of the Scorpions season’s losses came to the Eagles. Dragasics (13g, 18a), Storch (17g, 18a) and Kern (9g, 24a) were All-Met 1st team picks, while for the Scorpions, Sloan (22g, 6a) made the 1st team, and midfielder Chris Weilminster and goalie Chris Attridge were selected to the 2nd team. Kern set a county record with 24 assists, and Sloan set a county mark for everyone not named Darryl Gee, with 22 goals. Storch, for his part, set a county mark for everyone not named Gee, with 52 points. The Eagles finished 15-1 and #1 in the state, while the Scorpions finished 12-2 and ranked #3 in the Baltimore area. The Eagles only loss came to Wilde Lake, 2-1, in overtime, who won their third straight state championship. The Cats finished 13-2-1 and third in the county, with a loss to the Scorpions and a tie to Hammond, and were #5 in the final rankings. 

Regular Season; CEN 6 OM 0

Regional Final; CEN 0 OM 0 (CEN wins 7-6 on PK’s)

1984 – Following the dramatic finish in the regional title game in ‘83, it was much of the same in ‘84, beginning with an overtime game in the regular season, decided by Newman Yang’s header, to give Stara a 6-0-1 record over the Scorpions since leaving Kilimanjaro. But, Stara knew, that overtime win would mean nothing if they couldn’t at least match their narrow heroics of the year before. Just when you thought nothing could match the ‘83 regional championship, which came down to the 22nd penalty kick, it did. The high drama returned to the Howard High field again this November, with a high intensity game that went scoreless through the 80 minutes of regulation play, despite the Scorpions getting 16 shots off to the Eagles two after intermission. The Eagles were blessed with two All-State caliber keepers, Hendrickson and junior Larry Valentine, who would come through time and time again in the second half to hold off the Scorps. For his credit, the Scorpions keeper Neal Goheen did too, as 20 minutes of overtime saw scoreless play, sending the title game to another epic shootout. 

After the regular season overtime win, Coach Stara remarked, “If you’ve got 11 players better than mine, and I play (regular) soccer with you, I’m a fool. If we try to match up with ‘OM’ man-to-man, we would be at a disadvantage. We had to change some things, and the most difficult thing for a soccer team to do is play against a packed defense”. So is playing against goalies like Valentine, Hendrickson, and Goheen. But, penalty kicks give the advantage to the shooter, and through 11 rounds, the match was still even, with both converting 7 of the 11. To the twelfth round both went, and Yang’s blast found the net to set off jubilation on the Eagles side, as their fans stormed the field, just as Yang punctuated another epic finish. When asked about his choice for their 12th kick, Stara said, “From step one, I knew I was going with my best, Newman Yang”.

The Eagles captured their second straight Class B state title. Since ‘81, the Scorpions had gone 0-6-1 versus the Eagles, and went 46-1-3 versus everyone else. The Scorps only other loss was to Wilde Lake this season, and the Cats won their fourth straight Class C state title, finishing 16-0 and #1 in the state, behind All-American Todd Trimble. The Eagles finished #2 in the Sun, and the Scorpions finished #3, as HoCo took the gold, silver, and bronze. While the Eagles boasted three All-Mets, including midfielder Chris Cantore on the 1st team, and the juniors Yang and Valentine on the 2nd team, the Scorps put two on the 1st team, fullbacks Donnie Colbert and Lloyd Hopkins, and two on the second – the junior, Simpkins, and senior midfielder Mike Rucki. For his work, Stara was named the Baltimore Sun Coach of the Year, while Kevin Thomas joined the trio of All-Mets, among others, on the All-County team.

Regular Season; CEN 1 OM 0

Regional Final; CEN 0 OM (CEN wins 8-7 on PK’s)

1985 – You would think any program that went 46-1-3 against all opponents but one over a four year period would be sitting pretty close to the top of the world, but instead, the Scorpions would feel like they were sitting at the bottom of a lake. Centennial Lake, to be specific, Howard County’s newly minted 325 acre park that sat a short jog from the Eagles home on Centennial Lane. In ‘85, to add insult to injury, four-time defending Class C champion Wilde Lake joined the two juggernauts in the Class B Region III. While the Scorpions had dominated MSA private power Calvert Hall for six years, going 5-0-1, until the Cards called it quits in ‘85, the Scorpions hadn’t beaten the Eagles since 1980. 

