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County preview -- Wildcats set up for big season

September 05, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Williamsport graduate Chris Downs' first go-round as head coach of his alma mater's boys soccer teams has the potential to be one for the ages.

The Wildcats are poised to make a big step forward after a 9-8 season and a fourth-place finish in the MVAL Antietam a year ago, because they have all their key players back -- including All-Area First Team goalkeeper Derek Munro, All-County First Team midfielders Mark Oliver and Edwin Reyes, and All-MVAL Antietam First Team midfielder Michael Reyes.

"They know they have the targets on their backs," Downs said. "Everybody expects good things from them, and so do I. But as with everything, there's a learning process and we're hoping when November comes around, we'll still be there.

"They're not taking anything for granted. It seems like their heads are in the right place. They're being very realistic and focused."

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Williamsport has more going for it than experience and talent -- Downs has been impressed with the Wildcats' soccer IQ.

"I think they do a lot of things well, but honestly, their intelligence is what I think will help us a lot," Downs said. "They know when to take their chances and when to keep the ball on the ground. The talent helps, and they have a lot of individual talent, but the key is learning how to play together and keep themselves focused, and they're doing that."

Smithsburg is the defending Antietam champion and is coming off a 14-3 record last year. The Leopards figure to be right there with the Wildcats despite the loss of eight senior starters, including 2007 Washington County Player of the Year Josh Edwards and All-County First Team defender Craig Trueblood.

All-Area First Team midfielder Steve Kretzer and All-Area Second Team midfielder Zach Carson should anchor the Leopards this season.

"They had a really good preseason and showed some real promise in doing what we need to do to try to gain an advantage in midfield," Leopards coach Stan Wade said.

All-County Second Team defender Shane Mann and goalkeeper Brett Toms also are back. All in all, Smithsburg has 10 seniors back to make another run at an Antietam title.

"I'm sure hoping," Wade said. "I know we have the talent and we have the ability. It's whether we can get it all together on the same page and stay focused, and hopefully we'll do fine."

The Wildcats and Leopards, along with Boonsboro, Clear Spring, North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown, will get first crack at county bragging rights in the Washington County Public Schools Tournament, starting this afternoon at 4 at Williamsport.

Boonsboro

The Warriors could be a sleeper in the MVAL Antietam, and they'll learn a lot when they challenge Williamsport in the first round of the county tournament today at 6 p.m.

"It's a challenging opener, but the boys are feeling good and hopefully we're up to it," Boonsboro coach Brad Delauter said.

All-County First Team defender Steve Kopp is back to anchor the back line, while forwards Shane Lowery and Ryan Barrett and midfielders Keith Welch and Grant Brown give the Warriors a solid attacking nucleus.

"My offense is definitely stronger than it has been," Delauter said. "My defense is very solid, having Steve back there. So I have pretty high expectations."

Broadfording

The Lions lost talented forward Kyle Brown to graduation, but have a solid nucleus back, including defenders Kevin Haldeman, Pat McConnell and Chris Usher, goalie Donnie Fritz and midfielders Gabe Hirsch and Stephen Torres. In addition, coach David Grimm expects freshmen forwards Jared Morris and Andy Torres to make significant contributions as Broadfording hopes to challenge Grace Academy for Mason Dixon Christian Conference honors.

"The strength of our team is they've been playing together a while now and they know each other," Grimm said. "I think our midfield's strong. We have some freshmen. Andy Torres, he's already got five goals on the season. In my opinion, Grace (Academy) is really strong, but I think we'll be right there with them."

Clear Spring

The Blazers lost seven senior starters -- including All-Area First Team forward Francesco Scotto di Carlo -- but the cupboard is not completely bare. All-County First Team midfielder Elliott Reid and All-County Second Team defender Sam Myers are back, and seven sophomores will start, including forward Matthew Blair and midfielders Gavin Myers, Devin Repp and Nick Harbaugh.

"It's a whole different team this year," Blazers coach Mark Myers said. "They're a lot more confident in their passing and their footwork, and they play more team ball. They're young, but they play very mature. There's not a selfish player on the team, and they all really like to play with each other. They make it fun."

Grace Academy

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