Lin Outten has had a number of fine things come his way during his time as Kent Island High’s boys’ head soccer coach.
He’s had outstanding goalies and defenders, playmakers and scorers. He’s had division champions and teams that have made deep postseason runs.
But never has Outten had anything like this year’s team.
“Fifteen seniors,” Outten said. “Had 12 before. Never had 15 before. They’ve been a big group since ninth grade. I remember them trying out for jayvee, all these ninth-graders. It was just a massive number. So here we are. They’re in 12th (grade). It’s the biggest senior class we’ve ever had.”
And can they play?
“They all can play,” Outten said. “They all absolutely are varsity players. They’re all tough kids. And they’ve all been around. So it’s just sort of a unique, unplanned …. thing.”
The sort of unique thing that Outten hopes will return the Buccaneers to the top of the North Bayside and key another lengthy run in the Class 2A playoffs.
“We always think in terms of, by November are we going to be playing well enough to advance deep into the state tournament,” Outten said. “A lot is still to be determined. Haven’t seen the other schools and how they’ve bounced back from last year. But we look like we have a group that we’re used to having. It’s very experienced. Good quality all over the field so we should be contending as we have been in the last five or six years.”
Kent Island had its three-year run (2016-18) as North Bayside champions ended by North Caroline in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 fall season, though the Bucs pieced together an impressive 9-0 record during the abbreviated spring season.
They look to have the makings for another team that could challenge for division, conference, regional and maybe even a state title.
But Outten knows there will be obstacles. For starters there’s still North Caroline, which has a strong senior core. Kent Island’s head coach will also caution his players not to look past division rivals Queen Anne’s and Easton, or perennial South Bayside powers James M. Bennett, Parkside and Stephen Decatur. There also could be challenges from the 1A ranks, where Kent County, Cambridge-South Dorchester, St. Michaels and Colonel Richardson each have experienced bases entering the season.
Here’s a look at this year’s teams:
Head Coach: Jerrad Thomas.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Colin Webster (Jr.); Backs: Joshua Suggs (Sr.); Randall Johnson Jr. (Jr.); Austin Windsor (Sr.); Bryan Wagner (Jr.); Evan Lednum (Jr.); Jose Gonzalez (Sr.); Midfield: Sam Banks (Sr.); Justin Knox (Jr.); James Frazier (Sr.); Forwards: Jacob Miller (Sr.); Jahkai Hall (Sr.); Jharell Hernandez (Jr).
Outlook: After a solid spring season, Thomas is thinking big.
“I feel like we have a strong case for a state title this year with the experience and all the seniors we have,” Thomas said. “All of seniors are well known to each other. They’ve all been playing together since U-12 I believe. So the chemistry is there. They just need to come out and do what they need to do.”
One of the main things Thomas will stress with these Vikings is to develop a strong belief in their collective scoring abilities.
“Our front line, they should score every game,” Thomas said. “Our top six, our forwards and our midfield, they all have the capability of scoring from 20-plus (yards) out. I just got to get them more confident to shoot.”
The Vikings opened with a 2-1 victory Wednesday over Mardela.
Head Coach: Ryan Blanchfield.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Crystian Brewer (Sr.); Backs: Brock Johnson (Sr.); Josh Cohee (Sr); Jacob Cohee (Sr.); Midfield: Will Beaven (Sr.); Conner Detrich (Jr.); Forwards: Wayne Brown (Sr.); Austin Walls (Sr.).
Outlook: The Colonels have plenty of experience in a group of seniors that have been on varsity for the most part since they were sophomores. Blanchfield is hoping for a carryover from the team’s 5-5 spring season, and knows he has one big hurdle to clear — scoring.
“That’s going to be our challenge; finding someone that can consistently score,” Blanchfield said. “We’ve got guys that can do it. I think once it does happen it will kind of snowball for us. I think we just got to get the belief that we can score and once we do we could be off an running hopefully.”
The Colonels beat Washington 2-0 in Wednesday’s opener.
