On Monday afternoon, the Hornets took heed of their coach’s request.
After scoring four goals in its opening four games, the Mansfield boys soccer team equaled that output as four different Hornets found the back of the net in a 4-0 win on the road over Attleboro in the HockomockSports Game of the Week.
The Hornets wasted little time, scoring a pair of goals in the first quarter to jump ahead early and then tacked on goals in each the third and fourth quarters to get their fourth win of the season.
“Our forwards are finally starting to shoot,” Sheridan said. “I think we had more shots today than we’ve had all season. We’ve got a couple of guys that are finally starting to get it. I’ve been screaming since we started to take more shots. We spend more time on shooting in practice and then we get to a game and we don’t take them. We took them today, I was happy with how we played today.”
Mansfield scored a pair of signature goals, pushing numbers into the area and cashing in on loose chances in the area. But the Hornets also showed some versatility in their offense as junior Matt Hyland and senior Tommy Lanzillo scored on class shots from distance.
Just over five minutes into the contest, a clearance popped out to Mansfield senior Michael Jeans, who popped a service high back into the box. Attleboro’s keeper was unable to catch it cleanly and Mansfield junior Sagar Koul was exactly where he needed to be, following up the loose ball and roofing his touch just under the bar for a 1-0 lead.
Attleboro nearly equalized on a pair of occasions in the next two minutes but both chances were denied. Jayden Lockhart linked up with Hugo Henriquez, who turned and played Joey Soucy into space but his low shot was saved on Mansfield keeper Jack Lasbury-Casey.
And a minute later, Jackson Singer found Soucy, who got a touch to the ball before Lasbury-Casey and then followed up on the loose ball in the area but a slide from Ethan Scholes and a block from Jeans kept the ball out.
“We played very well, I like my defense, Evan [Eames] and [Michael] Caridi played phenomenal back there, especially in the second half,” Sheridan said. “Michael [Jeans] saved a bunch of balls back there. We finally got our three center midfielders [Lanzillo, Colin True, Sullivan] to start working together. They weren’t communicating enough. But now they’re talking, they know whos making a run up and who needs to drop back, moving side to side together. It’s basically what’s connected everything, us starting to communicate.”
Mansfield’s pressure paid off just before the end of the first quarter. Sophomore Aidan Steele forced a giveaway, junior Dan Rowe quickly squared a pass to Hyland, who let the ball come across his body before blasting a shot from just over 30 yards out, catching the keeper off his line as it floated just under the bar.
“We were missing heart,” said Attleboro head coach Peter Pereira. “Mansfield played their game which is boot, boot, boot and they capitalized on some of those. We weren’t disciplined enough to play our game which is touch. We had no offense today. [Our players] want to blame the ref for everything but we had two of the best in the league today so you can’t say it’s the ref. We just lost our cool and could never get going.
“They run at you and they create some crazy stuff. They play the long balls and there’s a bounce here or there and they capitalize on them. They played their game better than we played ours. But we see them in two days and hopefully, it will be a little bit different.”
The second quarter was mostly played between the two 18-yard lines, the best chance coming off the foot of Steele. Both Steele and Rowe pressured the Bombardier defense, resulting in a turnover and a low shot from Steele but Attleboro backup keeper Cody Abreu, who took over the middle of the period, handled the bounce well.
Mansfield added to its lead in the 49th minute, again capitalizing on numbers and high pressure in the area. Lanzillo whipped in a cross from the left wing and Hyland was there to meet it after making a near post run but his touch hit the post and stayed out. It bounced right to Grady Sullivan, who touched it over to Scholes for the finish and a 3-0 lead.
“For us, it’s important to attack in numbers,” Sheridan said. “And that’s why we can’t have anyone taking a play off. We need everyone to keep doing. We have the numbers to put different guys in. With the new rules with 20 minute quarters, I don’t expect to have to sub too often but I can if I have to. We want them to go really hard for 8-12 minutes and then we’ll get someone fresh in there.”
Attleboro looked to answer five minutes alter as Henriquez and Singer combined to create for the Bombardiers, the result a shot from Justin Lurssen but his bid was partially blocked and bounced harmlessly to Lasbury-Casey.
Mansfield added one more goal in the 64th minute. Lanzillo played a ball into the area that was cleared away but Lanzillo alertly tracked down the loose ball and put his laces through a bouncing ball that curled into the near post from 30 yards out.
Mansfield (4-1) will host the Bombardiers (0-3) in a rematch on Wednesday night at 6:45.
Instead, the fireworks came early.
After leaving it late in their win over Mansfield to finish last week, the Warriors came out firing in their first matchup with Franklin. KP scored twice in the opening quarter and once each in the second and third quarters to earn a 4-1 decision on the road over the Panthers.
“It’s a credit to how creative our midfield has been and how hard our wings are working,” said second-year King Philip head coach Mike O’Neill. “They’re all working really hard. This team is very unselfish. We had assists from an outside back, we had assists from wings, assists from midfielders so I’m just really pleased with how they are sharing the ball.”
Senior Evan McEvoy bagged a brace in the win, finding the back of the net just before halftime and shortly after the second half began. Ajae Olsen opened the scoring less than five minutes into the contest and Cole Breen doubled the visitors’ advantage before 15 minutes had expired.
The Warriors went without a goal in 80 minutes in their season opener against Mansfield last week, and then finally broke through in the 77th minute in the second meeting. This time out, King Philip wasted little time finding the back of the net.
Franklin opened the game with the early pressure as junior Terry O’Neill tested KP keeper Aidan Lindmark with a left-footed go from just outside the box in the first minute. But the Panthers didn’t sustain the pressure and the Warriors took advantage of failed clearance.
Outside back Anthony Zappala was rewarded for his venture into the attacking third, combining with senior Alex Leon to gain possession on the left side after Franklin was unable to play out of the back. Zappala split a pair of defenders with a service to the far post and Olsen found himself all alone in behind and finished off a bouncing cross for a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute.
King Philip did sustain their offensive pressure and nearly had a second just three minutes later. Leon played McEvoy on a short indirect kick on the left side, and McEvoy used a nice fake to earn some space before rifling a curling shot on frame that forced Franklin keeper Luc Boudreau to make an acrobatic one-handed save over the bar.
Franklin forayed back into the attacking third but King Philip took possession back and broke out on the counter. Leon used his speed to carry out of the back before sliding a low through ball in behind the defense. Junior Sean McCarthy timed his run perfectly, latching onto the pass entering the area. McCarthy alertly centered the ball to find senior Cole Breen for a one-touch finish from six yards out to make it 2-0 in the 12th minute.
“I think one thing that really worked for us that doesn’t get enough credit is how hard the front three and the midfielders work to make those runs,” O’Neill said. “A lot of the time they go unrewarded but you have to make them anyway and trust your teammates to find you. And we were able to find them on a couple of goals.”
The Panthers’ best chance of the opening quarter came in the 15th minute when junior Aidan Griffith played senior Ben Moccia into space in the area but his tight-angle bid at the near post was just wide.
