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Washington County Boys Soccer 2011: Things change, but may stay the same

August 31, 2011|By DAN KAUFFMAN | kauffman@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Preps Previews
Washington County Preps Previews

On paper, it appears to be a season of change across the Washington County high school boys soccer scene.

In the end, the more things change, the more they could stay the same.

Without question, some new names will be garnering headlines this season after 13 of last year’s 15 Herald-Mail All-County First Team honorees graduated — although the 2010 Player of the Year, Broadfording’s Andrew Torres, should keep piling up the goals.

In addition, both North Hagerstown and Williamsport are making the leap to higher classifications — the Hubs moving to 3A from 2A, and the Wildcats to 2A from 1A.

But will the county public schools tournament and MVAL Antietam titles change hands? North won both last year, while Williamsport finished second in the Antietam race. The Hubs and Wildcats appear poised to challenge for both titles again this season.

“Our guys are really focusing on this county tournament, and they feel if they don’t win it, it will be a letdown,” said Williamsport coach Chris Downs, whose Wildcats lost two all-county first-team players but return three other first- or second-team honorees. “The spirit is up, the chemistry is there, it’s as good a preseason as we have had.”

“It’s going to take us a little bit to mature as a team,” said North coach Glen Singer, whose Hubs lost four all-county first- or second-team honorees but return a solid core led by all-county second-team striker Ryan Byard. “Hopefully as the season progresses, we’ll rise to the challenge.”

Boonsboro

Michael Long’s first season in charge of the Warriors was a rough one, as Boonsboro finished 1-12-1 last year and scored just six goals.

“The biggest challenge last year was getting the boys to understand the style of play I wanted to play,” Long said. “We just didn’t have that killer instinct to finish matches off, but by midseason we were playing well.”

Midfielders Charles Anoman, a returning senior, and Connor Prunty, a freshman, will have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders as the primary playmakers. They’ll be looking to set up senior strikers Josh Haden and Brandon Redman.

“Connor and Charles, their distribution is going to be key,” Long said. “We have a lot of speed up top with Josh and Brandon. ... I’m cautiously optimistic about the results we may be able to get this year.”

Senior goalkeeper Devin Bellerive has three returnees helping him out on the back line — senior Lee Manolopoulus, junior Rusty Kopp and sophomore Devon Fairhall.

Broadfording

David Grimm’s Lions had a banner year in 2010, winning the Mason Dixon Christian Conference tournament title and finishing second in the Maryland Christian School Tournament on the way to a 19-4 final record.

Andrew Torres scored 37 goals last year — topping the county by a wide margin — and already has four in the Lions’ first two games this season.

“Andy’s been a little bit in the spotlight, so I worry he’ll get marked a little heavier this year,” Grimm said. “We do have some other strong finishers, so even if we drop Andy into the midfield, he’ll get opportunities.”

Twin brother Michael Torres is the Lions’ anchor in his defensive midfield role, where his two-way play setting up the attack as well as stymieing opposing offenses is critical.

“He’s just as talented as Andy. He’s kind of like the backbone,” Grimm said. “He has so many assists and is so strong back there.”

Junior midfielders Justin Haldeman and Trevor Snodderly join senior Jared Morris — who returns to the team after a couple years away — as additional threats in Broadfording’s arsenal.

“Justin reads the field well and I look for a lot out of him,” Grimm said. “Jared’s a leader in practice, has a lot of ball skills and reads the field well. We made him one of the captains and I see a whole lot of opportunity for him this year. Trevor is fast and has good ball skills.”

Another newcomer, senior Zack Wolfe, will anchor the defense.

Clear Spring

The Blazers had a superb season under Mark Myers’ guidance last year — they finished 12-6, reached the Washington County Public Schools Tournament final, finished third in the MVAL Antietam and advanced to the Maryland Class 1A West final.

Now they have to reload after losing five all-county first- or second-team honorees to graduation — players who accounted for 29 of their 43 goals.

“They’re young,” Myers said of his current group. “They play with a little more intensity and a little more balance. ... It will be a much different style of play. There’s a lot of good passers on this team and our set play will be better.”

Senior Ralph Weaver figures to be the primary target up front, as he had five goals and five assists in 2010. Seniors Dylynn Bartles and Michael Snyder and sophomore Bradley Mills will join the attack, while senior Zac O’Neal, junior Nick Brandt and sophomore Jonathan Henesy are the top returning midfielders.

“Most of these guys played with the team last year,” Myers said. “There’s a few more club players in the group, which makes a difference in the level of play. They play a lot faster.”

Seniors Theo Meyers and Quinn Hoover join junior C.J. Elwood as key defenders — Elwood will pay the pivotal sweeper spot.

“He grew like five inches and is supremely fast,” Myers said. “He’s got big shoes to fill with what we lost from last year.”

Grace Academy

What a difference a year made for the Knights.

