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Can county double its pleasure?

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Click here to enlarge this photo
Dan Gross⁄The Gazette
Sherwood senior Ryan Hock, pictured in action during a scrimmage against Magruder last week, is one of the best goalkeepers in the county. He should be instrumental as the Warriors look to repeat as Class 4A state champions this fall.



This off-season, Sherwood High athletics director Bob Cilento called boys soccer coach Hector Morales to ask if Morales would be willing to move the defending state champions to a new playoff region. The new region would include teams mostly from the Baltimore area.

Morales thought about it for about half a second.

‘‘I was like, ‘Heck, yeah,’” Morales said. ‘‘We get to play a Montgomery County schedule, which is one of the toughest in the state. Then we go up north for the playoffs and potentially have two Montgomery County teams in the state semifinals.”

Sherwood isn’t taking another state playoff appearance for granted, but it’s hard not to think about the possibilities for the county. With Northwest’s move up to Class 4A — which also prompted a divisional realignment — the county got to split its large schools between two regions. The 12-team 4A West Region is still all-Montgomery, while Sherwood, Blake and Springbrook move to the North.

If the move to the 4A North helps Sherwood’s hopes of a return to states, its returning players help even more. True, the Warriors graduated two All-Gazette first-teamers, including forward Michael Rollings. But there’s plenty coming back.

‘‘We have a lot of guys who took that momentum from last year and, coming back, we have a large group of seniors who have just really trained hard,” Morales said. ‘‘And we’ve had some very pleasant surprises in the preseason.”

Junior Pat Young will try to ease the loss of Rollings’ scoring touch up top, and senior Pat Norfolk will control the midfield. Morales said senior Jabel Prom has been a pleasant surprise, and Ryan Hock has stepped up in goal while Max Warren, who split time with Hock last season, recovers from an injury.

Finishing woes doomed Blair to an uncharacteristically poor campaign last season, but the Blazers have reason to believe they’ll be back to their old selves this fall. An influx of talent — mostly juniors — from last year’s 10-1 JV team forms the backbone of this year’s group.

‘‘We’re hoping we can perpetuate the JV’s string,” coach Adrian Baez said. ‘‘We just want to get out of the rut we had last year.”

Blair is stacked in midfield, so much so that junior Josh Zipin will play out of position at forward for the second straight year. Zipin and fellow returnee Bereket Abebe will look to improve the scoring output.

After piecing together a .500 season in 2004, Springbrook decided to take its program in a different direction. Looking for sustained success, the Blue Devils turned to John Haigh, formerly the junior varsity coach at Blair.

‘‘We’re trying to promote the idea of student-athletes,” Haigh said. ‘‘We’ll be checking on grades, making sure guys are eligible. ... We’re kind of starting over. There are a lot of concepts they need to learn.”

That might mean a slow start. Springbrook graduated eight players and initially had only 14 at varsity practices. But the Blue Devils are now thinking long-term, and a squad of mostly juniors should improve over the course of the fall.

Blake has lost 24 games in the last two seasons, but first-year coach Rudy Tyrell believes this year’s Bengals can reverse that trend.

‘‘I don’t think we’re going to take the state championship from Sherwood, but we have the potential to have one of the better records Blake soccer has had,” Tyrell said. ‘‘We’ve been farming some guys on the JV, and some of them play together on club teams. We have a good team attitude.”

The schedule-makers didn’t do Magruder any favors in shifting the Colonels from the 4A East Division into the West, with Potomac and Bethesda schools. But with 14 contributors returning, the Colonels should have the same chemistry that carried them to 12 wins a season ago.

Goalie Freddie Merkel and defender Mark Eisinger were co-captains last season and will again anchor the defense. Up front, last year’s youngsters — including brother pairs Alex and Justin Lee and Scott and Gary Phinith — look to make good on their promise.

For the third time in the last six years, Wheaton made a run to the regional finals last season. While the Knights caught some people by surprise late in the campaign, coach Oscar Amaguana saw it coming.

‘‘We always seem to get it together at the end of the year; last year was just one of those where we clicked at the right time,” Amaguana said. ‘‘Very few of my kids play club ball, but they play pickup in the park after school all the time. The skills are there, it’s getting them to play as a team that takes time.”

Einstein faces a challenge right off the bat, drawing Walter Johnson and Sherwood — the county’s last two representatives in states — in its first two games. The Titans, who return most of their midfield and leading scorer Luis Fernandez, welcome the challenge. If things break right, they could finish at or near the top of the 3A⁄2A⁄1A Division, as they did in 2003.

‘‘We’re going to be really competitive this year,” coach Nougais Metellus said. ‘‘We’re going to be small, young — and competitive. Things are looking really, really good.”

After several years of playoff disappointment, Kennedy is looking to make some noise in 3A this season. With eight seniors returning from a team that went .500 during the 2004 regular season, first-year coach Kristin Werdann thinks the Cavaliers have the horses to do just that.