After a spirited pep talk from head coach Fran Bositis, who is in his 50th consecutive year at the helm of the program, the Panthers came out with a little more pep in their step to start the second quarter. And that resulted in quick success.
Junior Nelson Martinez took a touch into space before unleashing a low shot from outside the area. Moccia made a run across the box and redirected the low shot leaving no chance for Lindmark, cutting the deficit to 2-1 in the 22nd minute.
Shortly before the halftime break, King Philip answered back to restore its two-goal advantage. Junior Stephen Griffin played a diagonal ball near the penalty spot and McEvoy buried his bid for a 3-1 lead in the 35th minute.
“I think that was the turning point in the game,” O’Neill said. “You know there’s the old joke about a two-goal lead being the worst lead in soccer but when you get a second two-goal lead, it makes that mountain a lot harder to climb for the other team. And we talked at halftime, it was really important to keep playing the way we were playing and to stay organized. Coach Fran’s team is always going to come out and play hard and give a tremendous effort, they have some excellent players over there so we had to keep organized.”
King Philip tacked on another insurance goal late in the third quarter. Tadhg Keller linked up with Olsen, who connected with McEvoy in the area to extend the advantage to 4-1 in the 55th minute.
Franklin pushed late but couldn’t breakthrough. Martinez found Charlie Amante in some space but the senior didn’t get a clean shot off and Lindmark covered. Minutes later, Lindmark was quick off his line to deny Amante a chance at a shot and on the next play. Keller came up with a big challenge to prevent another bid on goal.
“It’s a great comfort for a coach to have a goalie like Aidan Lindmark back there,” O’Neill said. “Not only is he a terrifically polished shot-stopper but tactically he’s very, very aware and his judgment is terrific. In a year like this now where you can’t head the ball, your goalie better be the boss of the box and he was tonight.”
King Philip boys soccer (2-1) will host Franklin (0-3) in a rematch on Friday.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Milford senior Leo Coelho has been selected as the HockomockSports.com Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, for Oct. 4 through Oct. 10. Coelho is the first player chosen as Player of the Week for the 2020-21 school year.
Coelho, the reigning Hockomock League MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year, has started right where he left off last season, scoring four goals and assisting on four others to help the Hawks pick up a pair of wins in the opening week. With Coelho leading the way, Milford beat Franklin twice and outscored the Panthers 10-0.
“Offensively Leo was nearly perfect over the span of our first two games,” said Milford coach Antonio Pinto. “With four goals and four assists it was not enough for him, he’s always hungry for more and it’s a joy to watch him compete.”
In the opening game of the season, Coelho notched the first goal of the fall to give Milford the first half lead and then added the fourth goal in a 4-0 victory. He kept up that form two days later, assisting on the opening goal by Eduardo Castro. In the second half, Coelho scored twice and then assisted on three goals by classmate Lucas Da Silva. The two seniors have already combined for four of the team’s 10 goals and have totaled 14 points between them in just two games.
The Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, is selected by the HockomockSports.com staff. Nominations can be submitted throughout the week up until Saturday night at midnight. There may be a poll posted on every Sunday with the nominations. The results of the poll influence the selection but do not strictly dictate the decision.
Gordon McClay, whose family was instrumental in the growth of the town’s youth soccer program and lobbied athletic director Jerry Leone and the Franklin school committee to offer soccer as a varsity sport, was in charge for the fall of 1970. The next year, Fran Bositis took over and, 50 years, nearly 500 wins, and nine Hockomock League titles later, he shows no signs of giving up his spot on the sidelines.
“I had hoped to coach football but Jerry Leone was coach and they were in the middle of a 32-game winning streak and he said he had nothing available on his staff,” Bositis explained. “He did say, ‘I do need a soccer coach. What do you know about soccer?’ I go, ‘Not a lot,’ and he said, ‘Well, if you want the job, it’s yours.’ And here I am 50 seasons later.”
Bositis was sitting at a table in front of the concession stand at Pisini Field, recalling how he started teaching phys ed at the middle school in the winter of 1971, how he was a standout lacrosse player who played for four years at UMass, and how his first season as soccer coach was less than perfect. “That first year, [Leone] had to talk me off the ledge a couple of times,” Bositis remembered. “He finally said to me one day, ‘You think you’re the only coach here who’s coaching a sport he’s never played before?’”
When asked if he could have imagined as a first-year coach in an unfamiliar sport that he would turn it into a 50-year career, the smile was obvious even with the mask he was wearing. He said, “It’s hard to believe that 50 years have gone by. I still get excited and I still get butterflies before games. I’m still excited to play every game.”
So, how does a coach not only stay in one job for half a century, but also maintain a high level of success over those five decades? Whether it was former players, fellow coaches, longtime friends and coworkers, or even league rivals, there was a common theme to the answers to that question.
“He’s just a great guy,” said Franklin boys lacrosse coach Lou Verrochi, who has known Bositis since the mid-70s and coached with him in both lacrosse and soccer for years. “I can’t say enough about him as a person. He’s so humble, he’s so sincere, it’s all about the kids.” Former Franklin athletic director Brad Sidwell echoed that sentiment, saying, “It’s absolutely unbelievable. You look at all the kids he’s affected, all the coaches that he’s worked with, all the sports that he’s coached, everything, he’s just a dignified and classy person.”
Canton boys soccer coach and athletic director Danny Erickson remarked, “He’s an unbelievable person. He is selfless, he is hard-working, inspirational. He’s everything I would want my kid to have as a coach.” Oliver Ames boys soccer coach John Barata added, “I consider him a friend. He’s just top class. It’s hard not to like him when he’s respectful, his sportsmanship is great, he’s dedicated.”
Franklin girls soccer coach Tom Geysen, who got his start in soccer as the boys JV coach in the late 70s and who has coached various sports in Franklin for more than 50 years, said, “He is able to engender confidence in all of his kids in themselves, in him, and consequently in the program. The bottom line is that his program is really important to him but from day one the kids have always been the most important and that hasn’t changed one bit in all those years.”
Program finds instant success
Being new to not just Franklin but also to the sport of soccer, Bositis had a steep learning curve and, unlike today where soccer is always on television, he didn’t have a lot of resources to call on. He received help from coaches in the area, including Dean College coach TJ Williams, who would spend nights explaining tactics using coins as players. Williams also got Bositis involved in working soccer camps and going to clinics organized by the national soccer coaches association.
“I loved the game once I started to get a feel for it,” Bositis explained. “Each year it got better and better and I’d say by my third year I was really comfortable and it was at that point when I did my first camp.” He volunteered at camps for a company called World Cup Sports, and got the chance to learn from nationally-renowned coaches like former national team coach Bobby Gansler and later with Duke University coach John Rennie.
“Franny is such a student of the game and treats it as something he needs to continue to learn now just like he did in the 70s when he was first learning it and that’s the only way he’s still going,” said Erickson, who, in addition to coaching against him for nearly three decades, joined Bositis on trips to national conferences for years.
