They won the Washington County title last year for the first time and produced a 13-3-1 overall record, also the best around town.
The answer: Clear Spring
After their first county boys soccer title and an overall-best 13-3-1 record, the Blazers set out Friday night to reach further heights.
They'll begin their defense of the county title with an 8 p.m. home game against South Hagerstown. Game-by-game, Clear Spring looks to go deep into Class 1A postseason play.
And other county teams will seek to do the same in their respective divisions, especially Williamsport, where the Wildcats could return as a serious threat in the tournament and in the 2A ranks.
“Getting a good start is important,” Clear Spring coach Lynn Mills said.
“For our seniors, it's their show,” Williamsport coach Chris Downs said.
Each school has 12 seniors on its roster with several back in the fold for another award-winning campaign.
They include Clear Spring's Bradly Mills and Williamsport’s Tiago DeSouza and Owen Marx from the 2012 Herald-Mail first team and Clear Spring’s Jonathan Henesy and Jacob Ernst and Williamsport’s Corey Ellis from the second team.
Another first-teamer from 2012 in the county is Brayden Tiner of South Hagerstown, a senior that will be vital to the Rebels’ vast improvement plans.
The county tournament, played at Clear Spring, begins Friday with Williamsport playing Boonsboro at 4 and North Hagerstown going against Smithsburg at 6.
In private schools, St. Maria Goretti will have two of the top players around in keeper Drew Katrina and forward Casey Bartholomew.
Here are capsuled looks at area teams:
The last three years have been painful for Boonsboro with only seven total wins, but four of those were last year and coach Roy Rickerds is hoping to see some light down the road.
“But we are still rebuilding,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of boys that are playing club soccer and I’ve seen some improvement. We’ve got some new strikers and we’ll be stronger in the midfield.
“This will be a team effort. We start in the frying pan with Williamsport, but you never know. I think our team philosophy is finally clicking.”
One of the defensive pillars for Boonsboro is senior defender Devon Fairhall, a H-M second-teamer last year.
Coach David Grimm has one senior on the roster and he can talk about how things are unfolding at home with his son, Andrew, a junior midfielder and second-team Herald-Mail selection last year having scored 11 goals.
Shoring up the defense will be the concern of the Lions after allowing 63 goals a year ago, leading to a 4-13 record.
Steve Glaspell, the only senior, will be asked to do a little bit of everything on the field and David Grimm is saying freshman Jaden Lee shows promise with his quickness.
“We’ll try to improve our defense and our record,” said Grimm.
Call them the “Dirty Dozen,” but Clear Spring’s defense of a county title and repeat of a 13-3-1 overall record is on their shoulders.
“We need to get off to a good start,” coach Lynn Mills said. “We’ll be strong in the midfield and very strong defensively.
“Right now the striker position is unsettled, it’s a huge hole and could be three, four players by committee until one breaks out,” Mills said.
But the experience returning headed by Jonathan Henesy and Bradly Mills might be unparalelled in the county.
“Jonathan is poised for a monster year and Brad is going to score more,” Lynn Mills said. “They are strong leaders.”
Mills needs to replace keeper Levi Bucher and may have his man in sophomore Ian Hose, who has good size.
Grace Academy went 1-12-2 last season, but new coach Shane Weagly looks to turn that record around in his first year as coach.
Grace has a pair of individuals that should pose problems for opponents, starting with Harrison Barger and Nathan Brazil.
“(Barger) plays plays multiple sports and can play multiple positions in soccer,” said Weagly. “He is going to be something special in every sport.”
And, along with Brazil, Weagly is counting on productivity from striker Johnny York and midfielder Caleb Gardner.
Mark Patey, after spending two years as the junior high coach at Heritage, steps into the varsity role as the Eagles try to improve on their 6-7-2 record last year.
Three key players should spearhead Heritage Academy — seniors Aaron Anderson at the wing, senior Abe Strickler in goal and junior Nathan Patey in the midfield.
Two sophomore strikers — Luis Orjuela and David Sisler — will be counted on to provide scoring punch.
“We are young and inexperienced with only 14 players,” said Mark Patey. “We’ll take one game at a time, make adjustments.”
The Hubs had six all-county selections in 2012, but only two of them return for new head coach Pete Grunberg, who must find shoes to replace the likes of Garrett Singer, Max Ober, Ryan Bayard and Yusuf Bodirov.