Grace won Mason Dixon Christian Conference regular season and tournament titles in 2009, before capping a 25-2-1 season with the National Association of Christian Athletes Division II national title.

Then the Knights lost the vast majority of their starters to graduation, and under first-year coach Alex Lehman they had a rough 2010, finishing 0-14-1 and scoring just six goals.

A group of eight seniors — led by goalkeeper Daniel Frederickson, defender Peter Hykes, midfielder E.J. Boutieller and striker Jeremiah House — are back to try to get Grace back on the winning side of the scoreboard.

“The guys who are seniors now, they didn’t want to step up as leaders last year, so I’m banking on the fact that those eight seniors want to flip a new gear,” Lehman said. “That’s probably the biggest thing I’m hoping to hang my hat on.”

The Knights’ biggest weapon may turn out to be Boutieller on set pieces.

“E.J. is like 6-2, so he creates problems on corner kicks and clogs that middle,” Lehman said. “In scrimmages he has scored more goals than anybody, so there’s some hope he’ll help a little bit.”

Junior midfielder Camryn Steward and junior defenders Anthony Jacques and Shawn Price will start. Grace’s roster also boasts seven promising freshmen — “Many of them are good but I don’t know who will stand out,” Lehman said.

Heritage Academy

The Eagles have a new coach in Brad Nigh, and he has a solid group back from a squad that went 9-6 in 2010 — led by all-county second team striker Mark Taggart, a senior who scored six goals last year.

“A lot of our strongest players have come back,” Nigh said. “We haven’t lost a lot. I think we have a good shot, but it’s anybody’s game when we get on the field.”

Taggart will be joined up front by seniors Chad Lowry and Michael Donmoyer and junior Tristan Prejean.

“We have a pretty strong front line with all of our forwards,” Nigh said. “The whole team worked really well (in a season-opening 1-0 win over Grace), even with our younger guys.”

Senior Bryce Boyd and sophomore Aaron Anderson return in midfield, where freshman Ian Rohrbaugh will join them as a playmaker.

“Ian’s really stepped up,” Nigh said. “He’s played soccer a lot of years. Aaron’s in your face and doesn’t back down.”

Senior Christian Strickler returns between the pipes, and returning junior Zach Muller will help anchor the defense in front of Strickler. Juniors Collin Poyle and A.J. Long and sophomore Josh Taggart are newcomers who will play on the back line.

North Hagerstown

The Hubs seem to have a rebuilding project every year, and every year Singer fills in the holes and keeps the team right among the county’s best.

This year, the task is to replace all-state first-team midfielder Mavlyud Gilmanov and build up a defense that lost goalkeeper Caleb Mittel as well as Max Psillas, Andre DeSouza and Dominique Phillips to graduation.

Singer will stick to his team-oriented philosophy, although he admitted Byard — who scored seven goals in 2010 — will be front and center quite often.

“A lot of the play will go as Ryan goes,” Singer said. “He has a lot of energy, so we’ll work through him to keep his energy level up. He will probably come back to the midfield some to set things up. There’s no one person that everything will work through. We like to spread it out and we’ll continue that style of play.”

Two senior returnees — Niklas Grahn and Osman Ramizov — will anchor the midfield and the defense respectively.

“We’re hoping we get some leadership out of those guys to help younger guys come along,” Singer said.

The midfield includes juniors Yusuf Bodirov, Wesley Wilson (who could play in defense as well) and Garrett Singer, the son of the coach.

Junior Conner Troxell also returns on defense, while junior Max Ober will take over in goal.

“We’re hoping Conner will step up and take some responsibility,” Glen Singer said. “I think (Ober) will do well. His success is going to be a product of how the team holds on to the ball, but he’s capable of filling (Mittel’s) shoes.”

Saint James

Jonathan Schwab takes over as head coach for a Saints squad that went 4-11-1 last season.

The top returning player is junior forward Seung Gon Yoo, a Korean student who scored seven goals last season.

“He’s been looking good,” Schwab said. “He went back to Korea and summer school, but he still got to the gym and stayed in pretty good shape. He should put up a lot of goals for us. He’s looking dangerous and is developing his confidence.”

Sophomore newcomer Jacob Thompson — who has grown several inches and has had a sharp preseason — will join Gon Yoo up top. Senior midfielder Ben Louderback returns to anchor the midfield.

“Ben traditionally has played a defensive role, but we’re trying to transition him to more of an offensive role,” Schwab said. “He’s just solid and in tremendous shape. He’ll be doing the JFK 50 for the fourth straight year. He’s not the most skilled player, but he has more heart than anyone else I’ve ever coached and is a leader by example.”

Junior Thomas Rocca also returns to lead the defense. He’ll be joined by freshman James Marshall on the back line, while senior Zuojun Gong — a Chinese student — takes over in goal.

Smithsburg

Coach Paul Newman’s primary task is to find the right combination that will allow the Leopards — who went 2-13 last year and scored just 12 goals — to produce more offense in the run of play.

