With the offseason behind them — the sting of somehow losing the 4A state title last season to Bowie on a pair of miraculous goals now distant — Walter Johnson opened its 2012 season against another top Prince George's County opponent.
This time, the Wildcats not only displayed they were the superior side on the field, but the scoreboard as well.
Despite returning only four starters and losing sophomore striker Jeremy Ebobisse late in the first half with an ankle injury, Walter Johnson downed High Point, 3-0, Friday at the Beltsville school.
Goals from Ebobisse, Nabayee Tesfu and Arik Moe were more than enough as, just like Walter Johnson (which also was missing senior midfielder Mateo Arenas), the Eagles were without starters, namely two of their four pieces on the back line.
“We're still young. We're still trying to find our identity,” Walter Johnson coach Mike Williams said. “With losing so many players from last year, we've got to recreate.”
After High Point dominated possession for the first 15 minutes, Walter Johnson regained its composure and controlled the pace of play throughout in a game between two teams that figure to be powerhouses in their respective counties. High Point's best scoring chances resulted only from set pieces as the Eagles were afforded little time and space to create in the attacking third.
High Point out-shot Walter Johnson, 11-10, but five of the Wildcats' shots were on goal compared to one for High Point.
“We had high expectations from last year and we came out strong,” Moe said. “It was kind of a good start to the season. A confidence builder.”
Ebobisse scored in the 33rd minute when he ran onto a lob over the top, blew by a defender and chipped the ball high over the goalkeeper's head. Tesfu added WJ's second of the afternoon after knocking home a rebound in the box in the 42nd minute.
“I think when they scored [the first] goal, that's what changed it,” High Point coach Michael Holt said. “My midfield, they're young guys. I prefer to have more mature players, but they did well. We're looking forward to a good season.”
Williams said he felt his team, like all clubs in the state, was affected by the limited preseason training sessions as a result of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's new heat acclimation rules.
“Without having the two-a-days, we're essentially seven practices behind where we normally should be,” he said. “All of the teams are not where we've been in the past.”
High Point senior captain Edwin Claros was a force in the midfield, but received little help from his teammates while Walter Johnson junior goalkeeper Ben Meyers played the majority of the shutout before being subbed off for sophomore Nathan Hahn late in the second half.
Walter Johnson 3, High Point 0
Walter Johnson (1-0) 1 2 — 3
High Point (0-1) 0 0 — 0
Walter Johnson — Jeremy Ebobisse (33'), Nabayee Tesfu (42'), Arik Moe (64')
Walter Johnson — Kyle Madden (64')