Walter Johnson boys' soccer coach Brent Mascott says he will always remember his team's 5-4 victory over Sherwood in the 2003 postseason, because it gave the Wildcats the Maryland 4A West Region championship and a berth in the state semifinals.
But whenever he recalls that thrilling game, Mascott also will think about Sherwood's Michael Rollings. Then a junior, Rollings single-handedly kept the Warriors in the game by scoring all four of his team's goals in the second half.
"It was kind of like, whenever he got the ball, you got the feeling he could do something spectacular from anywhere," said Mascott, last year's All-Met Coach of the Year. "Our team played well, but he was the man of the match."
After Rollings's second goal, which tied the game at two, Mascott moved his best player, then-senior striker Nate Goldsberry, to defense to mark Rollings. But Sherwood's scorer still got loose.
"That was probably the most impressive performance in a high school game that I've ever seen in my life for an individual player," Sherwood Coach Hector Morales said.
Rollings's four-goal night capped a breakout season in which he scored 21 goals -- tied for tops in the county -- had nine assists and established himself as one of the top offensive threats in the area.
Rollings is 5 feet 5 and weighs 130 pounds. But he makes up for a lack of size with quickness -- "He's got an incredible ability to change speeds," said Magruder Coach Scott Alexander -- and savvy -- "He sees things that many of the high school kids don't see," Morales said.
Rollings also has an impressive soccer background. He began playing when he was eight years old, and in seventh grade joined the Bethesda Internationals, an elite club team. During the summer before his freshman year at Sherwood, the Internationals -- with a standout striker named Freddy Adu -- won the U.S. Youth Soccer Association's under-14 national title.
He will enter his senior season with a more polished game and an improved soccer I.Q. For two weeks in mid-August, shortly before the start of preseason, Rollings trained in Aguas de Lindoia, Brazil, with a club team.
"The touch and skill of the players and the vision and overall knowledge of the game was unreal," Rollings said. "It was a great experience."
One that doubtless will make life more difficult on opposing defenses this fall.