With the Harford County boys high school soccer season set to begin Friday, county coaches say they don't have a clue about who will naildown a title. Parity is the name of the game this year.
Still, with good balance in the county, Fallston, Bel Air, C. Milton Wright and North Harford appear to have the upper hands.
The Eagles also have a chance to win some games, and can only improve on last year's 1-10-1 record.
Head coach Ken Zorbach had fivejuniors start last year, and this season they are primed. The rest of the team hasn't had a lot of playing experience.
"Even though we're younger, I think we'll be more competitive than last year," said Zorbach. "It might be the middle of the season before the freshmen and sophomores get going."
Steve James is the goalkeeper, and Chad Kolb and Paul Arigno head the defense. Forwards Brett Johnson and ChadGurrea run the offense. Two freshman starters on midfield are Andy D'Amico and Jay Gower.
The formidable Bobcats have one of the youngest teams that head coach Bill Jefferson can remember. He hasjust three seniors, eight sophomores and the rest juniors. Rob Frounfelker (D), Rob Smallwood (M) and returning goalie Ethan Jennings will balance the defense, along with sweeper Tim Hintz and Mark DeFabio.
The Bobcats have scrimmaged against Patterson, Centennial, Hammond and Atholton.
Jefferson says his main concern is in generating offense and working on the midfield, trying to be patient.
Newcomers Anthony Pasko (M), Henry Rayner (F) and Dave Watts (M) also will add punch to the offense.
C. MILTON WRIGHT
The Mustangs also finished last season with a 5-5-2 record. The team lost just three seniors and will be one of the stronger teams in the league.
Head coach Paul Snyder has signed on two transfers, Matt Youngerman (F) from Ohio and Charles Harris (M) from Loyola in Baltimore.
Sweeper Brian Brewer will be heading the defense, working with starting goalkeeper Joe Rheinhardt and backup Brad Baker. Snyder has moved Ryan Strausberg upfrom defense to attack, where he will join Mark Umbarger, Youngermanand Cory Smith.
George Albany, Rodney Bralich, Joe Zarzycki, Chris Parks and Steve Stallard return at midfield. The team has added newcomers David Schlerf (F) and Chris Wajer.
Snyder is stressing good, coherent ball movement and says his team will play, "real solid defense."
A well-rounded team, the Rams should give some other county teams a run for their money. First-year head coach Paul Forno sees, "an awful lot of potential."
"If the potential I see actualizes, we could definitely have a winning season," he said. "The keywould be generating some offense because that's where we were short last year (5-7)."
Coach Forno says Craig Glover is a welcome surprise on the the offense. Rick Finfera (D), Adam Eichenseher (D) and Tony Forno (M) also will be counted on to produce.
Fallstonwas champion last year (11-2-3 overall, 5-0-2 against the county). The team advanced to the Class 2A state final, but was shut out by Atholton, 3-0. Fallston has dropped down to Class 1A this year and will make a mark there.
The biggest concern Fallston head coach Len Petrey has this year is defense. He has just one senior in the backfield, All-State sweeper Chris Eatough. Helping out on defense will be DanBowers (back from an injury), Rob D'Angelo and Fred Sheckells.
"Ithink we lack the speed of last year," said Petrey. "We're thin in numbers (17), and we are not that deep."
Also returning for the Cougars is standout Shane Dougherty, a member of the regional Olympic Developmental Team who led the team in scoring last year (11 goals, 10 assists). Other returning starters are Steve Chairs (G), Sean Lavin (D), Tom Gould (F) and Joe Poling (M).
HAVRE DE GRACE
The Warriors are ready to do battle with anyone, any time on the soccer field. TheWarriors were 6-5-1 last year and advanced to the Class 1A state championships, losing to Brunswick, 4-1.
"We want to run, the playerswant to get back (to the state final)," said first-year head coach Dale Knight, the school's former head junior varsity coach.
Knight has lost 14 seniors from that runner-up team, but still has confidence for this season.
"Our strong point is the attitude. They're working very hard, and they're working hard together as a team. We're young, but we're talented."
Knight is counting on returning starters Brent Bramwell (M), Scott Hash (D), Jim Ervine (F), Lorin Narvell (F), Jason Barnard (M/D) and Sean Smith (M) to carry the load and influence some of the younger players.
Junior Brad Gladfelter will be starting in the goal, and sophomores Joel Duchon (D), Paul Oswald (D), Scott Bramwell (F) and Jason Flick (M) will rotate playing time.
A powerful John Carroll soccer team takes on St. Paul in its first game this season, playing in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference. Head coach John Hughes, in his 16th year, says enthusiasm is "running rampant" among his players.