Senior Clayton Layman — who was a formidable threat on free kicks a year ago — will move to striker in the hope he provides the spark.

“We’re playing him more forward and hope to create situations where he can be more dangerous,” Newman said. “He’ll still be our free kick specialist where he’s always dangerous.”

Senior newcomer Haroon Pasha will join Layman up front — “He scored two goals against Waynesboro in a scrimmage,” Newman said. “He’s a classic guy who always seems to be in the right place at the right time.”

Returning senior Greg Horning and newcomer Brandon Webber — a junior transfer from Boonsboro — will be pivotal in midfield. They’ll be joined by returning junior Adler Garrett and senior Kofi Owasu, who transferred from St. Maria Goretti.

“Greg and Brandon are playing defensive midfield, and we’re fairly confident we’re not going to be giving up the midfield the way we did a lot last year,” Newman said. “The quarterback on offense is what we’re struggling to find. We’re playing that role by committee and when we find the guy for that spot, we’ll be more dangerous.”

Brothers Jacob Dwyer (a junior) and Adam Dwyer (a freshman) will be the center backs in front of returning senior keeper Nick Porter.

South Hagerstown

The Rebels went 4-10 in Ryan Myers’ first season last year — scoring only 14 goals — but they should be a stout opponent for everyone this season, especially with their strong defense.

Seniors Aaron Rodgers — an all-county second-team honoree in 2010 — Alvin Muthoka, Dalton Udovich and Michael Langmyer join junior Johnny Martinez as returning defenders. They should help ease senior Drake Kessell’s transition as a goalkeeper, as he replaces all-county second-team standout Chip Rittenhouse.

“I’m willing to put (our defense) up with any team in the county,” Myers said. “Three of our seniors have been playing together since they were little kids. They know each other and I think they rank as one of the top defenses in the county.”

The offense should be led by senior KB Ofosu-Ameyaw, an all-county second-team honoree who scored four goals last year.

“To be absolutely honest, last year KB did have a good year but I think he underperformed. This year as a senior, ever since summer league, he’s a completely different athlete and player,” Myers said. “He hit the weight room and wants to make this season a standout year and use it as his springboard to college. I’m expecting double-digit scoring this year. With his speed and his eye for goal, I think he’ll take advantage of the turnover in the county.”

The Rebels’ midfield appears to be the top question mark. Senior Jordan Dickens returns to anchor a group which includes four sophomores — Mason Guillory, Brayden Tiner, Clyde Staley and Oscar Lopez.

“Our biggest problem last year was midfield, and this year it’s one of our youngest positions,” Myers said. “Tiner, Dickens and Lopez ... those three could surprise people.”

St. Maria Goretti

The Gaels, who went 11-9-4 and won the Maryland Private Schools ‘B’ state title under coach Tristan Longnecker last year, lost two all-county first-team honorees in forward Vince Turano and defender Nick Buckner. But they still return a solid nucleus, led by senior forward Thomas Blake — an all-county second-team honoree in 2010 who scored 10 goals.

Blake will be joined in the attack by senior midfielder Mateo Pelja, who was outstanding in the preseason, scoring seven goals in four games.

“We’re strong in the midfield, and Blake at striker and the midfield are going to be key for us,” Longnecker said.

Senior Rodrigo Reyna and junior Kevin Proctor also return in the midfield and will be joined by junior newcomer Mitch Swope.

The defense returns mostly intact, led by senior John Winalski in goal. Senior Daniel Lopes and junior Aaron Snook will anchor the back line.

“It’s a new group and a new attack. It’s a unique team,” Longnecker said. “We’re not relying much on last year because we have so many new faces in spots.”

Williamsport

Downs’ Wildcats went 8-6-2 in 2010, and four of those losses were by one goal. While two all-county first-team honorees — defender Connor Arnone and forward Jordan Payne — graduated, Williamsport returns two-time all-county first-team keeper Alex Aleshire, which gives the ’Cats an advantage over everyone between the pipes.

“Any time you have a kid like Alex back there, you’re going to be so much better,” said Downs, himself a former Williamsport keeper. “That’s definitely not a concern back there.”

All-county second-team forward Cody Gardenhour also returns to lead the offense — he had four goals and seven assists a year ago. Senior Tanner Meyers and sophomore Owen Marx should help the attack.

“Our mantra is, ‘How are we going to finish?’” Downs said. “That’s what will dictate what our win-loss record will be.”

Junior Colton Myers and sophomores Ryan Schnurr and Tiago DeSouza, a transfer from North Hagerstown, will start in a young midfield.

The defense in front of Aleshire should be solid, with senior Chad Ridenour — an all-county second-team honoree in 2010 — anchoring the back line. Senior Nicholas Myers and junior Nicholas Sauble also will see time in the back.

“Seems like we’re getting to a place where we’re rebuilding instead of reloading,” Downs said. “The guys stepping into starting roles have all seen significant playing time.”

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