Kurt Swanbeck, a captain on the 1976 team, added, “He used to fill up his car and we’d drive up to Dartmouth or we’d go over to Brown or go into BU and watch games. I’m sure he learned as much from them as we did but it was also his way for us to see college campuses and meet college coaches. He was fully invested at a time when that was needed.”
Despite his lack of a soccer background, the program was an instant success. Franklin made the state tournament for the first time in 1974, after an undefeated regular season. The Panthers were playing in the Norfolk County League, along with future Hockomock rivals like Sharon, King Philip, and Foxboro. In 1975, Franklin returned to the postseason and was beaten by Framingham in the quarterfinal. One year later, the Panthers had the program’s best season to date.
After beating Greater Lawrence in the preliminary round, Franklin rolled through Somerville, Wakefield, and Belmont to win the Eastern Mass. title and make the only state title game appearance in program history. Although the Panthers would lose to perennial power Ludlow in the title game on a controversial penalty, it was a remarkable year for the relatively new program and coach. Not that Bositis has completely gotten over that call in the final. “I can sit here today and I can still see the play,” Bositis said. “the wind is swirling in there (at BU’s Nickerson Field) and our kid was running out of the penalty box, the ball was bouncing, and it just hit him in the arm.”
For Swanbeck, who was a standout tennis player until Bositis convinced him to start playing soccer again in his junior year and became an All-American in 1976, and the Franklin players, the Eastern Mass. title was the pinnacle, and he joked that they were shocked when Bositis told them that they had another game to play.
“That was pretty wild,” he reflected. “For a young kid, it was just everything that the school was focused on at the time. I had an English teacher say to me once during that run in the fall, and this was a tribute to Coach’s (we still call him coach) influence on us, she remarked, ‘It’s such a business for you guys. You come to school, you leave school to go and play in these big games and you go and do your job.’ We were that competitive, that serious, and it was just what we’re supposed to do. Every bit of it comes from him.”
Bositis recalled, “Those kids were just hard-nosed, tough kids who just worked really hard. Somehow that culture has managed to stay with us. They just kind of buy into it.”
As he thought about the 1976 team and the only EMass title that the program has won, Bositis admitted, “It was absolutely unbelievable and my biggest regret was I don’t think I savored it enough because I thought it would be easy to get back and it was not. It was not easy to get back.”
The Panthers continued to be one of the top teams in Eastern Mass. even without the silverware. Franklin made the tournament every year in the 1980s and missed it only once in the 90s. In 2000, the Panthers reached the Div. 2 South final only to lose a hard-fought game with Duxbury. Erickson said, “If you were around the Hockomock or Eastern Mass. soccer in the 70s and 80s, it was Foxboro and Franklin and nobody else.”
Hockomock League soccer began in 1980 and three years later the Panthers finished in a first-place tie with Foxboro to win the first of nine Hock titles. After more than a decade in the job, Bositis had built a culture of winning and stamped his personality on the program.
“It’s a mindset,” said Joe Gruseck, a senior on the first Hock championship team in 1983 and currently the head coach at Dover-Sherborn. “He pushed buttons but it was a standard that you were going to be in shape and you were going to make the commitment and dedication. He taught you what commitment is.”
Gruseck added, “Coach was always one of those guys who as a kid you always looked up to and respected because he kind of embodied what Franklin soccer was.”
Rich Frongillo, another member of the first league championship team, who also went on to a long career in coaching at the club and youth levels, noted, “The main ingredient I think is paramount is that he’s a fine role model for young men. He’s composed, he’s thoughtful, caring, and the love he has for his players is not every day demonstrative but it’s heartfelt and it’s clear to the players.”
Frongillo has seen Bositis at work as a player, as a fellow coach, and as the father of two sons who have also played varsity soccer at Franklin. “He’s a man of integrity and that comes through,” Frongillo explained. “He puts the program above individuals and that leads to the loyalty, the care, the attention to detail. People want to work hard for him. He didn’t have to demand respect, he just commanded it.”
Change is inevitable. Anyone who has coached for a while, certainly someone who has coached for 50 years, will have to adapt to the way that the game has changed on and off the field. But, a coach can still impart their personality on a program, developing a culture that stands the test of time. As players come and go and talent levels ebb and flow, Franklin continues to be known as an organized, hard-working team, whether they’re winning four straight league titles (as they did from 2011-14) or during rare periods when results aren’t going their way.
“You know what you get with Franny, consistency, work rate, absolute domination of the mental side of the game. They don’t give you an inch,” said Barata. Erickson added, “They’re just consistently organized, purposeful, and classy. Consistently, year-in, year-out, you know it doesn’t really matter how good my Canton team is that year and how good his Franklin team is, you know you’re going to truly be in for a test when you play against Franny’s teams.”
When asked about the culture of the team, Bositis credited the town’s youth program for developing talent and the players’ willingness to buy into his expectations. “I think we’ve just been fortunate that that culture has carried over from year to year,” he said. “The town has changed but the kids are still great. They really are great.”
50 years and counting
This is a season unlike any other. Modified rules, a truncated schedule, no state tournament to play for, but his excitement of being at practice and working with the players is still evident. Fifty years is a remarkable milestone, but that doesn’t mean it is the end of the line. No one who spoke about Bositis for this story expects him to give up a job he loves anytime soon.
“He just loves the sport and he loves coaching,” says Verrochi. “He loves the kids and wants to be around the kids. He’s probably one of the best role models I’ve been associated with. He’s helped so many kids in so many ways.”
Geysen added, “You want the best for your kids, so you work really hard so they get the most success they can get and I think that’s how he approaches things and he’s always team-first.”
Swanbeck, who went on to play soccer professionally and has coached at multiple levels including his current role at Hebron Academy (Maine), noted that Bositis’ care for his players extended beyond their four years at Franklin High and beyond the confines of the pitch. He explained, “Coach would travel all the way to upstate New York to watch my college team at Columbia play. He’s fully invested and it made all the difference in the world not just in who I was as a player but who I became as a coach and certainly as a man. I was one of many, there were so many great players that went through there and he helped nurture.”
“He’s been humble,” Gruseck remarked. “When the team has success, he doesn’t want the limelight. He gets that little grin and rolls his eyes and says, ‘I don’t want to go there. Don’t make it about me.’”
When asked how he felt after coaching for 50 years and what his future holds, Bositis shared a conversation he had with his friend and former lacrosse teammate at UMass, Walter Alessi, when Alessi retired after 30 years of coaching soccer at MIT. “He said, you’ll know when it’s time,” Bositis explained. “I’ll take it one-by-one, year-by-year, but I know at some point it’s going to end. If I get to the point where I feel like I can’t learn anymore then it’s time for me to get out. Then it’s time for me to leave.”
Would he have a message for that young teacher who 50 years ago was just starting his coaching career?
“I would just say that you’ve really got to enjoy each moment and treasure every team,” he said. “I still hate to lose but I realized that especially in soccer you can play a great game and still lose. It’s more about the effort that the kids put in and as long as they don’t quit and are doing their best then I feel I don’t have anything more I can ask of them.”
