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Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Marcus, Jesuit: A clash for history

By Sheldon Shealer
ESPNRISE.com

The Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas) and Jesuit (Dallas) boys' soccer teams are out to make history.

After Tuesday night, however, only one will remain on course.

Strifler and Sewell
Sewell Strifler's return to soccer this winter has helped Jesuit to an undefeated season
Marcus (19-5-0), the two-time defending state champion, and Jesuit (19-0-2), the undefeated and No. 1-ranked ESPN RISE FAB 50 winter team, square off at 7 p.m. CT at Pennington Field in Bedford, Texas, in a state 5A regional quarterfinal match.

"When you talk about high school soccer, this is the pinnacle," Marcus coach John Gall said. "It's disappointing we play so early in the playoffs, five matches before the state final, because the winner of this game has a fair chance at winning a state title."

Marcus is aiming to become the state's first three-peat champion since Plano in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, Jesuit, a relative newcomer to the University Interscholastic League after spending decades in a private school association, is attempting to win its first state title and become the first wire-to-wire FAB 50 No. 1 winter team.

"These kids know each other; they play on the same club teams," Jesuit coach Charlie DeLong said. "Both programs are pretty good, but somehow this [matchup] has a bit more emotion to it."

The focus of Tuesday night's match will be the midfield and forward play of both squads.

Zach Barnes leads Marcus with 20 goals and five assists. Chad Caldwell has 13 goals and five assists. Marcus has received scoring from 14 players this season.

Injuries throughout the season kept Gall shuffling his lineup, but now Barnes and Caldwell are finally both playing forward positions in Marcus' 4-4-2 formation. Marcus is riding a seven-match win streak during which it has scored 28 goals.

Nate Dombrowski is Jesuit's leading scorer, but the team's real strength is in the midfield with Division I signees Alexei Reyes, Sewell Strifler and Ryan Morales.

Dombrowski and Strifler will join Caldwell at Dayton in the fall. Morales is heading to American University, and Reyes has signed with Florida Gulf Coast.

Marcus and Jesuit, although in different districts, have become familiar foes this decade. Since 2002, either Marcus or Jesuit has won the season-opening Meintser Classic every year except one. Marcus won in 2002 and 2006. Jesuit won in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2009. [The 2007 event was canceled due to poor weather.]

The teams met twice in 2008, Jesuit winning 1-0 to capture the Meintser Classic and Marcus returning the favor 1-0 in the regional final en route to a state title.

"Last year, both games came down to referee calls," DeLong said. "We won the first game on a PK, and they won the second game on a PK. That's how close these teams are."

"These are two quality teams, well-coached teams," Gall said. "I feel this is the game of the season, not only for Texas, but for the country."

Sheldon Shealer covers youth soccer for ESPNRISE.com. He can be reached at Sheldon.Shealer@espn.com.