That would change in ‘85, when the Scorpions edged the Eagles, 1-0, in their regular season matchup, snapping the Eagles 14 game winning streak, and seven game hold on themselves. In another showdown of #1 and #2, held on the Scorpions Homecoming, an ambitious venture considering the Eagles recent dominance, the Scorps flipped the script, as Leon Wilson’s rebound shot in the 55th minute was enough, thanks to a blank sheet handed in by freshman goalie Brian Boussy. The freshman posted 10 saves, as did the Eagles All-State goalie Valentine, but Wilson’s successful strike off of the carom proved to be enough. Until the next meeting. Goldstein said afterward, “It was a game of the keepers. We knew they were going to bring it to Brian all day, and try to intimidate him, but he took everything they gave him, and he held up under pressure. But, hey, Larry Valentine is still the man”. Boussy remarked, “I’ve watched Larry play in the goal for a long time, and he is the best there is”.  Stara said, “We lost the battle today, but the war is yet to come”. “Bill’s right, Goldstein retorted, come November, this game won’t mean much. We’ll have to do it again. The jinx (however), if that’s what you want to call it, is over. I’m happy for our seniors, they’ve never beaten Centennial”. 

Come November, what a war it would be. The crowd of 2,000-plus at Howard High were in for another treat, as #1 and #2 went at it again, with the Scorps taking the top ranking after their win on Homecoming. The Scorpions Martin Payne put the 3-time champs on the board first, before the Scorps nemesis Yang tied it up 90 seconds into the second half, before Boussy and Valentine held firm the rest of the way, including the final 38 minutes after intermission, and through a pair of overtime periods, setting up high drama once again, and the third straight regional title game that would be decided by a shootout. Where the Scorpions had held a two goal edge in the penalty phase the year before, it was the Eagles who held a 5-2 edge through seven kicks apiece in this one. But, the Eagles would manage to hit just one of their last four attempts past Boussy, and the Scorpions made their next three, giving Simpkins a chance in the 11th round, and send the war to sudden-death. That he did, sending in the equalizer, followed by the game-winner, and Goldstein and the Scorpions could finally breathe a sign of relief. “Now that I’ve been on top of one of these things (shootout), I can say they stink. I’m just glad our kids didn’t give up”. Simpkins, who had a chance to end the first of these three penalty kick shootouts in the second overtime of the regional final as a sophomore said, “I can’t believe it. I have to go home and think about it for a while”. So did the thousands of fans that had just witnessed the breath-taking, third straight shootout between the two that decided the regional championship, and in essence, the state champion. 

The Scorpions would go on to win the state championship, and Goldstein, at the age of forty years old, would go ride off into the sunset in the ‘Sunshine State’, but not before he had the state bar in soccer – winning his fourth state title in seven years, producing his third unbeaten season, and his second perfect 16-0 season. The ‘85 Scorpions had dominated competition, save for the pair of ‘instant classic’ matches with the Eagles, outscoring their 14 other opponents, 68-5. The Scorpions boasted seven All-Mets, including the seniors – Simpkins (14g, 8a), Payne (7g, 4a) Wilson, Scott Gilreath, and stopper Roger Morrell, sophomore sensation Junior Armstrong (12g, 15a), and the fabulous freshman, Boussy. The Eagles put Valentine, Yang and Thomas on the All-Met 1st team, and senior forward Kevin Dempsey on the second team. Valentine was named to the All-State 1st team, and was named the Sun’s Player of the Year. The Scorpions were the top ranked team in the state for a fourth time, and the Eagles, like the Scorpions twice before, suffered their only losses to their arch rival, and finished #2 in the polls. Wilde Lake, who moved up to Class B, with ‘The Mill’ and the Eagles, finished at #4, with all three of its losses coming to the Scorpions and Eagles. 

Regular Season; OM 1 CEN 0

Regional Final; OM 1 CEN 1 (OM wins 8-7 on PK’s)

1986 – The year 1986 ushered in new blood to Kilimanjaro, and his name was Don Shea, who not only received Goldstein’s blessing, but was Stara’s best friend. Though Shea would inherit a boatload of talent, including the ultra-talented Armstrong, the ‘super soph’ Boussy, another talented striker in junior Dante Washington, and senior captain Lew Baker, among others, the season would deliver the coach a season full of adversity, complete with multiple injuries, a dose of Centennial futbol, and a team coming off a 16-0 season that didn’t particularly welcome the successful coach with open arms, or feet, as it may. On the first day of practice, Shea sent a handful of players home, for not crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on their participation forms. Said Armstrong, “We didn’t like him, he was different”. Shea employed a different style of futbol, one that concentrated on defense, after years of a wide open attack of ‘total soccer’ under Goldstein, who prized ball possession, and who had a pair of teams that scored more than 70 goals in a season. That wasn’t the only concern Shea would deal with, writing injury reports on 16 different players throughout the season, and losing the senior captain Baker to torn knee ligaments. And Boussy, who had two older sisters make the Boussy name a prominent one on the pitch on Kilimanjaro, lost his mother after a long bout with cancer.