“I think everyone can learn from a longtime coach who cares about kids and he’s always trying to find teachable moments for kids and obviously they’ve had a ton of success and that’s because of his coaching. I love hearing the story that he was a football player and a football guy and he was kind of thrown into the soccer program and just adapted and made it his own, which is awesome. It says a lot about him as a teacher. He’s a role model. You look at him and he looks fantastic. I’ve always enjoyed the athletic discussion with him, not just about soccer, about how it all works and how Franklin has worked. He’s been on the courts and the lacrosse field, he’s a three-sport guy, and he’s recognizable as the face of the Franklin coaching staff no matter what season.” – Brad Sidwell, former Franklin Athletic Director
“Unprecedented is used too often, but it’s gotta be unprecedented for local Massachusetts soccer. He started coaching Franklin the year that I was born and I’m a pretty old guy. I’ve been active in the Hockomock League coaching for three decades and it’s just unbelievable to think he’s done that for that long. He’s been a mentor for me for 30 years. We’ve had some great battles over the years but when all is said and done he is just a true sportsman, as far as a gentleman of the game. He’s one of those people who it’s really, really, really hard, if not impossible to find someone who will utter a negative word about him.” – Danny Erickson, Canton Head Coach
“Here I am, 54 years old, and I don’t call him Fran, I still call him Coach. I remember when I started coaching, JV at D-S in 1990, it was one of those things that was a measuring stick. When will I know that I’ve made it at the varsity level? One measuring stick for me was when my former players come back and still call you coach, then you’ve made an impact on that player. I always admired how many people held him in that regard.” – Joe Gruseck, Class of ’84/Dover-Sherborn Head Coach
“Listen, Franklin is well-organized. They’re structured, they’re routine-oriented, they’re hungry, they’re well-coached, they’ve got this desire to succeed. Even if they don’t think they can, they push through it. There have been years where we’ve been the far better team but we still couldn’t break through. You have to earn your time and your respect there. That’s a tribute to the coach. He keeps his style throughout the seasons and has been successful.” – John Barata, Oliver Ames Head Coach
“As a high school teacher/coach, the staff wants someone who is that type of personality. The Xs and Os of soccer he works at and that’s almost secondary to just being a good person. As a consequence, he has a long-term relationship with a lot of players. Not just a ‘How you doing?’ relationship, but a ‘Hey, how’s the family? How’s Jimmy, Sally?’ He remembers people after they graduate. He has a good memory for seasons, players, and as a parent you get a lot of confidence in the type of man he is. Having my sons work with him was very comforting because I know they’re in good hands.” – Rich Frongillo, Class of ’85
“Part of the reason that I ended up as the girls coach was because of him and the way that he jumps in with both feet and he does give you everything he has every time you go out there. The girls job opened up and I said, ‘Franny the girls job is open and I was thinking about applying but I don’t think I have enough experience or knowledge.’ He said, ‘The only way to get it is to do it. If you don’t take the opportunity, it’s never going to be there again.’ That’s him in life. He’s so meticulous about everything he does. He has those kids in his charge and he wants them to have every opportunity at success that they can possibly have.” – Tom Geysen, Franklin Girls Soccer Head Coach
“I will always walk the same path with expectations for players, which is follow the rules, here are the guidelines. The character piece I can’t preach hard enough. I would sacrifice wins over a lesson in character and Franny was very much like that. That was the backbone of what his way was and what he expected from you. It was all about the team and not about the individual. Many of us have coached or are out there still coaching and that’s been a part of our fiber because it was instilled in us by him. That’s his disposition as a human being. It just resonates.” – Kurt Swanbeck, Team Captain 1976
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Player are listed alphabetically
Donovan Carter, Senior & Justin Silva, Senior – North Attleboro
We cheated a little bit by picking two players for one spot, but it’s hard not to put North Attleboro’s centerback pairing together. Starting alongside one another for the second straight year, seniors Donovan Carter and Justin Silva will anchor one of the stingiest defenses in the area. In front of new keeper David Floyd, Carter and Silva will be tough to break down. A lot of that comes from positioning and Carter and Silva are the ones that organize North Attleboro’s defensive four plus the help defense in front. One challenge that both Carter and Silva — and all defenders — face this year is defending without heading. The Rocketeers do a great job of taking away passing lanes so teams have tried thumping it forward or dumping the ball into the area off set pieces and Carter and Silva have done a nice job winning balls in the air. Now the game is changed a bit but we still think the Rocketeers have one of the best centerback duos in the Hock.
Leo Coelho, Senior – Milford
The word versatility gets thrown around a lot when describing Leo Coelho, and it’s certainly one of the most accurate. But another word that goes hand and hand with Milford’s senior captain is skill. Last season we saw Coelho play in a variety of roles, sliding to outside back to neutralize North Attleboro’s speedy counter-attack, or even as another center back when the Hawks were holding a lead. And when the Hawks needed a jolt on offense, Coelho was quick to deliver. He showed how quickly he can change a game as he scored the game-winning goal in the playoffs against Feehan just minutes after making the switch to up top. Coelho is at the top of his game when he’s got the ball at his feet, especially going forward. He does well to keep possession and is a calming presence with the ball but he can really cause trouble for defenses when he goes at defenders. Whether it’s finding a teammate making a run or take a shot himself, it’s hard for defenses to stop him.
Joao Pedro Da Silva, Senior – Milford
The Hawks bring back a bunch of weapons from last year’s squad that won the Davenport division, went undefeated in the regular season, upset Nauset in the sectional final, and reached the D2 State Final. One of the most important pieces from that run was midfielder Joao Pedro Da Silva. The senior was very strong during the regular season but took his game to a whole new level in the postseason. He was a rock in the middle of the pitch, winning balls in the air while also standing tall in winning 50/50 challenges. And when he got forward, he had a knack for finding the back of the net when Milford needed it most. He found the back of the net six times during the regular season and then went on to score five more in the state tournament.
Brady deVos, Senior – Oliver Ames
Oliver Ames entered last season loaded with talent in the attacking third but needed someone to anchor its defensive unit. After coming off the bench into the midfield as a sophomore, deVos made the switch to centerback and emerged as one of the best defenders in the league. Now with a year of experience under his belt, he will be called upon to lead a relatively inexperienced back four. The Tigers graduated all three of the defenders deVos played with last year so head coach John Barata will rely on him to anchor that group. Not only is he strong in the air, he’s a very smart player. Whether it’s reading a play or playing with the ball at his feet, you know he’s going to make a good decision.
Evan Eames, Senior – Mansfield
There’s a common theme among a handful of players on this list and that’s their ability to play at a variety of positions and do so at a high level. Eames is another one that fits that bill, an option anywhere in the center of the pitch. When you look back at last season when the Hornets finished on an eight-game unbeaten streak, one big reason was a much-improved defense. Eames will be the centerpiece of that unit this year after earning All-Hockomock honors in 2019. He’s confident with the ball at his feet and his decision-making instills confidence in others. As the Hornets look to build out of the back this season, Eames will be a big part of that.
