Although Coach Keith Tucker is intent on building a new soccer power at Howard, he didn't hesitate to reach to the past when necessary against Navy today.
With a minute left in the second overtime, the 15th-ranked Bison used a bizarre-looking trick play to defeat the Midshipmen, 1-0, in their opening game of the season. Donnie Streete's free kick from 20 yards out in the 109th minute, after some of his teammates confused Navy defenders with the soccer version of the "Who's on first?" routine, set off a wild celebration among Howard fans and players and made a winner of Tucker in his debut.
The play was the same that Howard had used five years earlier against Clemson, when Tucker was playing for the Bison and Lincoln Phillips was coach. That play didn't work -- the ball hit the crossbar -- but Tucker remembered it and kept it in his repertoire when he replaced Phillips this summer.
Today, the Howard team was set up for a free kick as usual, with Streete, Gerard Johnson and Carlton Briscoe lined up by the ball.
Briscoe, then Johnson, made runs at the ball. Then they stopped dramatically and threw their hands up in apparent confusion. They turned to each other in a questioning manner, throwing off some Navy defenders in the process. As some Midshipmen left the defensive wall they had formed, Streete stepped forward and sent a hard line drive to the top right corner of the goal that Navy goalie Pat Reno could not handle.
"I'm doing some things my way," said Tucker, who replaced Phillips when the latter was fired this summer by Athletic Director Leo Miles. "But I'm keeping some things of Lincoln's and this is one. We worked on this play all last night. Our men were tired from the overtime periods. There wasn't much time left and this was the chance to use it."
Tucker paused to smile over at Phillips, who had watched the game from the stands. His former coach came over and embraced him.
Each team had 11 shots on goal in the game, but few were serious. Most of the game was spent in midfield, where the clubs alternated periods of domination. Navy (1-2-1), not as quick or skilled, managed to stay even with its usual hustle and discipline. Until the goal.
"Our own fans asked us if the goal was an accident," said Streete, a junior forward, with a smile. "It wasn't, of course, but it was supposed to look like it."