Then there were the Eagles, led by his buddy from Pittsburgh. In the regular season matchup, Shea, who had gone 95-23-3 at Elkton, and led the Golden Elks to four ‘Final Fours’, found the reality of Howard County soccer fairly quick, as the Eagles snapped the Scorpions 22 game unbeaten streak, winning a 2-1 match in overtime. Following a 2-1 loss to Wilde Lake, Shea shook up the Scorpions lineup, making nine changes to his side in the run up to the post-season. The Scorpions responded, posting the most lopsided post-season win by either team in their six playoff meetings, before another crowd of more than 2,000 at the ‘Lions Den’ at Howard High, with a 4-1 victory, and second straight over the Eagles in the month of November. It was the most goals the Eagles had given up since Stara’s first year on Centennial Lane in 1981. Armstrong struck early in the first half, converting a penalty kick after getting tripped in the penalty area, then Scott Southall made it 2-0 in the 29th minute, before Washington put the game all but away with a header two minutes later, giving the Scorpions a 3-0 lead at intermission. It was a stunning loss for the Eagles, who had allowed just one goal in their first 13 games, including scoring 45 goals in the regular season, without allowing one.

The Scorps would go on to win their fifth state title in eight years, and first one under Shea in his first season. The Scorpions and Shea survived a rough honeymoon, but in the end, it provided a glimpse and hope to a happy, long time marriage on Kilimanjaro. “We didn’t listen to him in the beginning of the year. Everyone wanted to do their own thing. The whole year has been rough, but this is sweet”. Armstrong, who missed the regular season matchup with the Eagles due to injury would headline the quartet of the Scorpions All-Mets, scoring 17 goals and adding 15 assists. Washington, Southall, and stopper Monte Haynes were named to the second team. Doug Majewski, who missed the end of the ‘85 season with an injury, was one of two Eagles named to the All-Met 1st team, along with junior Mike Rotsel. Junior David Townsend and senior midfielder Andrew Morrison were named to the second team for the Eagles. The Scorpions finished #2 in the Sun’s poll, and Centennial with their one loss, finished 13-1 and #3. 

Regular Season; CEN 2 OM 1 (OT)

Regional Final; OM 4 CEN 1

1987- After the Scorpions took the series in the late 70’s and early 80’s, while they went to four state title games, and the Eagles ran three straight over the Scorps in the regional title game, the ‘Orange & Black’ took hold of the series again, winning two straight over Stara’s bunch at Howard High and going on to win two state titles. Then came 1987, when Stara and the Eagles turned the back and forth slugfest of a series back in their direction. The Scorpions were dealt a severe loss when Armstrong transferred to Fishburne Military Academy in Virginia, and the thought of another year of having he and Washington up front quickly vanished. Before another regional championship showdown, the two state juggernauts came into the regular season matchup ranked #1 and #2 in the Sun, with the Eagles holding top billing. The Eagles held that billing with a 2-0 shutout of the Scorpions, with Majewski scoring both goals. 

In the regional final, Centennial gave its fans something to cheer about again, shutting out the Scorpion, and posting their 11th blank sheet in 13 games. Dave Rosenstein scored the first Eagles goal on a high arching shot that found the top right corner over Boussy, five minutes into the contest. Then, as the game was still in the balance, Chris Mills low header off a set piece went past Boussy in the 77th minute to preserve the Eagles undefeated record. Just as Goldstein had spoke of a jinx to his and his side’s arch villains a couple years earlier, the Eagles Mike Rotsel remarked following the regionals, “The jinx is gone. I’m so happy”. Mills added, “I’ve never wanted anything so bad in my life”. The tough part was over, the rest was icing on the cake. The Eagles dominated the rest of the way, registering a pair of 4-0 victories in the state semifinals and finals, and won their third state title in five years, finishing with their first unblemished season in the program’s history. It was eighth time in nine years that the regional final winner went on to win the state title. The Eagles did so in dominating fashion, outscoring their opponents, 49-2, and Stara and the defenseman Rotsel were awarded with the Sun’s Coach of the Year and Player of the Year awards, respectively. Washington (13g, 12a) was the lone Scorpions All-Met, while Majewski, Mills, and keeper Glen Meininger joined Rotsel on the 1st team. Meininger didn’t allow a goal all year, registering 13 shutouts. Midfielder Brian Stott and defender David Binkley received second team honors. The Eagles finished 15-0 and #1 in the state, and the Scorpions, without Armstrong, finished 10-3-1 and #8 in the final rankings.