Senior Phillip Lloyd will step in for Ober, who had 11 shutouts and .069 goals against average.
Defender Casey Goodrich and midfielder Mark Grunberg are back in the fold for the Hubs, who were 10-7-1 last year.
“We’re working hard, a little slim in the cupboard, but we have players that can ultimately bring us success,” said Pete Grunberg.
He said Cole Pitsnogle, Hamza Fellah, Tanner Bachtell and Clay Smith — will all help North.
“We want to win our first game and then build on that,” Pete Grunberg said. “We’re not as strong as last year but competitive.”
The Saints were lethargic on defense last year on the way to a 3-15-3 record, allowing 80 goals.
Coach Evan Solis is looking improvement in goal from senior Alex Wagner, who shares his athletic time with the football team.
Senior midfielder Johnny Ludwick and junior defender James Marshall, the co-captains, are the likely foundation for the Saints in order to compete on a high level.
“They’re the foundation, good size and strong,” said Solis. “We’ve got some new guys, but we also are young with mostly juniors and sophomores. And we’ve had some nagging, early-season injuries.”
Solis also has an eye on senior midfielders Connor Abeles and Billy Walendom for plenty of help.
After a lowly 2-13 season, things can only look upward for the Leopards and coach Paul Newman, and if they do it will be with a roster loaded with juniors.
Only two seniors — defender Andrew Kopka and defender/midfielder Zach Mutcher — return and Newman is counting on that pair to anchor to back line.
Adam Dwyer is one of the key juniors and Newman is very high on the defender/midfielder, who will perform out from under the shadow of departed Adler Garrett, who scored 11 of Smithsburg’s 17 goals last year.
“The kids look up to (Adam),” said Newman. “He makes good decision and does a nice job of organizing things.
“We won’t be a wide open team, we’ll try to play possession soccer,” Newman said. “Last year other teams were in charge of us and we were playing defense all the time.”
Ryan Myers begins his fourth year with a 21-player roster, something unheard of in the past at South. He also considers this the big year in his rebuilding plan.
“We’ve got players from club soccer that will start to pay dividends and we have them for the future on junior varsity and in 8th grade,” Myers said. “Instead of teaching players soccer, I’ve got soccer players.
“I think our varsity, at least on paper, has the potential to challenge everyone we play,” he said. “There is a difference with soccer players that have an IQ.”
Leading the team will be senior Brayden Tiner, a first-team all-county midfielder, whom Myers says is “one of those players that brings vision and skill, creates in the field.”
Mason Guillory is back for a fourth year and is looked upon to score and Joe Rohr is back for his third year in goal.
St. Maria Goretti
A healthy roster is very important to coach Tristan Longnecker and the Gaels this season.
“We don’t have much depth so we certainly need to stay healthy,” Longnecker said.
What the Gaels do have are a pair of huge talents in senior keeper Drew Katrina, who now stands 6-foot-6 and midfielder Casey Bartholomew.
“It’s comforting having Drew in goal, he’s so fluid in his motion,” Longnecker said. “Casey is a very dynamic midfielder and we’re going to look to go deeper in the field with him.”
On Goretti’s 15-player roster, Longnecker is also looking for productivity from senior defender Morgan Kenworthy, junior defender Connor Zinaich and junior midfielder Willie Spinnler.
The Wildcats look to return to the top with some late-season momentum from a year ago with a win over Century.
“I look back at that win as motivation and our 12 seniors look at that,” said coach Chris Downs. “We’re focused on game one in the county and we know we’re going to get everyone’s best this year when they look on paper and see everyone we have back.”
The roster starts with all-county Owen Marx, the dominating scorer for the Wildcats in 2012 as a forward. There is keeper Corey Ellis, who had a 1.13 GAA last year. There is first-teamer Tiago DeSouza and others such as Collin McVicker, Phillip Schnurr and Wyatt Hudson
“We’ve got possibilities of scoring more, but we also have to learn to put people away in the late minutes,” Downs said. “We had many opportunities last year, but we let teams hang around.”
Downs also said Ellis is recovering from a slightly torn knee and would not be at full strength starting the year and that senior Cole Smith is recovering from a broken fibula.