Evan McEvoy, Senior – King Philip
The Warriors were the surprise team of the 2019 season, emerging as one of the toughest teams to beat and earning a spot in the playoffs. One main reason for that was the emergence of Evan McEvoy, who has been with the varsity squad since his freshman year. Each year, we’ve seen McEvoy take a step forward and last year it was a huge leap. He looked right at home with the ball at his feet, a maestro in the middle of the pitch directing how the Warriors would possess and eventually attack. KP has a strong group of returners so McEvoy should have some space to work with as he looks to distribute to teammates (six assists last season).
Colin Milliken, Senior – Oliver Ames
We’ve seen the progression that OA senior Colin Milliken has made over each of the past two seasons, and we have to think the best is yet to come in 2020. The Tigers are loaded and means more space for Milliken and more weapons at his disposal. The most dangerous thing about him is his ability to not only set up teammates with pinpoint passes, but he can also take defenders on one-on-one and develop an individual scoring chance when it doesn’t look like there is much there. With shoulder-to-shoulder challenges banned for the season, the modifications certainly favor a player like Milliken who likes the ball at his feet and does a good job of keeping defenders off-balance. And if teams try and put extra attention on him defensively, he has no problem finding an open teammate.
Esvin Morales, Sophomore – Attleboro
The Hockomock League is filled with talent year-in and year-out so it’s not easy to make a list like this when you’re not a senior, or even a junior. But Attleboro sophomore Esvin Morales burst onto the scene last year as a freshman but he looked far from a rookie for the Bombardiers. He fit right in and emerged as one of the most talented midfielders in the league. Now this season, Attleboro and head coach Peter Pereira are hoping Morales will provide a spark in the attacking this. Morales showed his finishing touch off last season with seven goals and three assists.
Bryce Nathan, Senior – Sharon
There are certain types of players that any coach would want to have on their team, regardless of system or gameplan. And Sharon senior Bryce Nathan is that type of player. A “swiss-army knife” type of player; one who can all over the pitch and will give 100% no matter the situation; the type of effort that will carry over to his teammates. His effort is one of the qualities that make him a great leader for the Eagles this season. A seasoned veteran at the varsity level, Nathan will lead by example both on and off the field. Sharon could be a darkhorse in the Davenport this season and Nathan is a big reason why.
Terry O’Neill, Junior – Franklin
Last year’s HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, Franklin junior Terry O’Neill is such a steady presence on the pitch for the Panthers. Even in a fast-paced game or against teams that like to press, O’Neill showed his confidence on the ball last season and his ability to keep possession is crucial when handling that pressure. The new modifications have taken away one of O’Neill’s strongest attributes: winning challenges in the air. But the junior is far from just a ball-winner in the midfield. When the Panthers are looking to transition from defense to offense, O’Neill is the piece that connects the two ends of the field.
It’s safe to say the Tigers learned their lesson.
In last year’s D2 South Sectional quarterfinal matchup, Oliver Ames boys soccer saw a lead disappear in the final minutes of regulation before pulling out a victory in the extra rounds of penalty kicks.
Fast forward to the first game of the 2020 season, and while the on-field product certainly looks a bit different under the current circumstances, the Tigers found themselves in the same situation: control of the game but only a 1-0 lead to show for it.
Oliver Ames’ experience was on full display as the Tigers made sure to slam the door shut this time around, opening the season up with a 3-0 win over the Rocketeers.
Similar to a year ago, Oliver Ames jumped in front with a goal inside the opening 20 minutes but couldn’t solve the Rocketeers’ defense and keeper David Floyd over the next two quarters — yes, soccer in 2020 means four quarters.
When North Attleboro finally found itself with some time in the attacking third, the Tigers turned the tables by doubling their lead on the break to make it 2-0, and tacked on an insurance goal five minutes later.
“[North Attleboro] is very disciplined,” said Oliver Ames head coach John Barata. “Geoff [Burgess] does a phenomenal job organizing the back four and then they have another line in front of that, so two lines of defense…they are very good at it. We have to do a lot of training to try and find a way to break them down. But then you throw the new rules in, and you throw in that it’s the first game of the season, this was a good first run at it in a real competitive environment.”
The first 60 minutes (or three quarters) belonged to the Tigers, with the Tigers knocking on the door in the 13th minute (a hard shot from Mathias Taylor denied by Floyd) and in the 17th minute (a Colin Milliken shot from inside the area turned aside by Floyd) before the hosts were able to breakthrough.
Milliken’s quick switch — taking a feed from the right side of the pitch and quickly changing the point of attack to the left side — put the ball at the feet of senior Kevin Louhis, who took advantage of the space he was given and deposited a low hard shot inside the far post for a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute.
“Honestly, the ball that killed us in the first half was a ball that normally could have been cleaned up with a header,” said North Attleboro head coach Geoff Burgess. “They played it every time and got Kevin in behind us and how do you defend it? I knew that’s how they’d play so I thought we had a good game plan to try to slow him and we kind of kept him under wraps but the way they move the ball so quickly from side to side, even as organized as we were with our back six, they were just too fast.”
OA continued to pressure but without anything to show for it. Anthony DaCosta had a shot from atop the area saved and then a combination between Michael Haikal and Louhis resulted in a shot from the latter that forced a diving save from Floyd; North Attleboro’s Kyle Robinson was first to the ball to clear it.
North Attleboro’s best chance of the first half came after a miscue from the Tigers in their own defensive third. Ryan Adams-Lopez was quick to intercept a pass out of the back but his bid on net was handled by OA keeper Drew Nickla.
“It’s an interesting dynamic,” Barata said of the effect the modifications have. “It feels like there’s a different intensity level in these games, we’re trying to get the guys to up their urgency. It almost seems that since they can’t challenge hard without it being a foul, they are almost holding back a little bit. But, that aside, once we’re out there playing, it’s great to watch them play even if it’s different. And we have a good style for this opportunity so we’re okay with it.”
It didn’t take long for OA to threaten in the second half as Matthew Nikiciuk rocketed a shot off the post a minute in, and Taylor’s cheeky touch over a defender forced a fingertip stop from Floyd in the box.
North Attleboro’s defense made life difficult for the Tigers, who had a majority of the possession but spent a lot of time trying to find a way past the Rocketeers’ packed in defensive group. North’s Donovan Carter had a pair of big plays just minutes apart, winning a one-on-one battle to stop a chance on goal and blocking a shot moments later. Carter’s centerback partner Justin Silva denied a through ball attempt right after as OA continued to push forward.
“The gameplan was to park the bus and we wanted to create through our outside guys but the problem was we couldn’t hold the ball long enough to create anything,” Burgess said. “But credit to [OA], they create a hurried energy so you’re under stress all the time. But I’m starting eight seniors, there should be some composure there and we should be able to pull that off. Not that we have a lot of time to prepare for them Wednesday, but we need to be able to execute that going forward.”
