Central Coach Bernie Smolen hopes to redeem himself today for a "coaching mistake" a year ago he believes was a major factor in his team's 4-0 loss to Walter Johnson in a Maryland state Class A soccer semifinal.
Central (13-0) and Walter Johnson (11-1-1) meet again today in a Class A semifinal between two stingy defenses at High Point at noon. Bowie and Bel Air follow with an AA semi at 2 p.m.
In a tripleheader at Catonsville Community College, Oakland Mills (13-1-1) plays Elkton at 10 a.m. in a Class B game, Whitman faces Patapsco of Baltimore in AA action at noon and Woodward (12-1) takes on Meade (11-2-1) at 2 p.m. in Class A.
Smolen felt responsible last year for WJ's early barrage of goals because he had not properly prepared his defense for the Spartans' long-range bombardment. But Smolen feels this year's squad is ready to shut down WJ's short passing game and defend against longer, lower percentage shots.
"It should make for a very interesting game," Smolen said. "We have eight of our 11 players back from last year . . . I believe most of their players are back from last year."
Walter Johnson Coach Joe Grimaldi had led his Spartans into the state playoffs for the fifth straight year, but now, in his 14th year at the Bethesda school, he more than ever would like to take home his first title.
"This is the first year that, before the season, I set my gold at winning a state championship," Grimaldi said. "Before I only wanted to win the county championship and anything after that was gravy. But (this year) I really made it a personal goal because with the talent returning, I thought it was a realistic goal."
Leading those returning players was Tim Potter, who has scored 14 goals this season to earn All-Metroplitan first-time honors. Goalkeeper Eric Rhomberg, who has nine shutouts, has been another key to the Spartans' 1978 success.
Central also is led by a 1978 first team All-Met choice, John DeLoach, who has 14 goals and 10 assists. Providing assistance are Tyrone Nixon, with 11 goals and five assists, and goalie Scott Lampert, who has 10 shutouts.
Bowie (12-0-1) will be missing three key players for its contest with Bel Air, but the Bulldogs have used all 25 players most games and appear more able to deal with the crisis than most teams. Defenders Todd Crammer and Steve Lienisch have broken legs and midfielder Jim Mackey will be absent because of the death of his mother.
Striker Steve Sekscienski (16 goals) and winger Dave Karlson lead the attack.
At Catonsville, Whitman (9-3-1) must play two-time defending champ Patapsco (11-0), which takes a 39-game winning streak into the match.
Whitman Coach Sam DeBone thinks his Vikings will have to use their short-passing game plan to perfection if they are to dethrone the bigger, more aggressive long-balling Patriots.
"We have to keep it on the ground, keep it on our feet, two touches maximum, per player, before passing," DeBone said. "We have to get it out to our wings to give us some room to move. We can negate their power and aggressiveness by spreading it out. We have to keep it out of the air because they have such a height advantage."
Kennedy (10-1-3) travels to Thurmont for a 5:30 p.m. battle with Catoctin. The Cavaliers will look to first team All-Met Ilan Dahan, who has scored 23 goals and Jaime Brusse, 14 goals, eight assists, to lead their attack Defender Eyal Toueg also earned first-team honors.