The wait continues for Centennial High boys soccer.
Seeking their first state title since 1995, the No. 10 Eagles fell to Frederick County’s Tuscarora in the Class 3A state championship game Thursday at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex.
After controlling the first 10 minutes of the game with several scoring opportunities, the Howard County school saw Tuscarora dominate the remainder of regulation to win first state championship since 2008.
Centennial coach Justin Thomas lamented the early misses.
“The game was cruel,” Thomas said. “We had a couple of chances in the first half and if things had gone our way, it could have been a bit different. You’re going to have days like this. Credit to [Tuscarora].”
At the 24-minute mark, it was Tuscarora’s senior leaders that stepped up as they have all season long. The Titans got on the board when senior forward Erick Rodriguez raced through the Centennial defense and hit fellow senior Ryan Stouffer with a pinpoint pass in the box.
Stouffer beat Centennial goalkeeper Kartik Sullivan to the far post to give the Titans a 1-0 advantage.
“I thought we were just a little unlucky,” Sullivan said. “The first 15 minutes, I thought we dominated the game honestly. Just a couple of mistakes led to those two goals.”
The goal gave the Tuscarora (18-1 overall) offense life as they continued to pressure the Centennial goal. The attack paid off at the 31-minute mark when senior forward Nick Stevenson converted an open look from the top of the box.
Stevenson intercepted a clearing attempt by Centennial (15-2-1) and unleashed a shot that snuck just under the crossbar for a 2-0 lead.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Stevenson said of the team’s accomplishment. “Going to the state finals after how hard we pushed to get here and not only to win it but to score two goals feels great.”
After the half, Centennial came out aggressive and pressed the envelope, earning a couple of yellow cards to go along with a few scoring opportunities.
“I told the guys [at halftime] to keep their head up,” Thomas said. “[I urged] getting more aggressive obviously because we didn’t have a choice at that point. At the same time, stay calm and confident. I thought it was better for us in that first 5 to 10 minutes. I thought if we could have gotten one it could have changed the game.”
The Eagles were unable to cash in those chances and Stevenson put the capper on the Titans championship with a goal in the 34th minute of the second half to make it 3-0.
Tuscarora head coach Todd Knepper and his players referred to the championship game as a “childhood dream” game that his seniors have been building to for many years.
“This is a group that we certainly knew were capable of getting to this game,” Knepper said. “We labeled this one the childhood dream game because for that is what it was for a lot of these guys. We have known most of our seniors since they were in fourth or fifth grade and this was a place they always wanted to get to.”
Centennial came into Thursday’s finale on a 10-game unbeaten streak, including a win over Mount Hebron to capture its first regional title since 2017.
When asked to reflect on the season, Thomas didn’t place his value in the championships, but the development of his players.
“To get to the game is an accomplishment,” Thomas said. “I don’t measure the achievements by the trophies. What I am proud of the team for is the character they are showing. They are developing into good young men, and they displayed that throughout the season.
This group has done really well to push the program further. They really love this game, they love each other and they love the team. I am proud of that.”
CLASS 3A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
at Loyola University/Ridley Athletic Complex
TUSCARORA 3, NO. 10 CENTENNIAL 0
Tuscarora 2 1 - 3
Centennial 0 0 - 0
Goals: Tuscarora – Nick Stevenson 2, Ryan Stouffer
Assist: Tuscarora – Erick Rodriguez
Saves: Tuscarora – Aidan Ritta 3; Centennial - Kartik Sullivan 4.