Head Coach: John Pritchett.
Who’s Where: Jake Hershey (Fr.); Backs: Carson Allen (Jr.); Brian Werner (Jr.); Alex Valesquez (Sr.); Hudson Royer (Sr.); Midfield: Jed Smith (So.); Evan Ensminger (So.); Brayon Rodas Ortega (So.); Forwards: Aiden Sundt (Jr.) Jimi Monroy (Jr.); Briedi Morales (Sr.).
Outlook: The Warriors scored four goals in Wednesday’s season opener against Stephen Decatur, but surrendered seven.
“We created plenty of chances,” Pritchett said. “I thought we held our own for awhile. We have some things we have to work on. We’re coming off a (spring) season with almost a completely different varsity squad.”
Pritchett has seen progress through the preseason and Wednesday’s loss to Decatur, but recognizes his team could have its ups and downs.
“I think as any young team we’re going to have games where we really come and compete at a very high level with our skills,” Pritchett said. “And then we’re’ going to have games where we learn some lessons. But I see use as a challenger, one that will be respected for the way that we play.”
Head Coach: Patrick Jones.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Ronald Parker (Sr.); Gavin Larrimore (Fr.); Backs: Conner Dean (Sr.); Jack Cullum (Sr.); Alystair McHenry (Sr.); Ethan Clark (Fr.); Midfield: Nickolas Jones (Sr.); Yahir Fernandez (Sr.); Nick Stead (Fr.); Forwards: Martin Parrish (So.); Will Mair (Jr.); Will Speakman (So.); Jace Conner (Fr.).
Outlook: Parrish’s goal with about four minutes remaining Wednesday gave the Trojans a huge 1-0 season-opening victory over Pocomoke, a extension of the encouraging signs Patrick Jones saw during the preseason.
“I got to say our defense played very well, kept a good shape against them and got them a little frustrated,” Coach Jones said of the Pocomoke game.
The Trojans have an interesting mix of eight seniors and six freshmen, who are already contributing. But Jones isn’t making any predictions.
“Too soon to tell,” Coach Jones said of his team’s potential impact in the 1A postseason. “I was impressed by what they did in our play day up in Cecil County a couple of weeks ago, playing a lot of guys and a lot of formations. But they sort of followed it up (Wednesday) with Pocomoke. That was a good start.”
Head Coach: Lin Outten.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Steve Sanchez (Jr.); Backs: Mike Ruffennach (Sr.); Adam Martin (Sr.); Zach Simmons (Sr.); Evan Tamburo (Sr.); Midfield: Matt Silver (Sr.); Harrison Williams (Sr.); Jake Bowman (Sr.); Jake Gordinier (Sr.); Ryan Kegley (Sr.); Forwards: Nolan Burns (Jr.); Nate Kratovil (Sr.); Max Barba (Jr.)
Outlook: The Bucs graduated a lot from their unbeaten spring season, but also return a lot.
Ruffennach was part of a defensive unit that yielded just five goals in the spring and never more than one in a game. He will be joined by a strong senior cast, and front Sanchez, who has played a lot of travel ball and could prove to be among the top keepers in the North.
Silver is part of a strong midfield that welcomes back Williams, who was sidelined by injury in the spring.
Barba will be rotated up top with Kratovil, who moves from the midfield returns, and Burns, who shared the team scoring lead in the spring with eight goals.
“I like having senior-heavy teams,” Outten said. “This is just bigger than usual. Lot of senior leadership. Even more so this year. This is a very exciting opportunity for this team. I’m excited for them. I’m excited for us.
Kent Island opened with a 7-0 win over Wicomico on Wednesday.
Head Coach: John Austin.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Gavin O’Brien (So.); Backs: Hayden Jackson (Sr.); Tanner Welch (Sr.); Austin Clark (Sr.); Jeremiah Raga (Sr.); Midfield: Owen Rorabaugh (Sr.); Nick Chong (Sr.); Logan Harned (So.); Anthony Blottenberger (Jr.); Austin Lynn (So.); Forward: Isiah Cristophel (Jr.)