The Rocketeers finally got their offense going at the start of the fourth quarter as junior Brody Rosenberg played speedy senior Matt Conley into some space but his centering pass in the area went without an answer.
North earned a corner moments later but a miscue resulted in a quick counter for the hosts. Taylor quickly cleared the ball up to Louhis, who played it to a streaking DaCosta. DaCosta carried the ball with pace, forcing the lone defender to commit before sliding it back to Louhis, who finished under the sliding keeper for a 2-0 lead in the 66th minute.
“We needed more offense but they don’t let you sustain it for very long with their pressure,” Burgess said. “The kid in the middle [Nikiciuk], he’s just so quick to the ball. He’s so good at disrupting, he does a good job of ruining plays we want to run. We knew what we wanted to do, we just couldn’t execute it which is a credit to them.”
Five minutes later, freshman Joey Carney combined with DaCosta off of a kick-in, the former using a fake to fool the defender before dropping a perfectly placed cross to Milliken, who positioned himself between three defenders. Milliken took the ball down off his chest and use a deft touch with the outside of his right foot to find the back of the net for a 3-0 advantage in the 71st minute.
“We’re very confident that no one is going to give us space because we know that if they do, we can most likely take advantage of it,” Barata said. “We just have to find a way to beat teams when they pack it in a bit. We want the space, we want to be able to run a bit and we’re hoping teams will try to run with us.
“[North] is very good in transition, they are good fast going forward. I just think that we did a good job of pinning them back in their own half for close to 90% of the game. We were definitely on the front foot in this game but we know they’ll make some adjustments and they’ll challenge us again Wednesday.”
Oliver Ames (1-0 Davenport, 1-0 overall) will travel to North Attleboro (0-1, 0-1) for a rematch on Wednesday night at 6:00.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2020 Hockomock League Boys Soccer Preview
2019 Record: 6-9-3
2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Peter Pereira
One more goal scored or one goal less allowed could have changed the entire outcome of the 2019 season for the Bombardiers, who suffered six one-goal losses and three draws. Now with more varsity experience under their belts, Attleboro is aiming to surprise some teams in the hunt for the Kelley-Rex division title this season.
Longtime head coach Peter Pereira is counting on that experience to translate into leadership on and off the field. Senior goalie Zackary Brown is back in net for the Bombardiers and is showing more confidence inside the area. Senior Joey Soucy is making the transition to defense and will play alongside classmates Jayden Lockhart and Andrew Fasoldt. Junior Cashel Stuger is also back in the mix defensively while seniors Henry Marini and Alejandro Jimenez could factor into the defensive unit as well.
Jackson Singer emerged as a strong option in the midfield in his first season with the Bombardiers and should be a big piece again this year. Singer will pair up with Hugo Henriquez to give Attleboro an experienced duo in the heart of the pitch. Seniors Ben Fasoldt, Emilio Amaya, and Tyler Sar will all be apart of the midfield while juniors Tom Russo and Emilio Ticas should see valuable minutes for the Bombardiers. Freshman Alex Vecchioli has shown a lot of versatility so far and could play in a variety of roles.
Up front, Attleboro will be relying on a combination of speed, tough, and work effort as they challenge opposing defenses. Depending on the pairing, Attleboro will be able to attack in a variety of ways. Seniors Justin Lurssen and Connor Paquin as well as juniors Liam Bischoff and Yianni Skordas will all see time in the attack. Sophomore Esvin Morales emerged as one of the top attacking threats a year ago and will be among the top finishers in the league.
“We have a good group of seniors and hope that this experience will pay off,” Pereira said. “We believe we will have a more competitive, more mature, and more balanced team.”
2019 Record: 4-12-2
2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Danny Erickson
The Bulldogs were very young during the 2019 season with just a half dozen seniors on the squad, but that meant plenty of young players were able to gain valuable on-field experience at the varsity level. Now the Bulldogs will be looking to contend in a very competitive Davenport division in the shortened 2020 season.
The defense will be the backbone of the team this season as the Bulldogs have a lot of experience at the centerback position. Senior captain Matt Giglio is back for his third year with the squad after being a key piece in each of the previous two years. He will be joined in the middle of the defense by Will Keefe, who anchored the Dogs’ backline last year and earned All-Hockomock honors.
Junior Dylan Baird had a breakout sophomore season and will be one of the main pieces in the midfield. After a down season for Canton on the offensive end as a whole last year, Baird’s presence in the midfield will help create opportunities going forward. Up front, the Bulldogs are counting on senior Colton Marliani to be a go-to scoring threat.
Canton already suffered a big blow as senior captain TJ McCabe, who has been with the squad since he was a freshman, will miss the season due to injury. On the flip side, the Bulldogs are getting a boost with the addition of Abdul Barrie. Barrie played in the youth leagues in Canton but will make his CHS debut this fall and could make a big impact for the Dogs.
“I think the rule modifications will challenge us all equally,” said longtime Canton head coach Danny Erickson. “But after a week or so of training, to me, it’s still soccer.”
2019 Record: 7-8-3
2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Dan Ambrosio
The Warriors had a sour taste in their mouth at the end of last season, losing the last game of the year to miss out on the playoffs. While Foxboro won’t have the chance to get back to the postseason this year, the Davenport division title is certainly in reach.
Foxboro graduated a couple of stalwarts (Joe Cusack, Dylan Barreira, Will Morrison) that were important pieces of the squad in each of the last couple of seasons, but there are plenty of experienced players back from last year’s seven-win squad plus a handful of new faces anxious to make their mark. Seniors Max Beigel and PJ Frost will give the Warriors plenty of leadership and experience, especially in the midfield and attacking third. Foxboro will look to play quick, using the counterattack to hit on the break.
After giving up nearly two goals a game a season ago, the Warriors are aiming to tighten up the back as they navigate through a very competitive Davenport division. First-year head coach Dan Ambrosio is also counting on new players like John Hollis and Ryan Flaherty to make an impact during the shortened season.
“We are a tight-knit group who like to have fun playing the game and look forward to representing our school and town,” Ambrosio said.
2019 Record: 9-7-4
2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Fran Bositis
With returning players in most areas of the pitch and a trio of top midfielders in the Hockomock League, the Panthers should be in the mix for the Kelley-Rex title, although it could be one of the most competitive seasons since the league split into two.
With just 10 games and all six teams in the Kelley-Rex possible contenders, there is little margin for error. The Panthers will be put to the test right away as they take on Milford, who won the Davenport two years in a row and went to the D2 State Final last season, in the opening week. But longtime head coach Fran Bositis has plenty of talent on his roster to try and make a push for the division title. It all starts in the midfield with a trio of returning starters in Ethan Cain, Tyler Powderly, and last year’s HockomockSports Underclassman of the Year Terry O’Neill.
