Boys Soccer Preview: Central League full of teams hoping to restock

Monday’s edition of the Daily Times will include a feature on Marple Newtown’s special senior class and their quest to make four years of hard work pay off. Before that hits the Web, though, here are team-by-team previews of Delco’s soccer programs. First up, the Central League.

The first round of districts has become a stumbling block for Strath Haven, but coach Ryan O’Neill hopes that the blend of upperclassmen who matured quickly late last year and talented young players could end that.

Much of the spine of last year’s 10-win team returns, led by seniors Will Haury, Alex Maillet, Evan Savoth, Scott Campbell and Alex Belanger. Though the Panthers must replace their top three scorers, Savoth was fourth with four tallies, while talented sophomore Josh Mason scored three times and junior Harrison Hotham notched the only goal of their District One Class AAA first-round loss to Methacton. Freshman Nathan Perrins is also tabbed to contribute from the outset.

Haverford’s 2014 started brightly with five wins in the first seven games, but a mid-season swoon indicated that a young team wasn’t ready to take the step.

Coach Jeff Jackson believes that what he dubs the most talented senior class he’s had in three years can grow by leaps and bounds. The two leading scorers from last year – Ryan Brown and Willie Fineberg (seven each) – are gone, but the bulk of the group returns to try to end the Fords’ playoff drought.

Leading the way is Cole Mays, who scored six goals last year and will be aided in the attacking third by fellow seniors Liam Boyes and Evan Boyce. Sean Lacey, Angelo Carranza, Noah Cordrey, Bobby Klug and Brett Kaercher are among the senior leaders.

Juniors Josh Cunningham and Chris Rioboli will figure heavily in the rotation, as will sophomores Matt Billbrough and Connor Brown and freshman Will Gardner.

Penncrest’s school-record setting 2014 season came at a steep price, with Paul Norris having to replace 10 of the seniors who backstopped that 14-win performance.

Penncrest goalkeeper Liam Thomas earned All-Central recognition last year and is among the county's elite shot-stoppers this fall. (Times File)
Penncrest goalkeeper Liam Thomas earned All-Central recognition last year and is among the county’s elite shot-stoppers this fall. (Times File)

This fall’s follow-up effort will be anchored on opposite edges of the pitch – by All-Central goalie Liam Thomas and highly-touted, well-coiffed forward Sam Brown, who was injured last season but notched 10 goals as a freshman. The rest of Norris’ team will flow around those two, a characteristic corps of technically-sound, solid-but-not-spectacular players like Zac Groses, Shea Morgan, Ryan Schultz and Charlie Simpson who will form the backbone. Freshman Max Brown could contribute this season for the Lions, who will play their games on the new turf at Louis Scott Field.

Six starters from last year’s 10-win Radnor squad return for Joe Caruolo, who always seems to restock the shelves. Among the leaders is junior goalkeeper Ben Toomey, senior forward Max Barish and senior midfielder Alex Egg-Krings.

As has become the hallmark of Caruolo’s teams, the Raiders look to be solid up the middle and difficult to breakdown. Many of their top figures, including senior Wayne Flores and juniors Andrew Boujoukos and Miles Maesaka, project to start in central midfield, then fan out as needed (like on the forward line, as was the case on last year’s anemic scoring team). Junior Cal Congelton will marshal the defense.

Perhaps no player in the Central League returns with the kind of pedigree and target on his back as Springfield midfielder Nick Jannelli. An All-Delco and the Springfield career scoring leader with 27 goals after a program-best 15 last fall, Jannelli is one of the top players in the Central League. Coach Jason Piombino provisionally lists him as a forward, but Jannelli has the ability to float through various positions and affect the game anywhere from the forward line to deep-lying central midfield.

Luckily, he’ll have plenty of help as the Cougars try to extend their postseason qualification streak to five years. Nine starters remain from last year’s eight-win effort, which included a third-place league finish.

The Cougars figure to be among the staunchest defensive teams in the league, with seniors Ryan Straube and Justin Donnelly strengthening the defense in front of goalie Mike Gerzabek. Mike Wallace will be one of the creators in midfield with junior Jake Proctor, while sophomore Ronnie Miller will be in the defensive reckoning.

Ridley followed up a playoff appearance with a dour four-win campaign in 2014, but the young players on that unit now get their chance as leaders.

Riley Brown has emerged as a defensive stalwart, while captain Jason Hannigan will direct the midfield. Jamie Fisher, who led the team with five goals a season ago, also returns, giving Ridley its top three scorers, including Andrew Lodise, from last year. Brett Korn also has important minutes under his belt.

Freshman Michael Sheridan will be the incumbent in goal for coach Wayne McKinney, who has no compunction about starting goalies young. Sophomores Kyran Baker and Brendan Higgins will get time on the backline, while junior Benjamin Holder will be a forward threat.

Upper Darby coach Larry Flood will have a mostly new squad. Four-year contributor Jallah Acqui will anchor the midfield with his playmaking, while one of the biggest questions will be who steps in for goalkeeper Bryam Gordillo.

There were precious few positives for Garnet Valley to glean from a two-win season. But the Jaguars have tripled that total in the preseason, and the gelling has fueled optimism that those wins could be translatable to significant improvement.

Goalkeeper Ben Schelberg is back, while Matt Moore and Dylan Smart will help provide goals, around sophomore Andrew Weir, who provided a team-high-tying two tallies a season ago.

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