Outlook: The Bulldogs graduated five seniors, including All-North Bayside player of the year Nate Sharp and first-team keeper Chris Jones, but remain senior heavy down the middle with center backs Jackson and Welch, and center midfielders Rorabaugh and Chong.
“We have a lot of experience returning,” Austin said. “We’re excited about this year.”
Austin thinks a tough preseason — the Bulldogs played Broadneck — should be good preparation for a tough early season, which started with a 3-0 loss to perennial South power James M. Bennett on Wednesday.
Late-season dates with Kent Island and Stephen Decatur figure to also be tough, but Austin thinks if the Bulldogs take care of business they should again challenge the Bucs for North Bayside supremacy.
Head Coach: Wade Hosler.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Grady Felton (Sr.); Backs: Joe Monaghan (Sr.); Travis Lorsong (Sr.); Luke Barnette (Jr.); Myles Lesniowski (Jr.); Midfield: Wylee Kusmider (Jr.); Billy Schindler (So.); Brody Yeager (Sr.); William Nagle (So.); Forwards: Adrian Hernandez (Sr.); Devin Canter (Jr.);
Outlook: The Lions only had three seniors on a team that went 4-2 during a stop-and-go spring season.
“A lot of these guys got some time, but we only got six games in, and it was kind of a messy season,” Hosler said. “We definitely have some holes, and we lost our best returning player for the season (all-North Bayside first-team midfielder Ryan McGowan to injury). That’s a big hole to fill.”
Hosler was encouraged by what he saw in the preseason.
“We’ve had some young players step up and play well,” Hosler said. “We still have some work to do if we want to compete with some of the bigger schools in the conference, but I’m happy with what we’re doing.”
Queen Anne’s lost 3-1 to Parkside in its opener Wednesday.
Head Coach: Patrick Hambleton
Who’s Where: Goalie: Will Sherwood (Fr.); Backs: Teegan Murphy (Sr.); Alex Batley (Sr.); Jacob Bealefeld (So.); Midfield: Josh Sherwood (Sr.); Kyle Miller (Jr.); Kellen Lambert (Sr.); Hunter Gottleib (So.); Cooper Baum (So.); Forwards: Matt Gostomski (Sr.); Randy Soto (Jr.).
Outlook: Hambleton and his staff have been impressed with the play of 6-foot-3 freshman Will Sherwood in goal.
“Every day he gets better and better,” Hambleton said. “I think we have currently our future goalie. I’m not saying we have our answer, but it was the biggest need with had in the spring.”
Will Sherwood, whose older brother Josh had two goals in Wednesday’s 2-2 double-overtime draw with Snow Hill, has a solid defensive unit fronting him. The Saints also have experience at midfield and on the forward line.
“We have a bright young future in certain areas,” Hambleton said. “But this is a year we have to take advantage of.”
Saints Peter & Paul
Head Coach: Andrew Dodson.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Aaron Ewing; Backs: Conner English; Ethan Nesselroad; Davis Kimminau; Alex Urquhart; Will Rosswork; Midfield: Brendan Sann; Ben McCalmon, Finn O’Neill; CJ Chaconas; Forwards: Chase Nesselroad.
Outlook: Dodson takes over for longtime head coach G.R. Cannon, who stepped down after last season to become an assistant coach with Loudoun United, an affiliate of D.C. United.
The Sabres graduated standouts Cory Morgan, Ben Schroeder, and Shawn Reinoehl from last year’s 0-4 team that was plagued by injuries, but delivered a strong showing in Friday’s 4-2 victory over Worcester Prep. Chase Nesselroad had three goals, the first off an assist from his brother Ethan, the second two on penalty kicks. McCalmon scored the Sabres’ fourth goal on a free kick. Ewing made six saves.
Editor’s Note: Shane Abbott is again coaching at North Dorchester, while Juan Angarita continues to coach the Gunston School’s program. No further information was available at presstime.