All three bring something different to the table which will make Franklin’s midfield among the most dynamic in the league. Powderly’s speed on the wings will give defenses fits while Cain will bring plenty of creativity as the Panthers push forward. O’Neill won’t be able to dominate in the air like he did a season ago thanks to the new modifications that ban headers, but the junior is also such a calming presence with the ball at his feet and will help Franklin keep possession. Ben Moccia, who started in the midfield a season ago, is moving up top to the number 9 spot, while Charlie Amante, Ryan Witt, Jack Moran, and Kevin Proenca will also see time in the attack.
The Panthers have some new faces in the defensive unit. Will Fox is the lone returning starter and has impressed in the early stages of the season. Sam George, Robbin Tappin, and Karl Gruseck will all factor into the Panthers’ defense while Aidan Griffith, Nelson Martinez, and Connor Scagliarini will be options for Bositis to play either defense or in the midfield. Newcomers Trey Lovell and Rex Cinelli could see valuable minutes right away. Former Panther standout goalie Freddie Backmann, who is without a season at Regis College, is mentoring Luc Boudreau, this year’s starting keeper for Franklin.
“I think that we have a very good group of athletes (soccer players) who have worked real hard in preparation for this season,” Bositis said. “I know that they are all excited to be playing and that they are looking forward to competing against the other Kelley-Rex teams and putting themselves in a position to challenge for a league championship.”
2019 Record: 8-5-6
2019 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Mike O’Neill
King Philip was the surprise team of the 2019 season, overcoming a large amount of inexperience to take third in the Kelley-Rex and qualify for the state tournament. While the Warriors won’t sneak up on anyone this season, the skill and experience they return should put them in the mix for the division title.
Second-year head coach Mike O’Neill has strong players in all areas of the pitch, starting with senior captain Evan McEvoy. A four-year player with the program, McEvoy is coming off a breakout season in 2019 and will be among the top midfielders in the league. He will control the pace for the Warriors from the center of the pitch, working with fellow captain Alex Leon, who will use his speed to patrol the wings and get in behind the defense. Both Caleb Waxman and Stephen Griffin made an impact last season and should see expanded roles in the shortened 2020 season. Sophomore Matt Crago is a new face that could make a splash in his first year.
The Warriors should have one of the top defenses in the league again this season. Senior captain Aidan Lindmark is back in goal and his distribution skills will factor in heavily to how KP plays out of the back. Jeremy White had a strong 2019 season at center back and will bolster the Warriors’ backline when he returns from injury. In the meantime, four-year player Ajae Olsen, who is normally patrolling the wing or up top, will have his versatility on display as he slides into the centerback spot.
“Our players and coaches are thankful that we are at the point where we can have a season,” O’Neill said. “So much work and sacrifice have gone into getting the Hockomock League schools to this moment. I’m looking forward to some excellent and competitive soccer. I expect every game to be extremely competitive – there are no easy games in the Hock. Five wins may win the division.”
2019 Record: 6-7-5
2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Steve Sheridan
With just 10 games scheduled for the season, every game – from the first to the last – is going to be important. No one understands that more than the 2020 Hornets, who came up just short of the state tournament last year. After a slow start, Mansfield became one of the toughest teams to beat down the stretch, finishing on an eight-game unbeaten streak that featured an upset of division champion Oliver Ames but came just one point shy of postseason play.
With the postseason not in the picture for this year, the focus shifts on the division title. The Hornets are hoping to carry the momentum from the end of last season into this year. Mansfield will have a mix of veterans and inexperience in its defensive unit. Senior captain Evan Eames will be the centerpiece of the group alongside classmate Michael Jeans, who missed all of last season due to injury. Sophomores Grady Sullivan and Nate Kablik round out the Hornets’ back four while senior captain Eric Sullivan will take over starting in goal.
Senior captain Tommy Lanzillo will run the show from the center of the pitch, helping the Hornets transition from defense to offense. Lanzillo is strong with the ball at his feet and will help distribute as the Hornets hit on the counter. Senior Colin True and juniors Matt Hyland and Dan Rowe will join Lanzillo in the Hornets’ midfield. Junior Dylan Buchanan is back for his third year with the squad and will play up top alongside Aiden Steele.
2019 Record: 18-1-2
2019 Finish: D2 State Finalists
Coach: Antonio Pinta
Milford arrives in the Kelley-Rex division with a huge target on its back. Coming off back-to-back Davenport division titles and a trip to the D2 State Final a season ago, the Hawks enter their new division as the favorite. But game in and game out, Milford can expect to get everyone’s best.
First-year head coach Antonio Pinto might be new to the varsity position but has been with the program during this successful run as an assistant and JV coach. It will all start with the reigning HockomockSports Player of the Year and Hockomock League MVP Leo Coelho, who can play just about any position on the pitch at a high level. If there is a need to shut down a high-powered offense, you might see Coelho playing defense. Or if the Hawks need a boost offensively, he can just as easily move up front and provide creativity in the final third.
The Hawks are far from a one-trick pony with both Lucas Da Silva (eight goals, seven assists) and Joao Pedro Da Silva (six goals, three assists) back in the mix this season. Replacing the Hockomock’s leading scorer in Pedro Araujo (25 goals, 11 assists) will be tough but we saw the Hawks do just that when Araujo took over for former HockomockSports Player of the Year Wallison de Oliveira.
Defensively, the Hawks will be strong up the middle. Junior Kevin Gomes returns to start in goal for the Hawks after getting valuable experience there during last year’s season and deep playoff run. And junior Chris Tocci is back in the heart of the defense at centerback after a breakout sophomore campaign. While the new regulations will certainly challenge the Hawks defensively with heading and slide tackling banned, Milford should have a big advantage offensively because of their strong possession skills.
“I’m very excited to be out there with the guys this season,” Pinto said. “We are ready to play no matter what the rules and conditions are! We’re ecstatic to have a season.”
2019 Record: 9-7-4
2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Geoff Burgess
The Rocketeers and head coach Geoff Burgess have found a recipe for success over the past couple of seasons and will be looking to replicate that again this year. Defense always comes first for the Rocketeers, who allowed just 0.68 goals per game last year. While every team is being forced to make changes because of the new modifications due to COVID-19, the Rocketeers might be affected more than most with heading, slide tackles, and shoulder-to-shoulder challenges banned.
But the Rocketeers have adjusted during the preseason and will be relying on defense and goalkeeping once again this season. Replacing two-time HockomockSports Best XI selection Kyle Briere in net won’t be easy but the North Attleboro is turning to junior David Floyd, who is one of the most athletic players on the team this season according to Burgess. The Rocketeers also boast one of the best centerback combinations in the league with seniors Justin Silva and Donovan Carter back in the fold this year. With a season of experience playing together, it will be tough for teams to find ways to get by the defense anchored by that duo.
While defense remains a top priority for the Big Red, that doesn’t mean North isn’t a dangerous team in the attacking third. As they’ve shown over the past two seasons, speed can kill. Relying on the counterattack and set pieces for the majority of their offensive chances, North brings back senior forward Matt Conley (one goal, five assists) to try and beat defenses with his speed and skill. Junior Connor Ward will have a lot to say about the pace the Rocketeers play at as he orchestrates the team from the center of the pitch.
