Of the 11 players that make up a side of soccer players, only one gets their own set of rules.
Like most goalkeepers, Dylan Smith got his start in net by getting moved there as a youth player to fill in for someone else. It proved to a most fruitful move as Smith started to like being different. The position seemed to like Smith as well and it wasn’t long before he was making saves running the gambit from routine to spectacular.
A four-year starter for CB West, Smith was nothing short of spectacular in his senior season, helping the Bucks to their first ever District I title and as a result, has been selected the Reporter/Montgomery Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
“It’s a very unique position, there’s 22 guys on a field and only two of them are doing something completely different from anybody else,” Smith said. “People look at beautiful goals and how they’re created, but I felt very drawn to the other aspect of it. Being able to save those great shots is pretty cool and having people ask how you did that is something I was more drawn to.”
The Bucks had a clear goal for this season. After making a run to the state semifinals last year and returning most of their team, they set their sights on reaching Hershey and lifting the state trophy. It was an ambitious goal, but with Smith backing up a resolute defense and a solid midfield and attacking unit, CB West felt it had a shot.
While they didn’t get to Hershey, instead falling in a surprising result during the first round of states, the Bucks still accomplished plenty this fall.
For Smith, that’s been the hardest thing to come to terms with since the end of the season. He and his teammates so badly wanted a state title that he’s had to remind himself the other things – sharing the SOL Continental title with North Penn and winning the first District I title in the program’s history – aren’t things to just gloss over.
“That sting of what could have been will always be there in the back of your mind but to say we were the conference champs and District I champs is really cool,” Smith said. “I’m really proud of that and what we accomplished this year.”
A four-year varsity starter, Smith allowed just 14 goals this fall, giving him a .636 goals allowed average in 22 matches where he totaled 90 saves between the posts. The senior keeper and his teammates mastered the art of close games as well, winning nine matches by a single goal.
That many close games meant Smith usually had to come up with at least one spectacular save to keep his team in front. West also posted 14 shutouts on the season, putting Smith in plenty of pressure situations but it was something the keeper relished.
“We loved that as a team, that pressure to show up,” Smith said. “You look at some of those wins, specifically some of the playoff wins like Pennridge, North Penn and Spring-Ford, they were much tighter and we showed up in big games. Not just me, but our entire group of guys and it was something we excelled with and enjoyed doing it.”
At 5-foot-11, Smith doesn’t have prototypical size for a keeper, but he can still make all the saves plus more than a few most people wouldn’t expect anyone to stop. In the senior’s opinion, it’s not height or reach, reactions or good hands that make a standout keeper.
To Smith, it’s instead all about consistency. He knew if he showed up the same way, whether it was a preseason training or a district final, then his teammates would feed off that.
“There are a number of really talented goalies not only in our league, but the other conferences, around the state and even the country and to me, the better ones separated themselves with consistency and showing up the same when you’re playing the worst team in your conference or a returning state champion,” Smith said. “If you show up to play the same way on those days, then you’re going to be hard to beat.”
Goalkeepers make the saves, but the best ones know they only get to do so because of the defenders in front of them. West had a terrific defensive unit – led by Bailey Moyer, James Lutz, Luke Fehrman and Nick Centenera – that made sure Smith wasn’t barraged by shots.
After games, Smith was always quick to credit his defenders for their play and he especially respected those guys for how willing they were to put their bodies on the line in front of goal.
“I could write you a short story on the things they did, but one thing specifically was the fearless mentality they had,” Smith said. “They were just so willing to do whatever it took to not only keep the ball out of the net but to win. You see some of the things they’re throwing themselves in front of, and this isn’t just in the playoff run, it’s the second, third game of the season, it was apparent from the start of the season and it not only gets everyone else fired up, it’s just a great quality to have.”
West’s duels with North Penn, all three of them, each proved a major turning points for West. The Knights, packed with players Smith played club with and considers good friends, tallied eight of the 14 goals scored against him this fall.
Their third meeting, which came in the district quarterfinals, was a classic. Smith played a starring role, making 12 saves in regulation in overtime, then saving two penalty kicks and scoring the winning kick in the shootout to send West through.
“Throughout my high school career and I had a number of opportunities to go the academy route and give that option of playing for West up but it wasn’t ever something I planned on doing,” Smith said. “In my opinion, there’s nothing like it to be able to play for your high school team, to represent the school and community and compete with your classmates while others are coming to support you.”
The senior hasn’t locked down his future team yet, but he is deciding on a handful of offers from local Division I and II programs and hopes to make a choice soon.
Smith and the rest of his senior classmates left an indelible mark on the West program but the senior quickly noted there are a lot of really good players coming back eager to build on what his class set in motion.
“This year we talked a lot about building that bridge,” Smith said. “We really focused on getting everybody else on that same page. We made playoffs all four years, the first two years we got knocked out, last year we went pretty for and this year, we didn’t go maybe as far but added a little more on the resume. The importance of that is a lot of those guys return, they were all there and lived it for two years so for us to be a part of that and aid them, we just tried to be as good a class as possible.”
GK: Dylan Smith (CB West/Sr)
D: Bailey Moyer (CB West/Jr)
D: Joe Trodden (Archbishop Wood/Sr)
D: Reese Gibbs (Abington/Sr)
D: Josh Jones (North Penn/So)
M: Carter Houlihan (North Penn/Jr)
M: Nevin Baer (Abington/Jr)
M: Matt Stevenson (Pennridge/Sr)
M: Koty Taylor (Archbishop Wood/Sr)
F: Sean Touey (Abington/Sr)
F: Luke McMahon (North Penn/Sr)
GK: Connor Ford (Archbishop Wood/Sr)
D: Nicholas Hammel (La Salle/Sr)
D: Nick Centenera (CB West/Sr)
D: Chris Caputo (North Penn/Sr)
M: JD Mallinder (Hatboro-Horsham/Jr)
M: Matt McDonald (Lansdale Catholic/Sr)
M: Carson Snyder (CB West/Sr)
M: Aidan Jerome (North Penn/Sr)
M: Bobby Hennessey (Archbishop Wood/Sr)
F: Chris Metzler (La Salle/Sr)
F: Eddie Fortescue (Wissahickon/Sr)
GK: Chase Peev (Faith Christian), Justin Grady (Cheltenham/Sr), Mitchell Race (Souderton/Sr)
D: Ray Royds (Lansdale Catholic/Sr), Joe Baranoski (Archbishop Wood/Sr), Vince Carosella (Abington/Sr), Tom Hoy (Plymouth Whitemarsh/Sr), Jack Gillespie (Pennridge/Sr), Jack Forbes (William Tennent), Andrew Buss (Lower Moreland/Sr)
M: Matt Duddy (Bishop McDevitt/Sr), Reed Sturza (CB West/Sr), Jared Huzar (North Penn/Sr), Jack Failing (Abington/Sr), Liam Friel (Abington/Sr), David Steinbach (La Salle/Sr), Aidan Link (Pennridge/Sr), Max Schulze (William Tennent), Andrew Hurrell (Hatboro-Horsham/Sr),
F: Christian Petro (Archbishop Wood/Sr), Colin Asper (Upper Dublin/Sr), Trevor Looby (Upper Merion/Sr), Jack Taplett (Pennridge/Jr), William Bolla (Faith Christian/Sr)
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