For a long time, the Prince George's County high school boys' soccer landscape was a lot like the county's football landscape. Traditionally-dominant teams jockeyed for playoff position and everyone else went along for the ride.
Specifically, High Point and Bowie have been the two enduring forces over the past half decade.
Much like in football, however, the County 4A League is quickly becoming more balanced and a tweak to the way the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association formats its state tournament could provide even more intrigue as the season rolls along.
This year, the state released a new alignment of the 4A South Region that breaks the 12 competing 4A schools in Prince George's County into two sections: Section I and Section II.
Section I consists of Bladensburg, DuVal, High Point, Laurel, Northwestern and Parkdale. Section II consists of Bowie, Charles H. Flowers, Henry A. Wise, Eleanor Roosevelt, Oxon Hill and Suitland.
“I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing,” said Bowie coach Rich Kirkland, who is in his 25th year leading the Bulldogs. “We'll have to see how it plays out.”
With the new format, teams from within the same section play one another until one team remains. Then those two remaining clubs play for the 4A South Region title and the right to advance to the state semifinals.
“There's a group of death up north and there's us,” said 29th-year Roosevelt coach George Kallas of Section I. “I'm not sure whose geography they used to lay out the sections, but we'll see what happens.”
While the teams in both sections appear fairly balanced at first glance, is what Kallas said about the talent in Section I correct?
Since 2008 — a span of five postseasons — Bowie has the most playoff wins of any county team with 12, thanks in large part to winning state titles in 2008 and 2011. High Point is a close second with 11, despite having not won a state championship. The next closest teams all have six wins during that span (Bladensburg, Northwestern and Roosevelt). Here's where it gets interesting.
The total number of postseason wins by the teams in Section I over the past five seasons is 34, 10 more than the 24 wins the teams in Section II have earned. And considering that roughly half of Section II's postseason wins in the past five seasons have come via two five-match state championship runs by Bowie, it's easy to see why coaches are so intrigued by the new format. And why Kallas was so complimentary of Section I.
“These teams are always tough,” said High Point coach Michael Holt, whose team will likely face some stiff playoff competition. “We never take anything for granted and we always go in with the attitude that anyone can beat us at any time. We've got to be well-prepared and do what we have to do.”
A prime example is when Flowers played High Point to a 1-1 draw Tuesday evening, becoming the first county team this season to earn a point against the Eagles. Flowers and Bladensburg are among the two up-and-coming county teams that could make the new format all the more interesting. Coupled with the fact that Bowie, admittedly, is having a down year and Northwestern lost many players from last year's state semifinal squad, both sections appear wide open a quarter of the way through the regular season.