“With an abbreviated season and a large senior class, we hope to challenge OA for the league title,” Burgess said. “This will obviously be a huge challenge but our defense will be tough to breakdown and you can’t lose if the other team does not score.”
2019 Record: 15-4-0
2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal
Coach: John Barata
Oliver Ames has reached the D2 State Final three times since 2014 and with a large group of experienced and skilled players back from last year’s team that went 15-4, another trip to the finals might have been in the cards for 2020. But with postseason canceled due to COVID-19, the Tigers are looking to make as big of an impact as they can.
After a four-year stint in the Kelley-Rex, one that included a pair of division titles (2017 and 2019), the Tigers are back in the Davenport division where they won five titles in the first six years after the Hockomock split. OA brings back nine players that either started or saw a good amount of minutes on the pitch last year, highlighted by HockomockSports Best XI selections Colin Milliken, Brady deVos, and Kevin Louhis. Milliken will help the Tigers transition from defense to offense from his center mid spot, Louhis will be a go-to option on the offensive end, and deVos is back to anchor the defense for the second straight season.
The Tigers will have plenty of options to go along with Milliken (10 goals, 14 assists) and Louhis (4 goals, 9 assists) in the attacking third. Jimmy Keane (six goals, one assist) bolsters the midfield while Anthony DaCosta (six goals, one assist) has improved each of the past two seasons and will be a handful for opposing defenses. Senior Matthew Nikiciuk really emerged as a force in the middle of the pitch last season and will be a big part of the offense, especially through set pieces. Both Mathias Taylor and Dillon Cupples burst onto the scene a year ago and will be in the mix as the Tigers push forward.
Senior goalie Drew Nickla returns in net after a strong year in 2019. The Tigers graduated the most from the defensive unit so the early challenge will be developing chemistry quickly in the backline. Head coach John Barata is also looking for Ben Cohen, Michael Haikal, and Hector Bucio as viable options for the Tigers while sophomore Jake Williams and freshmen Ryan Linhares, Joey Carney, and Diego Rivera are new faces to keep an eye out for.
“We are looking forward to competing this fall and enjoying the opportunity to grow as people and players,” Barata said. “This is a unique situation for a very unique group of players and we are going to make the best of it and play the best soccer we can. These young men are fantastic and we are going to have a great time this season regardless of the on field results…but we hope to have a few of those too!”
2019 Record: 6-7-5
2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Scott Nathan
The Eagles enter the 2020 campaign with a chip on their shoulder, coming up just one point shy of the state tournament a year ago. While Sharon can’t make up for that with a tournament appearance this year with the playoffs canceled due to COVID-19, the Eagles can certainly make some noise while challenging for the Davenport division title.
Sharon said goodbye to a handful of experienced veterans including Michael Baur, Brian Higgins, and Isaiah Stessman, but first-year head coach Scott Nathan has a group of proven players plus a bunch of news faces eager to make their mark. Senior captain Bryce Nathan and junior captain James Zhang will lead the way both on and off the pitch this year as the Eagles compete for the Davenport crown.
Bryce Nathan is one of the most versatile players in the league, playing anywhere from defense to striker during his tenure with the Eagles. Zhang, fresh off an impressive sophomore campaign, is very confident with the ball at his feet and does a nice job distributing from the center of the pitch. Sophomore Matthew Baur is back in goal after getting a varsity season under his belt. Rhys Davis and Brandon Mauricio highlight a list of returners defensively while Coby Jacobson, Samid Khandaker, Adam Landstein, Aaron Livshin, and Daniel Zagoren are all back with varsity experience as well.
The Eagles will focus on a sound defense first before transitioning into offense. Patience will be key this year as Sharon looks to make the most of each opportunity as they push forward. Brady Daylor, Malachi Diaz, Adam Eastman, Daniel Fishman, Amjad Kordab, Jack Landstein, Rohan Prakash, Elliot Pototsky Nicholas Rincon, Aaron Tamkin, Jeffrey Xiang, and Tony Yang are new to the varsity level and will be looking to make an impact on the pitch for the Eagles in 2020.
“The game will be different…for players, coaches, referees, and fans,” Scott Nathan said. “I am just happy for the boys that they have the opportunity to play the game they love!”
2019 Record: 3-13-2
2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Jon Grant
With a year of experience under coach Jon Grant, the Black Knights are aiming to have a bounce back year and compete with the top teams in the Davenport division.
There were plenty of bumps in the road during the 2019 season but Stoughton certainly showed some bright spots, including wins over Mansfield and Canton. Now the Black Knights will try to compete in each game and string some results together. Captain Nolan Gerome returns in goal for Stoughton and is among the best keepers in the league. Opposing head coaches have raved about saves Gerome has made over the past couple of seasons and he will be the anchor of the Black Knights’ defensive unit.
Playing in front of Gerome will be senior captain Ryan Sears and junior Owen Roddy, who both played valuable minutes last year. With a good amount of experience and skill in the back, Stoughton is hoping defense will be a cornerstone for the 2020 season. Grant is looking for Rhuan Carvalho to be a top playmaker for the Black Knights, distributing from the center of the pitch to create some offensive chances.
“Our goal for this year to improve on last season,” Grant said. “This year the players came in to the short season fairly well conditioned and with a great attitude. All the players are so grateful to have this opportunity to be back out on the field. This will definitely help us in this short season.”
2019 Record: 2-9-7
2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Taylor Whitters
It’s easy to look at Taunton’s record from a season ago and make assumptions, but upon further review, the Tigers were in just about every game they played. Five of the nine losses were decided by just one goal and the Tigers had a league-high seven draws; one goal either way and the Tigers were that close to a spot in the tournament. It goes to show how competitive the league was and how important each goal is.
With a strong nucleus of players back from last year’s squad, the playoffs wouldn’t have been such a far reach for Taunton this season. But with the postseason not in play, the Tigers will shift focus on being a darkhorse in the Kelley-Rex division title hunt. The new modifications will make it tough for all teams when it comes to defending, but it will also benefit something that Taunton has plenty of: speed. The Tigers plan on utilizing their pace on both ends of the pitch, getting behind the defense on one end while using their speed defensively to fend off opposing offenses.
Taunton will be strong up the middle with senior Travis Nunes back in the heart of the pitch and sophomore Riley Rebello back to anchor the defense. Senior Hunter Cabral will give the Tigers flexibility by playing in both the midfield and up front. Head coach Taylor Whitters is looking for sophomores Joseph Renquinha Jr., Aidden Fitting, Quincy Jones-Sylvia, Jonathan Trinh, and Nathan Keenan to all be in the mix this season.
“Despite everything that has occurred in recent months, we have one of the most versatile and technically sound teams that Taunton High School Boys Soccer has seen in a long time,” Whitters said. “This group of young men have the number one factor in the success of any team: chemistry. They have the willingness to play for the team, not for themselves. I feel with their talents, abilities, and desire to work together as a unit, we will be a team to watch in our division this season.”