Regular Season; CEN 2 OM 0

Regional Final; CEN 2 OM 0

1988 – Snapping winning and unbeaten streaks by one another became a thing between the Scorpions and Eagles in the 80’s, and the practice continued in ‘88. After the Eagles had snapped the Scorps 42 game unbeaten streak in ‘82, the Scorpions broke up the Eagles 14 game winning streak in ‘85, and the Eagles halting the Scorpions 22 game streak the following year, it was the Scorpions turn, and that they did, winning the regular season meeting 2-0, bringing the Eagles 25 game win streak to an end. Behind senior Brian Boussy in front of the net, Shea won his first county title with the Scorpions, only to put the ‘X’ on their back for the Eagles to target in the regional title game, which would be the seventh straight year the two would meet in the post-season, and sixth straight in the regional final. 

Again, the matchup would feature the top two ranked teams in the area, and a top 5 ranked team in the national polls in the Scorpions. And it would be a scoreless dandy for 70 minutes, before the Scorpions Mark Osterberger’s throw-in a minute later provided the game’s lone score, and the series most bizarre goal of all, when the throw went through the Eagles keeper’s mitts, propelling the five-time champs onto their sixth state title in ten years. The Scorps All-Met senior fullback Chris Love said of the match, “It was a much tougher game than I expected, and I expected a war”. The Eagles General Stara quipped, “Someone had to lose. That’s the price you have to pay to play at this level”. That level would be the top level. For the ninth time in ten years, the champion of this region would go on to win the state championship. Shea’s troops would go unbeaten for the first time under him, at 15-0-1, and win their sixth state title in ten years, and their third state title in four years. The Scorpions did all this despite losing two staring midfielders, David DiTomasso and Adrian Washington,  to season-ending injuries. 

The Scorps finished ranked #5 nationally in the USA Today, and outscored their opponents, 52-5, on the season. Shea was rewarded with the Sun’s Coach of the Year honors, and Boussy wrapped up his four year scholastic career with the Sun’s Player of the Year honor, finishing his career with three state titles, two undefeated seasons, and 44 shutouts. Love and striker Todd Pettigrew (10g) joined Boussy on the All-Met 1st team, as did Tim Ryerson, of the famed ‘Ryerson Boys’, while Majewski and Rosenstein were the Eagles 1st team selections. The Eagles, whose only two losses came to the Scorpions, finished at #3 in the Sun’s final rankings.

Regular Season; OM 2 CEN 0

Regional Final; OM 1 CEN 0

1989 – The year 1989 was the first year since soccer began in the county that either the Scorpions, Eagles, or Wilde Lake weren’t the pre-season county favorite, and just the second time since 1979 that neither of the three weren’t the top ranked team in the Sun’s pre-season rankings. The Howard Lions, coached by Rudy Storch, filled both of those positions, despite both the Scorpions and Eagles ranked among the Soccer Coaches Association of America (SCAA) pre-season’s top 25 teams. Despite losing 12 players from their state championship team, the Scorps were the nation’s #4 ranked team in the pre-season poll, while the Eagles came in at #17. Both the Scorpions and Eagles had moved up to the 3A classification, joining the Lions. In the Sun’s pre-season poll, the Scorps sat behind the Lions at #2, and the Eagles started at the #4 position. The Lions featured a pair of national team U-17 players, Todd Haskins and Steve Sietsma, among a star-studded cast.

Neither the Scorpions nor the Eagles could solve the Lions, and both suffered a pair of losses to the county’s flagship school, who would go on to win a state title, and finished as #3 in the country, after being ranked as high as #1 before a tie in the state title game. The Scorpions and Eagles battled to a 2-2 tie in the regular season, the first draw since 1981, the only other time during the decade the two didn’t meet in the post-season. Still, the two soccer powers finished with more than respectable rankings, as they flip-flopped their pre-season numbers, with the Eagles finishing at #2, and the Scorpions at #4. The Lions kept Howard County’s streak of 11 years of having at least one team win a state championship on the pitch. Speaking of pitch, the fever pitch for soccer in Howard County was still head and shoulders above anywhere else in the state, and country for that matter, with both the Oakland Mills – Howard and Centennial – Howard games drawing more than 2,000 fans. 