‘‘Right now, we want a winning record this year, and we’re looking to at least win our first playoff game,” Werdann said. ‘‘We have eight seniors, so we have strong leadership. ... Most of our offense is returning players, very experienced players. They seem to be working well together.”

Paint Branch lost eight starters to graduation, including All-Gazette first-team goalie Will Marchica. But coach Jeremy Spoales likes what he has seen so far. Varsity veterans Thomas Flechsig (senior) and Justin Bean (junior) slid right in to solidify the starting defense. Returnee Tamba Marenah and JV call-up Jung Woo have potential at attack, and two young goalies have moved into a timeshare in the Panthers’ net.

‘‘We lost 13 seniors, including three starting backs, my goalie, two midfielders and two forwards,” Spoales said. ‘‘I’m pretty sure most people will be counting us out, but I like being the underdog.”

At Good Counsel, coach Tarike Makour is still looking to break through in the tough Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. Last season, the Falcons took nationally ranked DeMatha to penalty kicks in the conference quarterfinals before bowing out.

‘‘Since I’ve been here, we’ve never made it to the semis; we need to do that again,” Makour said. ‘‘I think we’ve got to work more on our team effort. I don’t think any of our players are better than any others.”

The Falcons will miss eight graduated starters, including second-team All-American Mike Vallie. The All-Gazette central defender has moved on to the University of Maryland.

In the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference, Sandy Spring Friends returns 12 varsity contributors in its bid to retain the conference title. Forward phenom Chris Agorsor (33 goals, 21 assists as an eighth-grader) transferred to Baltimore power McDonogh, but the Wildebeest welcome back four key seniors in their fourth varsity seasons, including Olympic Development Program player Chad Henry (22 goals, 11 assists).

‘‘The loss of 33 goals and 21 assists is going to be a void; it’s going to be interesting,” coach Eduardo Polon said. ‘‘But Chad Henry is probably the best player I’ve ever coached, including Chris Agorsor.”

At Takoma Academy, athletics director Vashawn Williams is temporarily leading the boys soccer program. With two-year captain Danny Goris and an influx of freshman talent, the Tigers are looking to get past the second round of the Maryland Independent Schools League playoffs.

Fast facts

Blair Blazers

Head coach: Adrian Baez, 7th year

Last year’s record: 3-9-1

Last state title: 1975 (1st)

Players to watch: Josh Zipin (Jr., F), Bereket Abebe (Sr., F)

Blake Bengals

Head coach: Rudy Tyrell, 1st year

Last year’s record: 1-12-1

Last state title: None

Players to watch: Carlos Fuentes (Sr., G) Ryan Hill (Jr., M)

Einstein Titans

Head coach: Nougais Metellus, 4th year

Last year’s record: 6-6-1

Last state title: None

Players to watch: Luis Fernandez (Sr,. F), Randy Ruano (Sr., M)

Good Counsel Falcons

Head coach: Tarike Makour, 3rd year

Last year’s record: 9-7-2, WCAC quarterfinals

Last conference title: 1989 (Washington Catholic Athletic Conference)

Players to watch: Phil Mantua (Sr., F), Frank Lozupone (Sr., F)

Kennedy Cavaliers

Head coach: Kristin Werdann, 1st year

Last year’s record: 7-8

Last state title: 1989 (2nd)

Players to watch: Yamil Martinez (Sr., M), Jon Fernandes (Sr., F)

Magruder Colonels

Head coach: Scott Alexander, 5th year

Last year’s record: 12-3-1

Last state title: 2001 (1st)

Players to watch: Freddie Merkel (Sr., G), Mark Eisinger (Sr., D)

Paint Branch Panthers

Head coach: Jeremy Spoales, 3rd year

Last year’s record: 7-7-2

Last state title: None

Players to watch: Tamba Marenah (Sr., F), Jung Woo (Jr., F)

Sandy Spring Friends Wildebeest

Head coach: Eduardo Polon, 10th year

Last year’s record: 16-2, PVAC champions

Last conference title: 2004 (Potomac Valley Athletic Conference)

Players to watch: Chad Henry (Sr., M⁄F), Steven Matthews (Sr., M)

Sherwood Warriors

Head coach: Hector Morales, 5th year

Last year’s record: 15-3-1, state champion

Last state title: 2004 (5th)

Players to watch: Ryan Hock (Sr., G), Pat Norfolk (Sr., M)

Springbrook Blue Devils

Head coach: John Haigh, 1st year

Last year’s record: 5-5-3

Last state title: None

Players to watch: Pong Amornkitwanit (Sr., F), Kokou Assigbe (Sr., D)

Takoma Academy Tigers

Head coach: Vashawn Williams, interim

Last year’s record: 7-5, MISL quarterfinals

Last conference title: 1999 (Maryland Independent Schools League)

Players to watch: Danny Goris (Sr., M), Nelson Bick (Fr., F)

Wheaton Knights

Head coach: Oscar Amaguana, 8th year

Last year’s record: 8-9-1, regional final

Last state title: None

Players to watch: Carlos Fonseca (Jr., F), Jesus Pena (Sr., F)

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