Regular Season; CEN 2 OM 2

1990 – This would be the last year (at the time) that Oakland Mills and Centennial would compete in the same region, capping off a decade-plus of post-season high drama. There were high hopes on Kilimanjaro, with the Scorpions ranked as the pre-season #1 team in the area, but those hopes took a huge hit when three starters were dealt a 30-day suspension for drinking on school grounds at a dance. The Eagles also lost a starter for the same infraction. The Scorpions felt the sting, dropping two early games, including one versus Howard, 3-2, on a day in which the players were reinstated on appeal, against both Shea and Stara’s wishes. The coaches wanted the 30-day sentence to stand, but Superintendent Michael Hickey agreed with the players argument that the penalty was arbitrary, and not previously written. It was also determined that school rules could not to be tougher than any the school board deemed appropriate. Not only were the players in both teams reinstated, but the veteran coaches were told not to punish the players, and to reinsert them to their starting positions. Though it certainly hurt the Scorpions, including the Howard game in which they were inserted, as chemistry and fitness left something to be desired. 

The Scorps backs were up against the wall, sitting at 4-2 through six games, with another loss all but eliminating them from post-season play, which would be a first in 13 years. Instead, the Scorpions not only came together, but thrived. The Scorpions beat #2 Centennial 4-2, won their last six regular season games, and set up one last regional final showdown of the era with Centennial at Howard High, the seventh matchup of its kind in eight years. But first, the Scorpions had to beat undefeated #1 Howard (11-0-1) at their house in the opening round. And that they did, when Malcolm Gillian, who was moved to forward from the midfield position after the loss to put them at 4-2, dialed up a side-winding right-footed boot on a pass from Sean Wray in the 6th minute of sudden-death overtime to set up the showdown with the Eagles. Shea would later say, “We knew we faced sudden death every game since the sixth game, because we knew one more loss would eliminate us”. The stage was set, #1 Oakland Mills versus #2 Centennial, in the regional final, under the lights at Howard High. 

As it would be described in the Baltimore Sun, “By game time, the stands at Howard High were overflowing. The standing-room-only crowd of 2,500 gathered to watch the event of the year”. At this stage, these were the events of the decade, as it were, setting up the seventh regional final matchup in eight years, the eighth since 1980, and ninth overall post-season tilt in that time. Shea’s hunch to put Gillian at forward continued to pay off, as the striker scored on a deflected ball in the 11th minute that would prove to be the lone goal of the game. It was the seventh time in nine post-season games that was decided by one goal, including four either decided in overtime or in a sudden-death shootout. The Scorpions would go on to win their 7th state championship in 12 years, behind the foot of Gillian, who scored 18 goals in those final ten games at forward, after zero through six games at midfield. Teaming with national team player Clint Peay, and senior defenders Wray and Ryan Burke, the Scorpions and Gillian proved to be too much for the competition, winning 4-0 in the state semifinal, and dominating Franklin in the 3A state title game, 6-0, where the ‘Orange & Black’ scored four goals within a 12 minute period in the first half. Gillian (18g, 9a), who scored four goals in the state semifinal, before adding a ‘hat trick’ and two assists in the final, was named the Sun’s Player of the Year, while Peay (11g, 9a) took the same honor in the Evening Sun. Wray and Burke joined the talented pair on the All-Met 1st team. Teddy Oh was the lone Eagle picked for the first team, and Todd Dowden got a nod on the second team. For the seventh time since 1979, the Scorps finished as the top ranked team in the Baltimore area, and for the ninth straight year, the Eagles ranked among the top four in the area, finishing at #3. It was only appropriate, as it was the end of an era as we knew it.

Regular Season; OM 4 CEN 2

Regional Final; OM 1 CEN 0

It was a rivalry that was as intense as any in the state, in any sport, one that provided the ‘thrill of victory’ and ‘agony of defeat’ evenly. As veteran Sun sports writer Rick Belz said at the time, “Each year the game took on a war-like atmosphere. They got downright venomous. Players from opposing teams would curse, trip, spit, point fingers and try to brutalize each other, and the feud would last long after the soccer season ended”. After all, it was the greatest rivalry there ever was.

Willie Sean Coughlan
Willie Sean Coughlan

HS Sports Analyst

Willie, a native of Chicago, and now a resident of Columbia for 40 years, is an educator at Homewood Center in Howard County, after spending 12 years as a real estate agent, following 10 years of running a small men’s retail company. Willie has contributed to Max Preps, Digital Sports, and Varsity Sports Network. Willie has produced MPSSAA top 25 rankings for both football and basketball for 15 years, across various platforms. From a large ‘sports family’, Willie’s brother Mike led Reservoir High to the 3A basketball state title game in 2018, while his nephew Anthony serves as the Indianapolis Colts College Scouting Coordinator.

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